Just 2 weeks ago, the UAE government announced major changes: A 4 ½ work week from Monday to Friday. Starting on 1 January 2022, the move will support the country’s strategic focus and better align with global markets. It aims to increase productivity while improving employees’ work-life balance. It didn’t take long for banks and schools to follow suit. The private sector is now asking: What should we do?

Company leaders and HR teams have since been exploring the different options. It’s a personal decision for each company, or is it?


Keep the current work week

This option seems to be favoured by organisations working in the GCC. It’s currently deemed unlikely for other GCC countries to change their workweek. Yet, working Monday to Friday is though not uncommon for Muslim countries. Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan and Turkey are just a few examples.

Companies are questioning whether this schedule will result in a loss of productivity? Activities with the government can only take place over 4 days. The same goes for banking matters.

Depending on the employee demographics, child care for school-aged children could be a concern.


Align to the Monday to Friday work week

This approach is strongly considered by half of the 169 participants in AON’s “UAE Weekend Changes” survey from 13 Dec 2021. Since then, Emerging Markets Intelligence & Research (EMIR) has conducted a survey with 100 regional CEOs. 89% will follow the government’s move to shift the weekend to Saturday and Sunday.


But how?

Sharjah announced private schools will have a 4-day-week from Mondays to Thursdays. This option does not seem realistic for most organisations. In fact, even the 4 ½ day work week seems only a feasible option for 1/5 of the AON respondents.

This leaves companies exploring the different ways of working within a 5-day-work week.


Longer breaks on Fridays

The UAE has also moved the start time of the Friday prayer to 1.15 pm. Employees could enjoy a longer break on Fridays by working longer hours on the other days. This option appears as the most commonly discussed one.

Under this scenario, some companies are considering the longer break only for Muslim employees. This may consider the individual’s needs. Yet, will this option have an impact on productivity and inclusion?


Working from home

More companies opting for hybrid schedules. This not only reduces costs, it can also contribute to employee satisfaction. As such, we are seeing companies requiring 2 WFH days with Friday being a mandatory WFH day.


Early finish on Fridays

Although not a true 4 ½ week, some companies are exploring the possibility of working longer Mondays to Thursdays. As a consequence, employees could finish and leave in time for the Friday prayer.

Here, it’s also questionable if any efficiencies have been gained. With 2-3 hours’ time difference to Europe in the summer, this option again limits communication with those offices.


Hybrid schedules

Acknowledging that no approach covers the needs of the clients and of the employees, we are seeing a few organisations creating a mixed schedule. In one GCC-focused company, Sales and Business Development would continue to work the current Sunday to Thursday. Office-based teams are to work the new work week (Monday to Friday).

Another organisation working across MENA is going to try out a 6-day-shift week. Employees will work 5 days, depending on their schedule Sunday to Thursday or Monday to Friday.


The solution

Each company will have to evaluate numerous aspects before making a decision, possibly on a trial basis. Understand your clients’ and suppliers’ needs and their future working plans. Gather insights from employees how their job could be performed in the different scenarios. Simultaneously, your employees’ ability to arrange for childcare on non-school days but working days for them may influence your decision.

Are you ready for the new UAE labour law coming into effect on 2 Feb 2022? Let us help you. Our clients welcome our consistent and reliable approach to reviewing their contracts, handbooks and policies. Arrange a call now and we look forward to discussing your needs.