The UAE Government recently announced that they would be implementing a 4.5-day working week in 2022. Coupled with a move to Saturday/Sunday weekends, the Emirates move in line with global markets and western work schedules.

This move makes the UAE the first nation to formally adopt a working week of fewer than five days. The government hopes to promote increases in well-being through a more favourable work/life balance. Previously, other nations have trialled the four-day working weeks or made shifts towards them, but none have since formally adopted the change.
While many argue that reducing hours would be counter-productive to business, it reflects shifts over time.

The Pros and Cons of a Shorter Working Week

The benefits of a shorter working week seem to outweigh the drawbacks. With an extra day to relax, employees are better rested and are less likely to call in sick. Trials in the past have reported improved mental health and well-being and greater engagement from staff during the working day. With greater engagement comes greater productivity and performance. With better performing, happier staff, customer service levels increase and this will reflect in your customer satisfaction levels, retention, and ROI.

Other less obvious benefits include a reduction in the businesses’ carbon footprint, with a day of commuting cut. Costs are cut with less energy used and a reduction in paid expenses. The drawbacks tend to be more industry-specific. Paying staff the same wage for fewer hours can feel like an unnecessary pay increase, especially if the benefits do not quite flourish. From a consumer perspective, phones left unmanned for an extra day can disrupt customer service levels.
Some of these drawbacks can be countered with the implementation of technology. As we move towards an automated future, solutions will likely be found. 

How to Manage the Switch to a Shorter Working Week

Here are the steps to ensuring productivity and efficiency during the shorter working week.

1. Restructuring

For business leaders, the conundrum then is implementing a successful switch to the 4-day week. The first step will be planning how your week will look and how staff rotas will be affected. Speak to your employees, request feedback on how they wish to see the working week structured.

You may find that your team needs to be restructured. The goal is to maximise productivity over the working hours. Identifying which members of staff work well in certain areas of your operation and managing their influence can help keep workloads supported.
It may be that sectors of your business can work together to meet a common objective.

2. Improving collaboration

Much has been talked about the need for improving collaboration in the workplace. With businesses switching to the four working days week, while still juggling between remote and hybrid work, effective collaboration has now become more important than ever. It can get difficult to manage schedules. Opening new channels for teams to collaborate can be a great way to maximise productivity without adding extra pressures. You can read more about bridging silos in our blog Leadership Strategies for Building a High-Performance Team.

3. Empowering your teams with the right tools and resources

Reskilling & upskilling are major trends that have gained more attention during the pandemic and have now become almost inevitable for businesses to remain competitive. Empowering your teams with the right skills, tools, and technologies gives them the knowledge and confidence to perform their job well and in record time. It’s important to create a culture for individual learning and focus on capability building. Effective collaboration along with the right tools and resources will help you build high performing teams.

4. Tracking and Monitoring 

Shifting mindsets from quantifiable, objective metrics such as ‘hours worked, to more qualitative success metrics that track productivity, well-being and retention is needed. By measuring productivity levels both before and after the shift, you will be able to determine where strengths and benefits lie.
Monitoring meetings and analysing time spent unproductively will help you streamline meetings moving forward. This could be anything from unnecessary participants to unnecessary meetings! 

For the latter, research has shown that the negative impact of unnecessary meetings run way deeper than wasted hours. Staff report a drop in well-being, motivation, efficiency and will frequently admit to paying no attention to the meeting.

So, What Now?

With the likelihood that other nations will soon follow suit, there is no time like the present to implement the research necessary to see how a 4-day week will affect your business. For the more forward-thinking companies, you may already be implementing the schedules.
Much of the detail covered in this blog relates to the actions of our business leaders. For more information on our leadership training programs, you can follow this link