It always comes as a surprise to some that in many Middle Eastern countries, the weekend is defined as Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) yesterday announced that it would align its weekend with the West from 2022. Government employees would move to a four-and-a-half-day workweek and get Friday afternoon off (important Muslin Friday prayers).
The UAE made the following announcement:
The UAE Government is to adopt a new four and a half day working week, effective from 1st January, 2022.
The move applies to Federal government entities and comes alongside new working hours, with Monday to Thursday workdays now starting at 7:30 am and ending at 3:30 pm, and Friday working hours from 7:30 am – 12:00 pm.
Alongside the move, Friday sermons and prayers across the UAE will be held from 1:15 pm. Government staff will have the flexibility to make arrangements to work from home on Fridays, as well as to arrange their working hours on a flexi-time basis.
The UAE is the first nation in the world to introduce a national working week shorter than the global five-day week.
The extended weekend comes as part of the UAE government’s efforts to boost work-life balance and enhance social wellbeing, while increasing performance to advance the UAE’s economic competitiveness.
Adopting an agile working system will enable the UAE to rapidly respond to emerging changes and enhance wellbeing in the workplace.
From an economic perspective, the new working week will better align the UAE with global markets, reflecting the country’s strategic status on the global economic map. It will ensure smooth financial, trade and economic transactions with countries that follow a Saturday/Sunday weekend, facilitating stronger international business links and opportunities for thousands of UAE-based and multinational companies.
The new working week will also bring the UAE’s financial sector into closer alignment with global real-time trading and communications-based transactions such as those driving global stock markets, banks and financial institutions. The move is expected to boost not only trading opportunities but also add to the flexible, secure and enjoyable lifestyle the UAE offers to its citizens and residents.
The Federal Authority for Government Human Resources proposed the new workweek following comprehensive benchmarking and feasibility studies reflecting potential impacts of the move on the economy, social and family ties and the overall wellbeing of people in the UAE.
This regulation only applies to government employees, but businesses that work globally are likely happy to adapt to having Saturday and Sunday off rather than Friday and Saturday.
I wish that the UAE and other Gulf countries would have better policies and enforcement in place for employers not to abuse their workforce that is common in the region.