With an aim to better align its economy with global markets, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will shift to a working week of four and half days with a Saturday-Sunday weekend starting January 1, 2022, the government said this week.
According to the official statement, work on Friday will end at 12 noon before Muslim prayers, which would be unified on Friday across the UAE. The Gulf nations currently has a Sunday-to-Thursday working week. The changes will apply to the public sector and schools, but private companies will be free to choose their own working week.
“Each company, depending on the sector they operate in and what suits and serves their business best, can choose the weekend they decide for their employees,” Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation Abdulrahman al-Awar told Reuters.
Thrilled about the 4.5 day week, analysts, employees, and private companies with offices in UAE told People Matters the change would not only improve employees’ work-life balance and productivity but also ensure smooth transactions with countries that follow a Saturday-Sunday weekend.
Expecting the welcome change in public sector working days announced by the UAE Federal Government to result in a change for the private sector too, Ted Raffoul, Career Products Leader MENA at Mercer said this will result in greater alignment to international markets, effectively facilitating smoother cross-border collaboration and projects.
“The move will also support a better work-life balance for UAE-based employees that work for and with global organisations, supporting the development of the expatriate talent pool in the UAE as its attractiveness will increase. With that said, the private sector must continue its focus on adopting and enabling flexible working policies while transitioning to the new work week, particularly for UAE-based employees who collaborate on projects across the Middle East region, and for parents as they adapt to the changed schooling schedule. We have witnessed the power of flexible working policies during the COVID-19 pandemic and employers must continue to offer this to attract and retain top talent. Employers that adopt a consultative, empathic approach to support their staff in adjusting to the new way of working will maintain productivity, morale and talent,” he explained.
“We are thrilled to hear about the new weekend shift and our employees and management are equally looking forward to it. Having our weekend on Saturday and Sunday and Friday half day, will enable our staff and management to balance their work and life equally and have a more productive 4.5 days producing better results than the five day work week,” said Managing Director of UAE based construction company Grand Signature Rishi Aggarwal.
Srividya Kannan, Founder, Director – Avaali Solutions which has a wholly owned subsidiary in UAE feels this move will help bolster international talent to effectively work with companies in the UAE in the most efficient way. “Good talent is most definitely in short supply. A five-day work-week that aligns with most global economies will be attractive for this talent pool to work with companies in the UAE as they no longer worry about compromising work-life balance. The pandemic has narrowed geographical gaps by allowing people to work from anywhere. With this move, the talent pool from other geographies would be more than happy to work with companies in the UAE. It enables them to stay connected with their families and friends while also delivering on their professional objectives,” she added.
Ruchi Awasthi, Director, People Success, at logistics SaaS company Shipsy said that while the 4.5 days working week will surely boost employee morale, productivity and ensure a proper work-life balance, it will also trigger businesses to rethink some of their core operational policies and how they approach work. Shipsy established its regional headquarters in Dubai just this year.
“For instance, half-day less a week can easily translate into narrowing deadlines and may impact the quality of work done. We need to work backward or, in other words, be highly proactive when planning and scheduling tasks. What's going to be interesting is to witness how this mandate will drive businesses to do more with fewer hours," she adds.
Rohan Bhilare working as Senior Consultant in DP World, Dubai feels the shorter work week highlights the UAE’s drive towards implementing best practices in work-life balance. More free time in a week, without work stress, will boost employee health, wellbeing, and time with family.
“This will not only enhance productivity but also improve employee satisfaction, work-life balance, and mental health. The new weekend structure will also enhance the communication and transactions with countries that follow a Saturday-Sunday weekend, helping the workplace to compete with the rest of the world. New working week will also bring the UAE’s financial sector into closer alignment with the global financial sector, specifically real-time trading. Additionally, many multinational companies who want to set up their operations in the Middle East would likely choose UAE as their preferred destination compared to the other GCC (The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations,” he added.
“Research suggests that reducing work hours can significantly decrease employee stress levels and improve social well-being without impacting productivity. UAE’s workforce majorly includes foreign nationals who are migrants from Asia, Africa and other parts of the countries. The change could definitely impact the work life balance and it will help to boost the productivity of the staff,” said Prasad Rajappan, Founder and MD, ZingHR, an HRTech venture with presence in the Middle East.
Payment fintech company Paycraft which already has a presence in the UAE market has added a physical presence in UAE and selected a business friendly free zone in Dubai city to start its operations. Company founder PT Suresh believes the current move will add to the convenience and ease of doing business. “The two and half week holiday jells well with a hybrid working system as well improving the quality of work life balance. We congratulate the Government for this bold and progressive move,” he added.