Dubai’s government will introduce flexible working for all departments from next week.
The policy is intended to increase employees’ happiness and improve their productivity, it said.
Staff can choose to start any time between 6.30am and 8.30am, from Sunday, August 16, as long as they complete their contracted hours, the government’s human resources department said.
Employees whose roles require “continuous communication” with the public, and staff working in shifts, will not be eligible unless their departments find ways to bring in flexible hours without impeding their services.
Abdullah Al Falasi, director general of the DGHR, said flexible hours could help ease congestion during peak hours, and improve employees’ work-life balance.
Experts said the change would also improve motivation.
“The world is not going to change in two hours, especially in the morning, because there is not anything urgent to submit in those times, so it definitely improves productivity and gives more flexibility to the employee. There is very little risk for the employer,” said Vijay Gandhi, regional director for Korn Ferry Digital, a global consultancy firm.
A less rigid approach to traditional office hours, combined with an improved focus on staff’s values, could also help recruitment and staff retention, experts said.
“The biggest benefit in these times of flexible hours is the adaptability with family situations, especially with online schooling,” Mr Gandhi said.
“Parents are being given a choice to send their kids or not. So it allows colleagues in Dubai Government to be more flexible at home.
“But also it doesn’t impact the productivity in any way because they are still working the same number of hours.”
UAE businesses were previously said to be slow to adopt flexible working practices, which had become popular in mature economies such as US, UK and Singapore. That all changed with the outbreak of Covid-19.
A survey conducted in March by Korn Ferry revealed the pandemic had prompted the private sector to offer employees greater flexibility.
At the time, more than half of companies surveyed – 60 per cent – had announced flexible working hours in response to the crisis.
That led some experts to predict flexible working would be here to stay. Home working in particular is predicted to become more popular as it has been shown to be successful, Mr Gandhi said.
“Our research shows people are putting in more hours in Covid-19 times worldwide working from home,” he said.
He said this was because people were working longer and with fewer interruptions.
“As long as the targets are being met and work is happening – and it is – there is very little reason to be there all the time as we were in pre-Covid-19 times.”
Dubai Government employees returned to the workplace in phases starting in May after offices close in March because of Covid-19.
Initially, 30 per cent returned, then another 20 per cent. By mid-June, normal occupancy was resumed. But staff found their workplaces very different, with signs explaining social distancing protocols and reminders to wash their hands often.
Employees who are pregnant, have compromised immune systems or have some disabilities and chronic illnesses have been told they should continue to work remotely from home.