To address the ever-changing working landscape due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Women’s Committee set up by the Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS), a regional leader in banking and finance education and training, conducted an informative webinar titled, of “Work-life Balance, Challenges and Opportunities” with experts from the banking, finance and mental health sector to address challenges faced by working women during this time.

Moderated by Camilla D’Abo, Managing Director, APCO Dubai and member of Women’s Empowerment Committee the webinar discussed the importance of work-life balance, best practices during these challenging times, working remotely and managing colleagues. The panel included, Rafia Mohammed Al Abbar, VP-Head of Talent Management , learning and development , Dubai Islamic Bank and Chairperson of Women Empowerment Committee, Hind Al Attar, Head of HR at Noor Bank, Tracy Al Saidi, Regional Director of Talent & Development, Talent Attraction & Employer Brand, AXA Insurance (Gulf) B.S. and Mona Abdulrahim-Santl, Consultant, Hypnotherapist, Trainer at Mind Your Power.

The webinar was attended by over 250 banking and finance professionals who also participated in a poll that addressed a number of work-life challenges. Results revealed that 42 per cent are happy with how they are managing their work and personal life while working from home. 45 per cent of the participants said they are spending more time with family and 86 per cent agreed that they are now more in touch with their support system including family and friends. 34 per cent said that their productivity has increased during this time while 45 per cent maintained that it is stable. There was also a close call between those that wanted to continue working from home and the ones looking forward to going back to office, with 51 per cent in favour of the former and 49 per cent leaning towards the latter.

The pandemic has changed the way one works, remote working and virtual meetings are the norm. Jamal Al Jassmi, GM at EIBFS, said, “These are times like we have not seen before. For working women and especially mothers, there is a lot to be managed. Each individual has different ways of dealing with the challenges and it gives me great pleasure that the session today with the Women’s Empowerment Committee, will discuss the issues, best practices and personal experiences.”

Speaking about her experience and the changes, Hind Al Attar, said, “It is extremely important to motivate people. As an HR professional, I understand that people are our biggest asset. These are challenging times and there should be behavioral changes that can be adapted to fare better. Balance is key, anything one does should be in moderation. Work has its own place and so does family, keeping a check on both and giving enough time to both aspects of life is important.”

“Women have always had different responsibilities, from work to family and are expected to perfect every aspect of life. This can be challenging,” said Rafia Al Abbar. “I am now working from my office but having worked from home since the pandemic broke out initially has given me a lot of insight in balancing my work and personal life. I don’t let my work encroach in my personal life. If the balance is not maintained there are chances of higher stress levels. I’ve also realized that goal setting is important, just because we are at home does not mean we should not set goals. They can vary from taking up a creative hobby to increasing the time of workout,” she added.

Mona Abdulrahim-Santl, said, “Work is important and especially as the dynamics change one needs to stay relevant, however we should also be selfish. No one should be available the entire day, some people expect it since we are working from home and with restrictions to step out, but it is not healthy. As women we play several roles, but we need to be prepared to also switch off and take breaks. Taking up some creative work, reading and laughing helps in living a healthy lifestyle.”

Speaking about the need of the hour, Tracy Al Saidi, said, “Everyone need holistic wellness and financial wellbeing. Being in the insurance space, we constantly look to include and influence best practices that will help our employees. Providing a healthy support infrastructure, reaching out to employees and listening to their issues is imperative. As a healthy practice, one must learn to design their day as it works for them. Having healthy and happy thoughts and understanding what can or cannot be done is important.”

Wrapping up the session, Camilla d’Abo, said, “One of the biggest challenges we face is balancing responsibilities and trying to succeed in every one of them. As a working mother of two, I ensure that there is delegation of household work. We take on different responsibilities as parents that also lets us focus on our work. Understanding the line between work and home is extremely important and working from home has taught me more of that.”

The panelists also spoke about going back to work and most agreed that it will be a hybrid, at least for the foreseeable future, where part of the workforce that is required to be in office will resume and others that are already working at full capacity from their homes will continue till the restrictions are lifted.

The working culture as we were used to has shifted and changes have been adopted by most organisations. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, one that helps achieve work and personal satisfaction is important.

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