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Most UAE businesses moving to the new weekend, but are split over what to do about Friday

Published by UAE Business

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 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.

About the survey

The UAE Weekend Shift Report had 120 respondents from private sector businesses who operate in the United Arab Emirates. It did not cover public sector organisations. The survey was run in the second half of December 2021. A full copy of the survey is available to journalists on request.


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