23 January 2022
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Is the Friday long lunch coming to a workplace near you?

Peter Switzer
8 December 2021

Stocks surged on Wall Street overnight and will do the same here today. And while the big trigger is the increasing belief that Omicron won’t be as bad as too many thought, the fact that tech stocks are rebounding hard tells us something about the digital world we live in that’s going to continue to be disruptive year by year.

But the disruption isn’t only digital, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is the home of six Arab states including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, mandating the four and a half week starting January 1. The weekend used to be Friday and Saturday as people worked on Sunday, but now the weekend will be Friday after lunch, Saturday and Sunday.

If this becomes a worldwide phenomenon it could rebirth the old Friday long lunch!

At this stage, this is a compulsory move for the public service, so the migrant workers will still be bused around for the hard slog five days a week, or even more.

And while some might see this as the tip of the disruption iceberg (which is imagery that really doesn’t work for the deserts of the UAE!), I’d argue the iceberg is already exposing more of its disruptive tip.

Disruption is everywhere and the UAE’s four-and-a-half-day week comes as the Coronavirus has employees working from home on Mondays and Fridays. The city traffic indicators and the coffees sold in CBD cafes are telling us that workers are angling for a different working relationship.

Younger generations of workers have different expectations about many aspects of work — the days a week they work or go to the workplace, how long they stay in a job, their attitude to their boss and what’s in it for them as an employee. I’d be surprised if this was a young worker demand that the UAE government has bowed to, with The Guardian telling us that “the move is intended to ‘better align the UAE with global markets'”, the state news agency WAM said, calling the new working week “the shortest in the world”.

But it’s still a disruption with the UAE leadership knowing that an increasingly digitally competitive world means that UAE member states can’t afford to be out of sync with the West. Digital disruption from the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google and others is redefining the world.

And even the very conservative Arabic world knows it can’t ignore the disruptive future that is bearing down on all of us.

As The Guardian put it: “From an economic perspective, the new working week will better align the UAE with global markets, reflecting the country’s strategic status on the global economic map.

“It will ensure smooth financial, trade and economic transactions with countries that follow a Saturday-Sunday weekend, facilitating stronger international business links and opportunities for thousands of UAE-based and multinational companies.”

Yep, the world of finance and trade is in our face like never before, with our digital devices engaging us in a myriad of businesses that once we’d never have dreamed of being linked to.

For example, who ever thought you could zoom your way to any place in the world, which might mean you don’t have to buy an airline ticket, stay in a hotel and disrupt your normal life to win a contract?

Overnight, tech stocks that were trashed lately were rebought, as financial markets downgraded their Omicron fears. But this return to tech stocks is more than just over-buying to make up for over-selling.

While I wouldn’t be surprised to see tech stocks sold off when interest rates rise in the US (and the bond market is expecting three 0.25% rises next year), this will be a buying opportunity for the long-term patient investor to put their money where digital disruption is taking our future world.

And that’s the important clue for successful investing. Those who saw and believed in Tesla’s electric car, the genius of Steve Jobs at Apple, Bill Gates at Microsoft and Jeff Bezos who dreamed up Amazon, could see the future — and it was digital.

Early this year I did a speech where a fund manager at one of the world’s better funds i.e. WCM (based in California) told the conference that the digital world “is only just beginning”!

There’s a lot of disruptive change coming and it will annoy some and make others very happy, like those now working a four-and-a-half-day week in Dubai. But if you rethink it, you could make a lot of money out of this changing world.

On that subject, I’m hosting our Switzer Small and Microcap Conference today online at 9.00am. We have 9 interesting small cap companies, some of which are digital and disrupting! You can register here. And those who do will have the CEO’s presentations of these companies sent to their inboxes next week.

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