UAE Businesses Moving to The New Weekend; What To Do about Friday?

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Employers rethinking their policies on homeworking, schooling, and wellbeing

As the UAE shifts to a Saturday-Sunday weekend, one in five (19%) private sector employers say that Friday will become a day where staff are guaranteed the option to ‘work from home’, and 30% are considering making it one, research by WTW revealed.

The step could offer staff more flexibility to manage their work-life balance and commitments around schooling. However, half (51%) of UAE businesses say they will not make Friday a day where staff can automatically choose to work from home.

Overall, the changes in the UAE working week are well supported by businesses, according to a pulse survey of 120 private sector firms by WTW, a global advisory, broking and solutions company.

Dr Ahmad Waarie, UAE Managing Director at WTW, said: “Businesses largely back the new weekend and expect it to create upsides both for individuals and the wider economy. This is a big change for all of us, and the organisations that will succeed need to be flexible and in touch with the diverse needs of their workforce.

“Working from home on a Friday will be a popular way of absorbing some of the change and covering commitments like childcare. Even if an employer does not set Friday as a work from home day, we expect many will still offer it on a flexible basis. One positive of the pandemic is that it remote working has become the norm for many.”

The survey also showed that six out of ten (61%) businesses are moving to the new Saturday-Sunday weekend and only 3% will maintain the existing Friday-Saturday pattern. Of the third (36%) considering what to do, most say they will decide during Q1 of 2022.

There is far less interest in following the public sector by moving to a half day on Friday and a 4.5 day working week. 60% say they will not do so, and 30% are unsure, although 10% will. Of those that will, over half (55%) say the 40-hour week will be kept, which means an increase of daily working hours in the rest of the week. The remaining 45% plan to shorten the working week.

The survey also revealed:

  • In a sign that firms are mindful of business with the wider region, 22% say some of their staff will be available on Sunday, although 52% want Sunday to be a day off for all staff.
  • To respect religious needs, in those businesses that will be open all day on Friday, 62% will provide a longer prayer break and 22% are considering doing so.
  • In the businesses that are not moving to the new weekend, 17% are reviewing their policies around schools and 56% are thinking of doing so.
  • Four in ten (39%) think the changes will improve their staff’s work-life balance. Half (52%) have changed or are rethinking their wellbeing policies.

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