Working in Oman
Expats planning on working in Oman will find that the country's recent history of dependence on skilled foreign labour has paved the way for a smooth transition into business culture. Over a quarter of the country's population is still comprised of expat workers, and the Omani workforce is not only accustomed to the presence of foreign workers, but sensitive to their needs and supportive of their talents as well.
Expat jobs in Oman
Although expat jobs in Oman are not quite as widely available as they were five or ten years ago, the Omani job market for skilled foreign workers is still quite healthy.
These days, in order for an expat to be issued with an employment visa, the Omani authorities need to be convinced that a local worker could not adequately fill the position that has been offered to the expat concerned. Although this consideration can negatively affect mid-level or younger employees, those with particularly impressive qualifications, or years of experience of working at the top level in their chosen fields, should not struggle to find an attractive job in Oman.
The most common jobs for expats in Oman are found in the oil, gas, petroleum, teaching, medical and construction industries. Engineers, IT specialists, project managers, teachers and language instructors are in especially high demand.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the recent global economic downturn, the auditing industry has seen the greatest number of new jobs advertised over the last few years.
Finding a job and changing jobs in Oman
One of the sharpest double-edged swords for expats working in Oman is the issue of finding and changing jobs.
On the plus side, since it is illegal to work in Oman on a visitor’s visa, expats must have a firm job offer before even arriving in the country. You will be hired on a fixed-term contract basis, and your Omani hiring company will even appoint a 'sponsor' to help you organise your employment visa. An obvious advantage of this rather large commitment that expats have to make (before even touching down in Oman) is that Omani employers are accustomed to providing attractive expat salary packages (often including transport/accommodation/schooling stipends), in order to allay any fears or hesitancy on the part of their prospective foreign workers.
However, the down side to this set up is that – since your hiring company must invest a significant amount of time, effort and money in order just to bring you to Oman – changing jobs once there is extremely difficult to do, and more often than not, requires you to leave the country for a period of six months, and necessitates that you apply for a completely new visa.
This six-month gap has been put in place to protect Omani employers. This means that since your visa is tied to the contract you've signed, you can't cancel that contract and immediately apply for another visa that will allow you to work another job until the six months has passed.
There is one way around this problem, though it is highly unlikely that your Omani employer will be amenable to providing it: you can get a clearance letter or 'No Objection Certificate' (NOC) from your employer, which will allow you to change jobs and continue to work while on the same employment visa. Sometimes Omani employers will provide NOCs to disgruntled expat employees to avoid having to pay to send them home; but for the most part, and especially if you wish to change jobs to work for a competitor, this act of 'disloyalty' will cost you a six-month hiatus out of the country.
Work culture in Oman
Expats in Oman are unlikely to find the work culture especially alienating or challenging at all. Oman's reliance on foreign labour over the past few decades has meant that expat workers are now an established feature of the country's professional milieu.
Those relocating to Oman to work in the business sector should read up a bit about Arabic business culture, which differs from Western business culture in certain respects. Otherwise, expats will discover an Omani workforce that upholds a strong work ethic, and which values human qualities on the part of employees, such as loyalty, honesty, humility, and the ability to foster personal relationships between co-workers.
You will be expected to work hard in Oman, and to remain at all times respectful of the tenets of Islam (which can play a significant role in the day-to-day life of your Omani colleagues).
Although attitudes toward women in Oman are generally far more progressive than in any of its neighbouring countries – and although women do comprise a significant portion of the Omani workforce – it is not impossible that female expats will encounter a few individuals who retain antiquated and prejudiced beliefs. Do not feel threatened by these attitudes (sexual harassment is far less prevalent in Oman than it is in the West); but do not hesitate to challenge them either.
Working hours in Oman
The working week in Oman will typically be between 40 and 48 hours, depending on the industry. In general, the working day starts at around 8.30am or 9am, and finishes at around 5.30pm or 6pm. Note that the weekend in Oman is Thursday and Friday.