Returning to work after COVID-19: How Dubai’s businesses are ensuring the safety of their clients and employees
Following the Dubai government’s directive of allowing people to get back to their workplaces, businesses are taking hygienic measures, social distancing, and safety protocols to ensure the prevention and contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus among their employees and customers.
As an entity whose mission is to support the Emirate’s business community, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry is leading the way for the private sector by walking the talk and being an earnest adopter of precautionary measures advised by the authorities in the Emirate. Rami Halawani, Director, Marketing and Corporate Communication, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry explains that prior to re-opening offices, the Dubai Chamber team have adopted a wide range of measures to protect the health and safety of employees.
These include thermal screening, social distancing signage, contactless access powered by artificial intelligence tech, reduced capacity within elevators, glass partitions, and of course mandatory face masks, while all internal and external meetings at the Chamber are held virtually. “We are encouraged to see just how smooth this transition has been for our employees,” Halawani adds. “The feedback from various departments has been extremely positive and many are realising the benefits of teleconferencing, which has really made interactions more efficient and cost effective.”
The Chamber has also continued to provide all of its services to customers seamlessly through its website and mobile app. “Earlier this year, Dubai Chamber launched the #BeSafeWorkSmart campaign, which supported companies as they shifted to remote working,” Halawani notes. “Now we are well into the next phase of this process, as we offer guidance on best practices and employee safety standards, and we hope to serve as an example to businesses in this regard and share our experience with them.”
For other entities planning to have their employees return to their workplaces, Halawani advises to plan ahead before bringing staff back to the office. “It is essential to have a comprehensive COVID-19 safety plan in place that includes guidelines and procedures,” he says. Halawani also advises maintaining close communication with employees for new changes or developments, as well as provide personal protective equipment, instructions, training, guidance, and supervision, if needed. At the end of the day, Halawani points out how it’s always worth an enterprise’s time to involve employees through processes like these to not only provide feedback and suggestions, but to become “ambassadors in a sense, as they do their part to ensure a safe working environment.”
This is the approach that has been taken up by large-scale conglomerates in Dubai, one of which is luxury goods retailer and distributor Chalhoub Group. Mansour Hajjar, Country Manager for UAE & India, says that most employees have highly welcomed the idea of getting back to the office to connect again with their colleagues “through human interactions,” and are satisfied with measures taken by the Group to protect their health and well-being.
Even before the lockdown, Hajjar explains that the health and safety of employees and customers have been a top priority, and the Group is now simply following the government’s directives given how they effective are. “The effectiveness of the actions allowed us to come back to the new normal life faster than expected,” Hajjar notes. “It is our responsibility to continue enforcing all safety measures for our team members and our guests, and to guarantee high level of customer service.”
Hajjar says the Group has implemented a range of measures in offices and outlet stores, such as sanitization, cleaning protocols, workplace distancing, limited capacity as per government directives, temperature checks, desk dividers, and lunch delivered at employees’ desks, to name a few. And for employees who have expressed concerns on returning to work from to the office, the company has also been quick to implement a flexible work policy to allow them to work from home.
For Samer S Hamadeh, founder of Aegis Hospitality, the precautionary measures he has taken at his venture have been well-received. Hamadeh, who is the entrepreneur behind the Dubai Design District-based F&B concept Akiba Dori, says customer convenience is an aspect they have always valued, with tables having already been at least 1.5 meters apart from each other at the restaurant, and now, they are at 2 meters apart.
Besides having a dedicated in-house housekeeper, Akiba Dori has also always required staff to care of their sections to ensure they are clean and disinfected. “This was all there pre-COVID, because we’re in a busy business district, and couldn’t risk our staff getting sick,” Hamadeh explains. Additional precautionary measures now includes temperature scanning procedures at the door, weekly COVID-19 tests for staff, as well as a weekly disinfection of the entire operation by a Dubai Municipality-approved third-party, “which we’ve decided to take upon ourselves, and were not required to do so by the authorities,” notes Hamadeh. “We even have a third-party health and safety auditor that comes in randomly and grades us on our operation, and has been doing so for two years.”
Both his employers and customers seem receptive of these measures, says Hamadeh. “Given how fast our customers have come back, I believe they’re happy with the measures we’ve taken and will continue to take long after this pandemic is contained; this is our company culture. We are responsible for our staff and customers when they’re in our establishments; we have to act accordingly.”