Changing Times - UAE Shifts to a 4.5 Day Working Week

Written by Muhammad Qadeer

In a bid to stay competitive and improve work-life balance, the UAE announced a reduced working week from the beginning of 2022. Starting from January 1st, federal sector employees will follow a 4 and a half day weekend - starting from Monday till Friday afternoon. Accordingly, Friday sermons and prayers will take place after 1:00 p.m throughout the country.

For the time being, the decree is only adopted by state-level employees and educational institutions as directed by the KHDA, but experts suggest that the private sector would soon follow suit.

Setting International Benchmarks

The ruling was passed in line with UAE’s vision of becoming a leader in commerce as well as the destination for the leading talent from around the world to work. The ruling ensures that the UAE is in alignment with global economies in terms of commercial dealings and banking transactions. Moreover, this move will have visible global implications - as many other countries around the region could use UAE’s example to boost productivity and improve worker morale.

According to the official news agency WAM, the move will enable the UAE to respond effectively to the rapidly changing dynamics of the world and improve workplace culture, productivity and competitiveness. This agile system of working will let the UAE tap on to international markets more effectively and enable the nation to conduct business deals with countries that follow a Saturday-Sunday weekend.

This framework was devised by the Federal Authority of Government Human Resources after receiving the go ahead from the Federal Supreme Council. Comprehensive benchmarking and feasibility studies were carried out, all of which pointed towards positive outcomes of the move on socio-economic wellbeing of the people and the nation.

Music to the Ears of Private Enterprises

The decision is viewed with great enthusiasm by industry leaders and will benefit a myriad of industries; such as food and beverage; where a longer weekend means more opportunities to do business. However, this is only possible if a healthy number of private sector entities follow this landmark ruling. The F & B sector was hit hard during the pandemic, first with lockdown measures and later with capacity restrictions and social distancing protocols resulting in the closure of many places. This change will help bolster the industry and make room for new entrants.

Another industry that could reap benefits from this change is advertising. A vast number of ad agencies working in UAE cater to international clients and different weekend days often cause delays in work. With comparable weekdays, advertising houses can work and coordinate seamlessly with international clients resulting in enhanced productivity.

Last but not least, the luxury real estate market will benefit massively from this transition since most buyers of prime and super prime properties are based overseas; so the extra day off would allow real estate brokerage houses to stay aligned with their client base from all parts of the world.

The Shifting Paradigm

In the age of technology, a lot of processes are automated, taking the burden off of the shoulders of employees who can work less and still fulfill their roles and duties. This way, employee happiness and retention will increase, carbon footprint will decrease and domestic tourism will thrive; bringing in revenue for the country..

Throughout the UAE, this change has been received warmly; especially among a growing expat population who unlike before, would now be able to keep in touch with their family and loved ones back home as a result of the uniform weekend. It is also pertinent to mention that this decision will also have a positive impact on small business and freelancers who work remotely due to comparable weekend days.

It’s interesting to note that this decree has been issued during a time when UAE is beginning to develop an attractive image of itself to the outside world by introducing landmark visa reforms, amending certain constitutional laws and hosting the EXPO on a grand scale. The geo-political influence of the UAE in the region is undeniable and the country is poised to become the epicenter of trade and commerce with the brightest minds from around the world attracted to live and work in the Emirate.