Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 9 August 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: almost all Dubai government employees return to offices

Government workers who are immuno-compromised, elderly, pregnant or have chronic diseases or a disability can work from home

After months of working from home, almost all of Dubai government workers returned to their workplace on Sunday.

Staff said they were excited to see their colleagues again but found that their office environment had changed, with measures now in place to protect them from potentially contracting Covid-19.

Signs explaining social distancing protocols and reminding employees to frequently sanitise their hands had been put up in government buildings across the country in preparation.

The majority of employees who returned to their offices on Sunday said they felt safe and were happy to interact with their colleagues in person again.

Fahad Ahli, who works for Smart Dubai Government, said he had missed meeting his colleagues “face-to-face”.

“The only difference now is that we can’t shake hands with our colleagues,” the Emirati, 34, said.

Mr Ahli, who returned to his workplace two weeks ago when 50 per cent of staff were allowed back in offices, was joined by the rest of his colleagues on Sunday.

“Smart Dubai has put all precautionary measures in place," he said.

Fahad Ahli, who works for Smart Dubai Government, said he is happy to see his colleagues in the office. Courtesy: Fahad Ahli.
Fahad Ahli, who works for Smart Dubai Government, said he is happy to see his colleagues in the office. Courtesy: Fahad Ahli.

"Extra sanitisers, gloves and masks have been supplied and awareness emails have been sent to all staff to educate them on what to do and what not to do.

“They even told us what to do when we get back home.”

He admitted wearing a face mask for several hours can be uncomfortable, so he “takes a break” to breathe freely when he is alone in a meeting room.

“But as soon as someone enters, I put it back on,” he said.

Noor Yousef, a Dubai government employee, said she too was happy to meet her colleagues.

She works in a vital department so occasionally had to go into the office over the past few months, even during the 24-hour disinfection drive.

“Today is the first day that everybody has returned. It feels strange, it is like we are almost back to normal but we are not there yet,” said the Jordanian, 29.

“The parking was full. I had to look around for a vacant slot."

She and her colleagues enjoyed coffee together on Sunday, while keeping a safe distance from each other.

There are about 30 employees working with Ms Yousef in her department but not all have returned.

Employees with compromised immunity and chronic health conditions, pregnant women and people with disabilities have been told they should continue to work remotely from home.

Ms Yousef said she feels completely comfortable to be back in the office and working with all her colleagues.

“If you had asked me this question a month back, I would have said, ‘yes, I feel scared [to be back in the office]’," she said.

"Now, we fully understand what is the coronavirus and what precautions to take.”

Dr Hamad Al Hammadi, an employee at the Prime Minister’s Office, said returning to the office has been pleasant. Courtesy: Hamad Al Hammadi
Dr Hamad Al Hammadi, an employee at the Prime Minister’s Office, said returning to the office has been pleasant. Courtesy: Hamad Al Hammadi

Dr Hamad Al Hammadi, an employee at the Prime Minister’s Office, said returning to the office has been pleasant.

“We used to complain about morning traffic. Now, it feels joyful,” said the Emirati author, who returned to work on May 31.

“I did not feel then that life was completely back to normal. We were only 30 to 50 per cent of the total workforce in the office,” he said.

“This is the first summer that we see the departments at full capacity, which is quite pleasant and uplifting."

He also said he feels completely safe in the office.

“I believe government departments have even taken extra precautionary measures. There are some things that we may feel are unnecessary but safety is the priority now.”

Updated: June 15, 2020 01:26 PM

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