Shorter work weeks gain traction; UAE was one of the first movers

In a post-pandemic world, where people were emotionally vulnerable and dealing with complex mental issues, the UAE had been quick on the uptake, and introduced a reduced work week last year when the UAE public sector transitioned to a flexible Friday, and Saturday-Sunday-off model

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Published: Wed 22 Feb 2023, 9:11 PM

Last updated: Thu 23 Feb 2023, 12:05 AM

It’s being referred to as the dawning of a new era in work-life balance: The findings of a new British pilot project — organised at the behest of 4 Day Week Global, the 4 Day Week Campaign in the United Kingdom and the think tank Autonomy — have revealed that it has been an exercise in all-round success.

Good news for the employees, who are much happier, in better health and more enthusiastic to meet work goals head-on, and good news for companies that were part of this project because they realised that productivity has spiked — with absolutely no downsides. Close to 2,900 employees across 61 companies were part of this six-month experiment, at the end of which many companies have decided to incorporate the four-day work week as the new normal.

“We feel really encouraged by the results, which showed the many ways companies were turning the four-day week from a dream into a realistic policy, with multiple benefits,” said David Frayne, a research associate at University of Cambridge who worked on the trial, in a statement. “We think there is a lot here that ought to motivate other companies and industries to give it a try.”

In a post-pandemic world, where people were emotionally vulnerable and dealing with complex mental issues, the UAE had been quick on the uptake, and introduced a reduced work week last year when the UAE public sector transitioned to a flexible Friday, and Saturday-Sunday-off model. (The emirate of Sharjah, in fact, announced a straight off four-day work week for the public sector, with Friday being declared a full holiday.)

It was felt that, now, more than ever, workers needed to be in a happy frame of mind, and if giving them the extra benefit of more personal time would help, then so be it. Also, the new-age workplace demands quality, not quantity, and the UAE was one of the first countries to recognise that. During the pandemic, many had, with the aid of technology, moved to a remote work module where they worked shorter shifts but put in much more in those hours. It was shown be to as effective — if not 'more' effective.

For long, workplaces have been grappling with giving employees more leeway when it came to putting “required” number of hours — or days — at work. One of the biggest takeaways in the UK project has been that if one is needed to put in lesser number of hours, one will automatically step up to ensure that the task at hand is completed in a shorter span of time.

Often, longer work hours mean people being slow and therefore less productive. When workers are given the promise of a better work-life balance — with no docking of wages — they are sentiently geared to give their best, without compromising on ethics.

It remains to be seen how many more markets will undergo this experiment, but, if anything, this is going to open up the debate on the reduced work week matter. This time, with more conviction.


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