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Jan 24, 2022

New Workweek Unveiled This Month In The United Arab Emirates

That’s one small step for a man, one setback for Mimosas

By Ed Goldman

DUBAI, THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (January 24, 2022)—Okay. I’m actually writing this at my desk on a cold afternoon in Sacramento, California. But just for a second, didn’t you think the column had gone global? 

Since I don’t do an extensive amount of international consulting—unless you factor in the time I spent three weeks in Phoenix, Arizona, one night—I was unaware of the fact that not every country’s workweek matches our own.

Edgy Cartoon

Wrong-Distance Call

In the United Arab Emirates, for example, people worked from Sunday through Thursday until the beginning of this month. On January 1st, their workweek switched to Monday-through-Friday, matching that of Europe and most western countries—but not, and this is the vexing part, in the other Gulf countries.

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, the switch may be causing some momentary havoc for workers in Dubai, whose Gulf country clients are used to contacting them on a Sunday, which is now the workers’ day off. The result has already become a six-day workweek for some employees until everyone adjusts their calendars (and expectations).

Wasn’t coordinating different time zones challenging enough?

I had a client in New York for a few years who wondered why I wasn’t taking his 7 a.m. calls. When I pointed out to him that when he phoned at 7 a.m. it was 4 a.m. in California. And that my daughter, at four months old, was now sleeping through the night—ergo, so were her parents.

So the client said, “Well, call me back this afternoon.”

I couldn’t break free until 3:30 that day but dutifully phoned. The client was incensed. “I just sat down to dinner with my family!” he bellowed (apparently for his family’s benefit). Then he went too far. “You people in California have no damn manners!” he growled.

That did it. I shrieked, “No manners?! I’ll have you know that at this very moment, as I hold the receiver, I have one pinky sticking up, as one might do when taking tea with British royalty.” Then, because I was much younger and possibly unstable, I added, “Oh, wait. It’s another finger I’m sticking up. My mistake.”

Needless to say, I received one more 4 a.m. call from the client—or, rather, from his bookkeeper, explaining that my contract had been terminated. Fortunately, the call went into voicemail, which was still a relatively new thing. Before then, a call I was either unavailable or loath to take would have been recorded on my answering machine, the kind to which you could scream, “Pick up! I know you’re there!” People can still scream all they want, but with the advent of voicemail, I don’t have to listen to it in real time. Or ever. This is but one of the many reasons I embrace technology. I’m definitely going to buy one of those fax machines.

To get back:

The new schedule pretty much ends Friday brunch as a popular pastime in Dubai. I’m not sure why, if people had been working Sunday through Thursday that they’d have had brunch on Friday, which would have been the equivalent of our having brunch on Saturday. Do you know anyone who does that? What would a Mimosa taste like on a Saturday?  

In our country, for instance, when you ask someone to join you for brunch, isn’t it preceded by the tacit, implied and silent word “Sunday”? Had the people of Dubai been meddling with the forces of the universe? Did they also order ice cream mondaes and have a restaurant franchise called TGIThursday?

I’m going to give this more serious consideration tomorrow, which is, by God Taco Tuesday—in this, the land of the free, home of the brave and the planet’s last bastion of Sunday Mimosas.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).