Dubai: It is Day 1 for businesses in the UAE starting on their new Monday-Friday workweek – and all is going according to plan. In some sectors, however, businesses plan to take a longer time to bring about all the needed changes.
One such sector is healthcare, where the managements and the front-office personnel have made an effortless transition. When it comes to the hospital and clinic staff, “We will use this month to see how the schedules can be changed and make the full switch for all hospital staff from February onwards,” said a top official at one of the UAE’s biggest healthcare networks. “This way we can be sure the transition is done as smoothly as possible.”
This is the feedback that other private sector healthcare companies are providing as well. The UAE Government in its initial announcement of the change in the UAE workweek and weekend said the private sector will have the flexibility to adopt to the changes they see fit.
Healthcare industry sources say the longer time being needed has more to do with slotting admin-related changes than a drastic overhaul. Given the 24x7 nature of the services they provide, shifting doctors and support personnel workdays around needs those extra days to get everything right.
More about mindsets
At other sectors, change has to do with subtle changes in demand patterns, and how this would influence consumer choices. The travel and hospitality sector is coming off its busiest period of the year and that adds to the challenges involved. "It is too early to say anything - we will get a better idea in a week or two," said a spokesperson for Al Badie Travel Agency. "Even if passengers want to modify their bookings to opt for a Saturday or Sunday flight (rather than leave Thursday night or Friday), they really can't, because there are no available seats at least until January 12."
Travel industry sources reckon it will be until the next Eid holidays for the full effect of the weekend change to be felt by airlines and allied sectors. Airlines will likely wait until then to get make those flight schedule changes to meet demand patterns.
UAE retail businesses are going about with minimum lag between workdays. These businesses are good to go across 365 days, and for them switching from a Sunday start to Monday is just a detail. The only question then is about fiddling with staff holidays, their daily shifts and the like.
"I can say there are no major changes as such - we had staff typically on for two shifts and also considered weekly-offs/staff vacations," said Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer at Jacky's Group. "That still continues."
We are now in-sync with their workdays, thus enabling the UAE insurers access to global reinsurance markets on all their working days
For the UAE’s financial services, the effect of the weekend switch can be done with the minimal disruptions. Only the front-end consumer facing personnel need to make the changes, be it at banks or insurance companies. The back-office operations already have a Monday to Friday element about them, given the constant need to be fully integrated with global markets.
“For the UAE insurance industry, the new work days are a welcome step,” said Mustafa Vazayil, Managing Director at Gargash Insurance. “This will enable better integration with the global insurance market. We are now in-sync with their workdays, thus enabling the UAE insurers access to global reinsurance markets on all their working days. This helps placing of high value and specialist risks without lapse.”
Having a synchronized trading schedule will boost the depth and performance of local stock markets
Investors are clued in
Among the first entities to confirm their new workdays was DFM and ADX, both operating from 10am-3pm Monday through Friday. Investors in the UAE will be among the biggest end-user beneficiaries given they are in full sync with global stock markets, and without the lag that often take place when US and other international exchanges pick up on a trend and either gain or drop as a result. (Say something happens that sets off the US stock markets on a Friday – its ripples will be felt a full 36 or so hours later on a Sunday morning here.)
As a multinational, we are certain the new working week will better align us in the UAE with Marsh’s global markets, our multinational clients and partners, reflecting the country's strategic status on the global economic map. In Marsh UAE, a transition into a hybrid-working model has been in action even pre-Covid. With the change expedited since 2020, it will allow us to swiftly adapt to our clients’ needs
The lag is what goes with the new weekday cycle here. “In the past, since UAE had its trading week from Sunday, a holiday for international markets, the interest in local markets and liquidity was low,” said Vijay Valecha, Chief Investment Officer at Century Financial. “Additionally, on Friday, the last trading of the week, the UAE market is not functional, and this tends to be one of the most volatile as it is the final trading day of the international week.
“This deprives the UAE of international attention and, as a result, liquidity. Having a synchronized trading schedule will boost the depth and performance of local markets. Aligning the workweek with the West means that the UAE bourses would be open when the global capital markets are functioning, likely to induce increased trading activity that would further draw more foreign investments into the region.”
Moving to a Monday-Friday working week the UAE's financial sector will be closer to the global stock markets, forex, banks, and financial institutions and advance business and foreign trade