Expert sees ‘distance employment’ as alternative to downsizing
April 29 2016 09:01 PM
Munther Zeidan
Munther Zeidan

By Peter Alagos/Business Reporter

Rather than downsizing workforce, companies could utilise ‘distance employment’ as an alternative solution to the effects of the global economic downturn, an expert has said.

Telework advisor Munther Zeidan told Gulf Times that distance employment ‘is gaining ground in Qatar’ through Taqat, a development programme sponsored by Qatar Charity and Islamic Development Bank aimed at empowering Arab talents through distance employment.

‘The programme starts as an Arab initiative but once the model has been established, even non-Arabs can also benefit from it,’ Zeidan explained on the sidelines of the reecent’s seminar ‘The Economic Downturn: Sourcing and Assessment Tools and Processes.’

Instead of ‘hiring and firing,’ Zeidan said Taqat encourages companies to practice ‘hiring and relocating’ or ‘hiring and wiring’ through distance employment.

‘Corporates can relocate employees in their home countries, executing their jobs remotely. Once the economy is recovering, they can be back. This includes an important message of values to the employees,’ he explained.

Zeidan said a market survey commissioned by Taqat revealed that ‘there is a very good perception for the idea’ in Qatar.

‘Those in the CEO or GM level have a deep interest in the idea, especially during this downturn period,’ he said, noting that distance employment could help companies save around 55% from ‘direct and indirect costs.’

‘Direct cost is the salary. Lower salaries could translate to around 40% in savings. Distance employment can help cut at least 15% in indirect cost like operational expenses, services, visas, utilities, and airfare, among others,’ said Zeidan, who clarified that the ‘low salaries’ offered in distance employment are 30% to 40% higher in the home country of the employee.

In Qatar, distance employment is applicable in the IT, Arabic content, engineering, and graphic design and multimedia industry, Zeidan said.

Citing a survey conducted by Ipsos, Zeidan said ‘administrative vacancies are widely needed, and can be done remotely even in Qatar’s oil and gas industry.’

‘Companies in Qatar can utilise distance employment, benefitting the employers. The country will also benefit from it because it reduces the load on infrastructure, health, roads, traffic, and the environment. There is stability in population percentage, and there is reduction in downsizing hassles especially during an economic downturn.

‘Some private sector companies in Qatar have already ‘teleworkers’ in the fields of IT and engineering and contracting. We are still in the pilot phase right now where around 100 people from multiple employers are engaged in the project on full-time, part-time, and project basis,’ he said.

He noted that in Saudi Arabia the telework initiative, which is sponsored by the government, empowered 11,523 female teleworkers in 2015, adding that Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labour is targeting 200,000 vacancies for ‘teleworkers’ or ‘distance employees’ in the next five years.

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