The working week


April 15, 2013

The hot topic of conversation over the last few days has been the announcement regarding the introduction of the uniform weekend from the beginning of May - I like to look at this as the synchronising of the working week. It has been several years now since the majority of the banking sector moved to a Sunday to Thursday operation, and I remember at that time it was thought that all business would follow suit soon thereafter. Thankfully, it has finally happened.

Nationally, there can be no debate about the benefits. Oman will now have four working days that are the same as the majority of the rest of the world. Oman will also be in line with most of the countries in this region for all five working days. The benefits for the better integration and therefore growth of business generally should be substantial.
Muscat Daily published yesterday some views in 'Your Say' on the changes. Comments were very positive. Many people thought that private business would benefit with more candidates likely to seek jobs in that sector. I agree with the comments suggesting that this is just a first but very welcome step: hours of work, and other benefits such as pension and healthcare, will also need to be addressed to bring the private sector on a par with government jobs.
Of course, the change to the working week won’t by itself increase the effectiveness of business. Murtadha al Lawati commented, “I think we should be concentrating on productivity” and he is quite right. Views were expressed that working hours in the government should not be increased, as those also having their own private businesses need time for them. I still see this as a conflict that needs to be resolved.

The advantages for family life with the new arrangements will be considerable, with both parents likely to be able to look after their children at the weekend.
One of the interesting aspects of the change is how the weekend will now be used. Friday is of course Holy day, with families getting together to spend time together relaxing. Many of the hotels arrange special brunches and other events for the occasion. I am sure that this will continue.

But what will now happen on Saturdays? Saturday should be the day when citizens can go out into the city to enjoy, in full, what it offers. The shops and car showrooms should all be open throughout the day, along with restaurants, cafés, and all the entertainment, sporting and tourism venues. For this to happen citywide the need for shift-work and part-time work must be fully embraced by employees and the authorities. Many of these establishments need to be open at least six days a week. To me, Friday is Holy day; family day; and the day of rest. Saturday should become the day when Muscat comes alive with activity: enjoyed in full by all of its inhabitants.