Israeli firms call for remote work due to war; reservists leave workplace void

While work from home is no stranger after 2020’s pandemic, the vacuum left behind as hundreds of workers are called to reserve duty is likely to impact the economy.

 Verbit CEO and Founder Tom Livne. (photo credit: Yonatan Maoz)
Verbit CEO and Founder Tom Livne.
(photo credit: Yonatan Maoz)

Office employees throughout the country were instructed to work from home or take the day off on Sunday, following the outbreak of a war between Israel and Gaza on Saturday. Companies throughout the hi-tech, legal, communications and several other industries sent notices to their workers, telling them to stay at home and work remotely. These directives were aimed at minimizing the potential risks associated with commuting to work and being present in office buildings during a time of heightened tension and security concerns.

“We are experiencing unprecedented times, we’re heartbroken and hope everyone is okay,” read one message sent out to workers in a leading Tel Aviv hi-tech firm. “Our priority is always that you all feel and be safe, so tomorrow stay in your homes and we don’t expect you to work (you won’t have to report a day off) – the office will be available to those who feel more confident in it.”

Many companies have displayed flexibility, and some companies have gone a step further by offering psychological support to their workers and employees’ loved ones. “We are encouraging our team members in the region to work from home… and are offering psychological assistance to employees who have friends or loved ones who were either killed, wounded or kidnapped in the war. We pray that peace will return to Israel and its citizens soon,” said Verbit CEO and Founder Tom Livne.

WFH against a different backdrop

Working from home within the white-collar business sector is far from a foreign idea. Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, WFH has become a common sight in the office-job sphere; and though there have been recent efforts from companies to pull their employees back to the office, the nation has plenty of home-office experience to draw on, which could mitigate some of the economic damage presented by the war’s disruption to business.

However, a major differentiating factor between the pandemic of 2020 and the ongoing war situation is the mobilization of hundreds of reservists for military duty. Hundreds of reservists were called to report for service. This sudden military deployment has created a significant void within the business sector, as many skilled employees are unavailable for their regular work duties.

As a result, Israel’s business sector is likely to see some form of impact in the following days, as companies deal with the sudden loss of human resources. Companies will need to cope with the decrease in available workers, potentially leading to decreased productivity, project delays, and additional strains on remaining employees who must pick up the slack. The extent of the impact will depend on various factors, such as the size of the companies affected, the nature of their work, and the duration of the reservists’ deployment.

Non-essential businesses are hit-and-miss

Other sectors in the Israeli economy are facing their own challenges, as nonessential services and stores seem to be deciding piecemeal whether or not to open their shutters. Many restaurants and shops in the north of Israel are continuing business as usual, while in the center and south, nonessential shops are mostly shuttered.

Supermarkets and pharmacies throughout the country – except those in highly-threatened areas in the south – have remained open.