With the government’s latest decision, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become the first country in the world to introduce a four and a half day working week, running from Monday to Friday midday.
Dubai will benefit significantly from a strategic shift towards a shorter working week. The government of the UAE wants to increase productivity and enable a better work-life balance.
In the process of adjusting to global markets and improving economic competitiveness, the UAE has also changed its traditional weekend from Friday and Saturday to Saturday and Sunday.
Abdulla Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, Assistant Under-Secretary for Communications and International Relations at the UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization, explained that this approach has been carefully considered to benefit all sections of society. He told Euronews: “While it may appear that businesses are the main beneficiaries of the new working week, we firmly believe that it will be of great benefit to workers and their families.”
The transition and the attempt to enforce it globally started in 2022 and has been rolled out to the public sector and schools. Financial markets followed soon after the announcement and the private sector is also expected to adjust over time.
Santiago Castillo, a partner at Roland Berger, says his company is already welcoming the new working week, which aims to facilitate financial, economic and trade flows with other countries. “In the past, when we attended big, international talks, they often happened on Fridays. We were either excluded or forced to attend our weekend, so for us that’s a real improvement.”
Four and a half day work week
Similar attempts at reducing the working week have already been made in a number of countries, including Iceland. The UK recently joined a growing list of other countries likely to follow suit, including Japan, Spain and New Zealand.
The changed schedules were also applied to schools. After a few weeks of transition, schools in Dubai have adapted well to the new schedule with no curriculum changes. Clare Turnbull, Principal at Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai said: “It was easy to make some minor adjustments, allowing us to maintain the richness and breadth of the curriculum. With small, tiny adjustments, we were able to enhance the teaching and learning time with the children maximize.”
Not only the schools are adapting, but also the families. Edwina Viel, a mother of four living in Dubai, emphasized the importance of family time and balance. She told Euronews: “I think a lot of people will benefit from this because there are so many things to do on a Friday. My kids don’t really have time for playmates at the moment so it’s really great that they’re hanging out with friends be able.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic putting mental well-being and increasing flexible work opportunities at the fore worldwide, the UAE hopes these changes will support the country’s economic future while promoting the well-being of its citizens and residents.