What are the office requirements for companies based in the UAE?
Improvements in technology and pressures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted the way that most companies approach their office spaces. According to a study by Owl Labs, about 16 percent of companies around the world operate fully remotely. On average, businesses spend between 5 and 10 percent of their gross revenue on office space. Businesses that are new to the United Arab Emirates may be tempted to avoid this expense, especially if they are just starting out and don’t have a steady stream of income. However, there are guidelines that Dubai-based companies are required to follow regarding office space.
Is an Office Mandatory in the UAE?
In most cases, businesses that operate in the UAE are required to have a physical office space to register and operate their business. This requirement applies to most company types that conduct business, both onshore and in free zones.
One notable exception to this is businesses with an eTrader Licence from the Department of Economic Development (DED). This licence is intended for web-based businesses that sell services or products over the internet or social media. There are two types of eTrader licences — commercial or professional. Emirati and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizens can apply for both licences. However, expatriates can only apply for a professional licence to provide professional services and cannot manufacture or sell physical goods. To apply for an eTrader License you must be 21 years of age or older, live in Dubai, and have a valid Emirates ID.
Types of Office Spaces in the UAE
Depending on the type of business and where it is registered, there are a few options when it comes to selecting the right office space.
- Onshore (or Mainland) Offices
are a traditional office space that companies can lease or buy. These spaces are usually intended for long-term arrangements and can be customised to fit the tenant’s needs. The tenant is typically responsible for any construction, modifications, furniture, and utilities (such as the internet).
- Shared Offices are also an option for onshore businesses. Unlike onshore offices, shared offices are owned by a third party that provides most essentials like desks and other furniture, phones, and internet access. These offices usually have common spaces such as kitchens, meeting rooms, and staffed reception areas that are shared with other tenants. The benefit to shared offices is that they are easy to set up and require little investment.
- Free Zone Offices are available to companies that operate within one of the free zones. Each free zone may have different requirements that dictate the amount of office space or number of desks required based on the number of employees or type of business. While there are full, private offices available within free zones, many companies looking to keep costs to a minimum opt for Flexi-desks which are a cheaper option.
What is a Flexi-Desk?
A Flexi-desk (or smart desk) is a single workstation that can be leased for your business and serve as the physical location and address listed on your company’s registration. These workstations typically come with a simple desk and chair within a shared office space. The facility typically also provides amenities such as high-speed internet, free tea and coffee, lockers to secure personal items and parking.
The primary benefit to Flexi-desks is their affordability. These workstations can cost as little as 50 AED per day (about $14 USD). In some cases, these are included as part of your business registration package.
The downside is that Flexi-desks are not private. This can be difficult if you need quiet space to work or need to discuss private or sensitive information. For this reason, some businesses chose to keep the workstation for the formality of a physical office while working elsewhere such as a home office.
How can PRO Partner Group help?
Setting up a business in the UAE can seem overwhelming. You might be unsure what office requirements apply to your company. PRO Partner Group (PPG) has in depth knowledge of government regulations and business standards in the UAE, and throughout the Middle East. We can advise you on the best office setup for your needs while remaining fully compliant.
If you need assistance on this or any other related company setup, restructuring, local partner or PRO support matter in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, the wider UAE, Oman or Qatar, then please do get in touch with us on +971 (0)4 456 1761 for Dubai, or +971 (0)2 448 5120 for Abu Dhabi, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the contact form below and we will be delighted to assist you.