Fifth of UAE private sector employers to give staff the option to work remotely on Fridays

Sixty-one per cent of private companies are switching to a Saturday-Sunday weekend, survey finds

Doug Hassebroek eats breakfast while on a video conference call working from home during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S., April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs
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About 19 per cent of private sector employers in the UAE said that Friday will become a day where staff are guaranteed the option of working from home, according to a survey, as the country shifts to a Saturday-Sunday weekend in line with global markets.

Thirty per cent of companies in the UAE said they are considering giving staff the work-from-home option on Friday, according to the survey by global advisory Willis Towers Watson, which polled 120 private sector businesses in the Emirates in December.

However, 51 per cent of businesses said they will not make Friday a day where staff can automatically choose to work from home.

“Businesses largely back the new weekend and expect it to create upsides both for individuals and the wider economy,” said Ahmad Waarie, UAE managing director at WTW.

“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.”

Following the official change to the weekend, schools and workers in the public sector across the country will work a half-day on Fridays, with schools wrapping up their day at noon and workplaces closing for the weekend no later than 12.30pm.

Most private sector companies will continue to work a full day on Friday. Sharjah's public sector switched to a four-day working week model at the start of the year.

About 23 per cent of private sector companies in the UAE plan to move to a 4.5-day working week, according to a December survey by global management consultancy Mercer. Just five per cent of companies polled said they would stick to a Sunday to Thursday working week and retain a Friday-Saturday weekend, Mercer said.

A flexible working policy was the most common model in the UAE, with many opting for two to three days at home and in the office alternately, according to a recent study by recruitment consultancy Hays.

Working from home on a Friday will be a popular way of absorbing some of the change and covering commitments like childcare
Ahmad Waarie, UAE managing director, Willis Towers Watson

“Working from home on a Friday will be a popular way of absorbing some of the change and covering commitments like childcare,” Mr Waarie said.

“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 remote working has become the norm for many."

About 61 per cent of private sector businesses in the UAE are moving to the new Saturday-Sunday weekend and only 3 per cent will maintain the Friday-Saturday pattern, according to the WTW survey.

Among the businesses that are not moving to the new weekend, 17 per cent said they are reviewing their policies around schools and 56 per cent are thinking of doing so, the poll found.

Of the remaining 36 per cent of employers who are considering what weekend to adopt, most said they will decide during the first quarter of 2022.

Sixty per cent of private sector businesses surveyed said they will not follow the public sector by moving to a half day on Friday while 30 per cent are unsure of what model to follow. Ten per cent plan to make the switch, according to WTW.

Among those UAE companies that plan to adopt a 4.5-day working week, 55 per cent said they will retain a 40-hour week, which means an increase of daily working hours during the rest of the week, the survey found. The remaining 45 per cent of employers polled said they plan to shorten the working week.

About 22 per cent of UAE companies said some of their staff would be available on Sunday to remain mindful of business with the wider region. However, 52 per cent of employers want Sunday to be a day off for all staff, the research found.

Among those businesses that will remain open all day on Friday, 62 per cent said they will provide a longer prayer break while 22 per cent are considering doing so, the study showed.

About 39 per cent of employers said the weekend change would improve their staff’s work-life balance, while 52 per cent have changed or are rethinking their well-being policies, according to the WTW survey findings.

Updated: January 11, 2022, 3:45 AM