Government workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will soon work Monday to Friday, with their weekend on Saturday and Sunday, similar to how the week is organized in many other nations.

The regular working hours for federal employees will be 7:30am to 3:30pm, with the exception of Friday, which will be a short working day ending at midday to accommodate for traditional Islamic prayer. The change will “boost productivity and improve work-life balance,” the government said in a statement.

The new schedule applies only to federal government workers and not to the private sector, and will come into force on January 1. Under the current system, Friday and Saturday are off days in the UAE while Sunday is a work day.

#UAE announces today that it will transition to a four and a half day working week, with Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday forming the new weekend.All Federal government departments will move to the new weekend from January 1, 2022.

The federal government is a major employer that accounts for roughly 40% of jobs occupied by UAE subjects. The private sector in the Arab country is dominated by foreign employees.

The current working week was adopted by the UAE in 2006, when it shifted away from a Thursday and Friday weekend to make local businesses more in sync with Western counterparts and clients in terms of office hours.

Rumors of further realignment had been swirling on UAE social media for some time, but were dismissed as ‘fake news’ by state officials and media.