- Doctors, professionals, employers welcome the UAE's game-changing move to reduce workweek to 4.5 days.
- The move is seen helping reduce stress, lead to greater wellness gains.
- As the UAE workweek gets aligned internationally, many white-collar professionals in the country will be in sync with the rest of the world.
- Retail, leisure sectors are also expecting gains alongside economic payoff from more time at the hands of consumers.
Dubai: The 4.5-day workweek announced in the UAE has received a thumping welcome. It’s seen as “game-changer”, allowing for health gains — a “health bonus”, greater productivity and economic payoff.
The pioneering move to usher in a 2.5-day weekend will also help citizens and residents strike a greater work-life balance. With a longer weekend enabling people to recalibrate their lives, doctors, psychologists and professionals in 9-to-5 gig weigh in on the latest development with Gulf News.
The initial symptoms are directly triggered when a person is overloaded with office work, leaving him with little time for a nutritionally-balanced meal, good hydration, restful sleep and proper exercise.
Dr Dirar Abdullah, chair of medicine and consultant Internal medicine, Prime Hospital, said a less stressful life leads to greater health gains. “Hectic lifestyles with little quality time are the root cause of many diseases — such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), gastritis, some kinds of hypertension, diabetes, migraines, dizziness, chronic fatigue and insomnia,” he said.
“The initial symptoms are directly triggered when a person is overloaded with office work, leaving him with little time for a nutritionally-balanced meal, good hydration, restful sleep and proper exercise,” Dr Abdullah added.
“In the private sector, usually people have a six-day week. We at Prime have introduced a five-day week for health care workers and we can see the tremendous health impact of this. Therefore, the people who have a four-and-a-half days working week will gain tremendously in conserving their health.
In the last two years, the average working person has been highly stressed with a sense of uncertainty amid the pandemic. This could lead to high stress and anxiety and have a very strong impact on people’s mental health.
“It means with more than two days at their disposal for themselves, they can reorganise and recalibrate their lives. They can complete all their errands on the half day and have two full days for themselves. They can take short holidays, or follow a hobby or give rest to their body and be with family.
"Their cortisol levels will come down and this has a direct bearing on all diseases. Besides, it will refresh and recharge them in a manner that will make them happier and more productive.”
For Nihal Abdelazim, a PR executive in Dubai, the new 4.5-day workweek is a big welcome break from a hectic six-day workweek. "I currently have a six-day workweek in the private sector. I am happy with this change as it will mean our work days will be aligned internationally," Abdleazim said.
Many of our European and US-based clients would often call us on Friday and we would have video calls and be expected to work on Fridays as its a working day for them. It was difficult to get a clear weekend. Now, I am happy that my weekend will be aligned with theirs... It will mean a good one day of time off, more shopping and socialising time.
Arfa Banu, clinical psychologist, Aster Jubilee Medical Complex, Dubai, said: “In the last two years, the average working person has been highly stressed with a sense of uncertainty amid the pandemic. This could lead to high stress and anxiety and have a very strong impact on people’s mental health.”
She pointed out that the move to introduce a four-and-a-half workweek will definitely have a “very healing impact on the lives of people” and help them tweak their work-life balance.
“Having over 50 hours at their disposal weekly will help people deflate their anxiety and stress levels, focus on happier events life, have leisure that will make them more productive at work. It has been seen that when people are distressed, they are able to be more intuitive and give in their 100 per cent to work.”
Our company headquarters is situated in Zurich and now with the Saturday –Sunday weekend, we are in total alignment with them. This will mean no more weekend meetings on Friday and will give me a clear two-day weekend. That will give me time for my social and family life and overall, help me be calmer, fulfilled and productive at work.
More time for leisure, retail, services
A sizeable section of the UAE population will soon find they have got more time in their hands. This will help them arrive at a better work-life balance as the country starts to embrace a 2.5-day weekend, the first country to do so on a national level.
Change will not happen overnight.
But it will be in that space that new ways of consumer spending patterns will emerge in the UAE’s retail, leisure, and services sectors. Those extra hours off on Friday — plus Saturday and the whole of Sunday — represent the biggest break UAE retailers will have as they keep fighting off the advances made by online shopping portals.
Beyond shopping, consumers will be chasing more “experiences”, where each visit outside of the home to a destination takes on new meanings. In the last five years, each emirate has been doubling down on the experiences they can offer within their geographies, and those destinations, too, stand to benefit.
But not all of the changes need be confined to those 2.5 days, say retail industry sources. “Thursday has always been a busy day for consumer activity,” said a mall operator. “Even with Friday being turned into a half working day, Thursday’s status as one of the busier phases for shopping and leisure will remain intact.”
“Consumer habits will change, or are likely to, when it comes to Sundays. That’s still unexplored territory for UAE consumers and retail.”
As the retailer says, these are still unexplored territories – will the change mean that UAE’s box-office releases shift to Fridays? Or would that remain Thursdays?
In each consumer-facing category, new choices will be offered as consumer habits adapt to and then absorb the transition to the UAE’s new way of working and spending time on weekends. And where choices are not offered, consumers will make the changes for themselves.
Welcome change for the private sector too
Ted Raffoul, Career Products Leader MENA at Mercer says: “The welcome change in public sector working days as announced by the UAE Federal Government will likely result in a change for the private sector, too. The move will also support a better work-life balance for UAE-based employees that work for and with global organisations.”
Consumer habits will change in another essential space – that of food and beverage (F&B). After enduring their toughest year ever – in 2020, with the pandemic on – UAE’s F&B businesses can look to 2022 with a renewed taste for a chance at recovery.
“With the new weekend days announced, we expect Friday evenings will be busier than Thursday evenings,” said Rohith Muralya, Director at Concept Cuisine at SFC Group, which operates the India Palace restaurant chain and others.
Reworking the weekend
“Sunday brunches will be the new weekend thing to do. We feel it will have a positive impact once the private sector also follows suit along with the public sector.
“There is a lot that people in the hospitality industry will have to rework from a revenue management perspective, and for hotels to change their F&B strategy for weekend events.”
It is all up in the air. Businesses and consumers will have until the early hours of January 1 — or January 3, 2022, which is a Monday — for the new way of mixing work and life.
And where choices are not offered, consumers will make the changes for themselves.As people make the most of this new reality, the journey towards a better work-life balance begins.
► UAE weekend change: find answers to all your queries