HE ambassador Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif al-Thani./DIFI Examines Work-Life Balance on Family Dynamics
The Covid-19 lockdowns have forced organisations worldwide to let their employees work from home. Some have had to practice hybrid work model – a combination of working from home (or anywhere) and from the office, at different scheduled times. And this has significantly changed how people work and relate.
This new work and life dynamic has shown the feasibility of applying flexible work arrangements to many workplaces without compromising output. It has also highlighted the practicality of a new paradigm. First, one that is productive and secondly, a situation that promotes a better work-family balance.
In line with this development, Doha International Family Institute (DIFI) – a member of Qatar Foundation – in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Qatar to the United Nations, held a forum titled ‘Family Relations and Flexible Work Arrangements: The Way Forward’.
The forum opened with an introductory remark by HE ambassador Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif al-Thani, Permanent Representative of Qatar to the UN. It was followed by a welcome remark by Dr Sharifa Noaman al-Emadi, the executive director, DIFI.
Qatar’s initiatives to support the family
Speaking about Qatar’s initiatives to support the family, HE Sheikha Alya said: “The State of Qatar recognises the central role of the family in social development and pays particular attention to supporting and empowering this basic social unit.”
She cited DIFI as one of Qatar’s institutions advocating for policies and practices that promote work-life balance. And acknowledges that this contributes to the improved physical and mental health well-being of societies. In a recent DIFI report on the impact of Covid-19 on Family Cohesion in Qatar, 64% of the surveyed participants experienced positive improvements in their relationships with family members.
Reshaping family relationships
Reflecting on the outcome of the study, Dr al-Emadi said: “In research conducted by DIFI in 2019, one of the major recommendations was to introduce flexible working arrangements, which were implemented by default with the pandemic. Covid-19 presented an opportunity for families to reshape their relationships.”
The event also included a high-level panel discussion. Those featured includes; HE Dr Ahmed bin Mohamed al-Muraikhi, special adviser to the UN Secretary-General; Khalid al-Naama, Family Policy director, DIFI; and Dr Sara Ali Abdulla, research fellow, Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University. The panel was moderated by Renata Kaczmarska, focal point on the family, DISD, DESA, UN.
Sharing her insight on family and parenting support, Kaczmarska said: “The pandemic presented families with new challenges and highlighted their irreplaceable role as economic and care providers. These roles need stronger support from governments and the private sector.”
Impact of flexible working arrangements
The discussed topics were taken from the perspective of the UN, academics, policymakers, youth and parents. Dr Abdulla highlighted the benefits of flexible working arrangements on personal growth and productivity. It’s impact on both parents and children were also highlighted. She shared her personal experience and how the most impactful events in her career and personal lives were a result of flexible working arrangements.
The discussion also provided an overview of policies and procedures practiced worldwide in terms of implementing flexible work arrangements. Participants were able to understand how such structures positively impact relations, parental roles, responsibilities and gender equality within the family sphere.
Benefits of flexible working
“There is a wealth of evidence to support the benefits of flexible working. And the UN is leading by example in providing the maximum flexibility for its staff. (This) while continuing to maintain international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian assistance and supporting sustainable development and climate action,” said HE Dr al-Muraikhi.
Al-Naama added, “There are several policies that could help stabilise families. Such as, adopting flexible hours, providing nurseries and breastfeeding rooms in the workplace, and offering part-time contracts. We, at DIFI, renew our call for adopting family-friendly policies, which could provide a more viable model for giving stability to families.”
This forum is part of DIFI’s Doha Briefing initiative. It aims to provide a platform for governments, civil society and UN entities to engage in a dialogue. It also provides an opportunity for participants to develop a better understanding of the progress made by families and the challenges they face. The forum also enables everyone a chance to exchange valuable lessons concerning new evidence and innovations targeting families.
The collaboration between the Permanent Mission of Qatar to the United Nations and DIFI, which examines flexible work arrangements impact on work-life balance and family dynamics, through the Forum, obviously has come at the right time.
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