Small businesses in UAE commit to new working week

Business owners say liaising with international clients and employees will become easier

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, 15 MAY 2016. Portrait of a Nation subject Ananda Shakespear that has been in the UAE for 11 years. She started off as a writer then has since become a successful DJ and trained as a tour guide. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) ID: 70956. Journalist: Melanie Swan. Section: National. *** Local Caption ***  AR_1505_Ananda_Shakespear-11.JPG

Some small businesses in the UAE have already committed to changing their working week to align with the announcement that federal government departments will switch to a Saturday-Sunday weekend.

In the New Year, public sector workers at the ministerial level will work Monday to Thursday, and a half-day on Fridays.

With schools in the UAE also shifting their schedule and adopting a Saturday-Sunday weekend, small business owners said it made sense to make the change at their companies.

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Small businesses with international clients will greatly benefit from the move to a more traditional working week
Claire Donnelly, a HR consultant

Claire Donnelly, a senior consultant at Mike Hoff HR and Consulting, said she could only see the upside for small businesses.

“They are so much more flexible and can adapt and change a lot easier than large corporates,” she said.

“Small businesses can make a change like this overnight, they just need to look at what their customer base is doing.

“If their customer base isn’t changing then they need to stick to the old schedule, but if they are, then they need to modify their services by operating on different days.

“I doubt they will follow the four and a half-day week, but small businesses with international clients will greatly benefit from the move to a more traditional working week.”

This latest move comes as the UAE looks to tee up their business operations with global markets and attract more international companies into the region.

Nitin Agarwal, of technology firm Hundred, said the company had decided to follow suit and will change the working week in the New Year.

He said the move by the Dubai Government would "boost productivity for businesses that have multi-geography operations".

“As we are a tech company and have our tech providers across different locations, this move will be a great happiness booster for our employees.

Nitin Agarwal, of technology company Hundred based in Dubai, says co-ordination among staff working in different countries would become easier if everyone followed a fixed working week. Photo: Nitin Agarwal

"It will improve overall productivity as our teams are in different countries and co-ordination on Fridays and Sundays used to be an issue.

“As a company, we will be able to achieve one extra productive day on issues requiring multi-country team co-ordination.”

With 25 employees in its UAE office, Mr Agarwal said shifting the weekend schedule would be an easy change and it would be more convenient for employees with children whose school hours will switch to Monday-Friday.

Ananda Shakespeare, founder of Shakespeare Communications in Dubai, said her company will be working revised hours and days from January.

“We'll be trialling a working week of Monday to Friday, as our international clients often request meetings on Fridays," she said.

“As an agency working with global clients, it will be easier to liaise with the US, for example, and we will trial Friday afternoons to accommodate our European clients too.”

As a boutique agency, Ms Shakespeare said the change was easy to implement as staff numbers were small and it would better suit their international employees based in the UK and Canada too.

Shraddha Barot Amariei, chief inspiration officer at White Label Media, a media agency in Dubai, said a long weekend was welcome as it would give employees more personal time.

"I think my team’s productivity will increase as I am a big fan of the four-day work week as they will have more personal time," said Ms Amariei, who is among the agency's 25 employees based in Dubai office.

"Logistically, we will implement Fridays work-from-home as it will be a waste of time for them to travel all the way to work and sit in traffic for just four hours, which will be a welcome change for us all.

"However, I am mindful that as a media company, my colleagues, peers and everyone involved in the business operations will be under a lot of pressure to meet deadlines in a shorter span of time, but I hope the half-day gives everyone more time to decompress."

Financially, she said it was a great move by the UAE as payments from international companies would arrive on time, whereas before, the disparity in weekend days would sometimes delay payment.

What has changed?

The UAE’s weekend, which since 2006 has fallen on Friday and Saturday, will switch to Saturday and Sunday from the new year, aligning it with much of the rest of the world.

Federal employees will work from Monday to Thursday, with a half-day on Fridays.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi governments said their employees would adopt the same hours. But private sector companies are not obliged to follow suit.

Updated: December 9th 2021, 9:05 AM