UAE Becomes First Country To Officially Adopt Shorter Work Week

The Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest skyscraper, stands proud in Dubai, the largest city of the UAE. Image credit: Umar Shariff/Shutterstock.com

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has announced it will be switching to a 4.5-day working week.

Starting in the new year, the UAE will impose new working hours for all Federal government entities, with Monday to Thursday workdays now starting at 7:30 am and ending at 3:30 pm, and Friday working hours from 7:30 am to 12:00 pm, according to state news agency WAM

"The UAE is the first nation in the world to introduce a national working week shorter than the global five-day week," reports WAM.

This marks a major move away from the traditional Friday-Saturday weekend seen in the Arab world, with Friday being considered the holiest day of the week in Islamic tradition. Friday sermons and prayers will be held across the UAE at 1:15 pm, while government staff will have the flexibility to make arrangements to work from home on Fridays or clock in on a flexi-time basis.

There's good news for kids too. Dubai-based newspaper Khaleej Times reported that schools and universities are also set to follow the new work week too, with all classes ending on Friday at midday.

The UAE, a federation of seven independent city-states along the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, primarily cited economic benefits for the switch over, arguing that it would help bring the country in line with the wider non-Arab world, bolstering international trade and abetting tourism.

“From an economic perspective, the new working week will better align the UAE with global markets, reflecting the country’s strategic status on the global economic map. It will ensure smooth financial, trade, and economic transactions with countries that follow a Saturday/Sunday weekend, facilitating stronger international business links and opportunities for thousands of UAE-based and multinational companies,” the WAM report continues.

However, they also acknowledge that the move will “boost work-life balance and enhance social wellbeing.”

There’s some good evidence that supports the idea of a shorter working week. Back in 2019, Microsoft Japan tested out a four-day week for a month and saw a 40 percent jump in productivity. More recently, earlier this year a social experiment in Iceland investigated the pros and cons of working a four-day week. It proved to be an overwhelming success.

Not only did people report feeling happier, healthier, and less stressed, many workplaces also became more productive. Most participants reported having more energy for other activities, such as socializing, exercising, and hobbies, while explaining the cut in hours allowed them to spend more time with their families and made it easier to complete other home chores. All the while, productivity was either maintained or improved in the majority of workplaces. 

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