The success of the four-day work week in Sharjah government departments could open a new phase of living and employment after the pandemic. It's been a refreshing change from conventional office work as we know it.
While UAE federal departments expect employees to work full days from Monday to Thursday, with Friday being a half day, Sharjah opted for the four-day work week with three days off for government staff. The increasing virtual nature of jobs and the introduction of the Saturday-Sunday weekend prompted the emirate to cut work days and the positive results are an eye-opener of sorts.
Road accidents have come down, the air is cleaner and, most importantly, productivity has gone up, according to our report.
There’s also been an uptick in business and restaurants have been reporting a rise in patrons who prefer eating out. People dealing with government departments also said they were very satisfied with the experience. At the personal level, employees of government entities have struck a work-life balance that’s keeping both employers and families happy. The workforce is upbeat overall and Sharjah’s initiative could be a shape of things to come. The question, however, is whether such a move is good for the economy in the long term?
The pandemic disrupted work and employers offered more options to workers who got more things from home virtually during the worst phase of the crisis in 2020 and early last year. Many have since embraced the digital work experience and are reluctant to return to work at the office for health reasons even as the coronavirus continues to drive cases up, albeit much slower than two years ago.
Flexible hours, hybrid models, remote work and work from home (WFH) are now considered normal and technology companies have experimented with models that boosted productivity while cutting commute times. But with cases going down globally, companies are asking staff to return to offices as they foresee a recession. Globally, Iceland was the first country to switch to a four-day work week as early as 2015, but after the pandemic, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Scotland, and even Japan have given companies the option to try a four-day work without slashing employee pay.
What must be understood here is that the nature of work and the hours staff put in have changed post the pandemic. In some industries, 10-15 hours are the norm so are night shifts, which greatly affect worker wellbeing, morale and health. Sleep cycles are disturbed leaving staff often fatigued and burnt out.
The UK is the latest to trial a four-day working week that will run for six months. The project will run for six months during which 3,300 employees take home 100% pay while working 80% of the time with 100% productivity. Sharjah having already implemented the smart model should be seen as a pioneer in this space.
Finally, it's up to staff and employers to make this work in the long term as they push for profits and the revival of the economy as a whole.
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