UAE Residents Say Commute, Long Hours and Sedentary Working Environment Get Them Down
Image Caption: Commuters at the Union Metro Station, Dubai. The journey to and from work takes a toll on some residents. Victor Besa for The National
ABU DHABI // Daily battles with traffic, working weeks in excess of 50 hours and technology that lets office duties creep into home life – each will be familiar with staff across the UAE.
The long journey to and from the workplace, racking up unpaid overtime and the urge, or necessity, to check work emails from home are, according to many employees, skewing the work-life balance and having a wearing effect on their health.
UAE gold spot trader Marwan Metwally is one such worker. He spends 90 minutes commuting to and from work each day, regularly puts in a 50-hour week and is among those who finds it taking a personal toll.
“On average, I spend 10 hours a day at my desk,” said the 42-year-old Egyptian, who works Monday to Friday. “I eat my lunch there and only take short breaks.
“I suffer lower back pain and I find it difficult to keep eating healthily.
“With the climate and lifestyle here – as opposed to Europe, where I could walk everywhere or use my bike – I also gained too much weight.
“There is a good quality of life here but it seems people are having a hard time enjoying it.”
Mr Metwally’s wife also faces a long working day, further affecting their time at home.
“She commutes to Dubai Academic City from our home in Al Reef [Abu Dhabi] every day,” he said. “The bright side is that at least here I can afford to hire a maid, freeing some of my time and my wife’s time to spend with our children before they go to bed.”
Briton Danny Goulding has been working in the UAE for six years.
“For the first four years I lived in Abu Dhabi and worked in Dubai so commuted daily, adding a couple of hours to 8 to 10-hour days,” he said. “My second job was a six-day week and would involve leaving at 6am and getting home at 7pm, which was pretty brutal.
“I didn’t leave here for the first two years due to work commitments and have regularly cancelled holidays because of it.”
The 37-year-old finally decided to work for himself, setting up Dream Services Cleaning and Maintenance but being a business owner can mean he works longer hours still.
“This last year has seen me working some days from 5am to 6pm, and then it doesn’t stop,” he said. “A lot of our business comes through the Facebook pages and WhatsApp messages, so you’re constantly on the phone checking and replying right until you close your eyes.
As for work/life balance, I don’t think that exists in a lot of cases here. A standing joke when I go home [to the UK] and everyone tells me how amazing my life looks, is that five days a week I wake up, work, eat my tea and go to bed. The fact I post a picture of a brunch or a day at the beach seems to completely overshadow that fact.”
According to the UAE Labour Law, the maximum working hours in Dubai are eight hours a day, or 48 hours a week. The maximum for those working in hotels, restaurants and certain other industries is nine hours a day, for a maximum of six days a week.
In the UK, the average number of hours worked by full-time employees was about 37.4 a week last year, according to the country’s Office for National Statistics.
A recent UBS survey found that employees clock up a working week of 36 hours and 23 minutes.