The ongoing holy month of Ramazan (or Ramadan) holds religious significance to a quarter of the world’s population. In times of deeply interconnected economies, global operations, and multi-national employees, it becomes important to extend benefits to those who identify themselves as Muslims during this time. A recent research by Oxford Strategic Consulting (OSC) shows that “changing work models are increasingly becoming more hospitable to the Ramadan work schedule.” With significant business interests and employees in Muslim majority nations of MENA (The Middle East and North Africa) and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), the demand to adopt flexible work and increasing engagement is paramount. However, simply being mindful can help you and your organization become more flexible to the needs of those who are observing fasts during the month:
Shift the shift
If you offer work in shifts, offer flexibility to those who are fasting to temporarily change their shifts or adjust them in a way that suits them best. Be more liberal with telecommuting, flexible working and starting earlier or finishing later. All it takes is some planning and coordination for everyone to have a schedule that is suitable to everybody. This simple gesture will allow fasting employees to have greater elbow room to balance their personal and professional roles more efficiently.
Set realistic expectations
It is humanly impossible to fast for 12-13 hours a day and be at your productive best. As sleep patterns and food habits of your employee change, it might reflect on their productivity. Blood sugar levels may drop, or they might be more tired, both of which do not make it easy to focus. Do not be harsh and penalize them for this dip in the performance. It is natural, and even your most dedicated employee might not bring their A-game to work. Don’t worry, performance issues will stabilize within a matter of a month.
The last week of the fasting, Eid and the three days that follow will see a rise in requests to grant leaves. Remember all it takes is anticipating the requests in advance and ensuring that no one feels like they have got the wrong end of the deal. Sure, accommodating all requests might not be the best way – but if you proactively ask for tentative leave schedules of employees a month in advance, you can coordinate the entire exercise without impacting the performance. Make sure you have a uniform religious observance policy that accommodates all religious festivals equally.
Scheduling important events and training
Reserve the morning hours for meetings and mentally strenuous work, and set aside time in the afternoon for habitual tasks later in the day, when fatigue is likely to be more pronounced. Avoid extravagant social events, off-sites, client lunches and rigorous training during the month, and do not be surprised if invitations to work related events are not entertained. Avoid scheduling events that take up the evening, for the time is usually meant for feasting, praying and enjoying time with family, friends, and community.
Very importantly, do no assume what your fasting employees want. They may or may not want a separate space for ‘iftar’ (breaking the fast) or a room to pray. Some Muslim employees might not pray, or even observe fasts. It is best to consult with your employees, as to what suits them best. Before the month begins, try to understand what you can do to make the experience better for them. Use the month of Ramadan and the festival of Eid to comprehend the religion, culture, and customs better and help all your employees understand the same.
With more than half the month already over, this article is a tad bit too late, to begin with. However, this is a unique opportunity for employers to truly embrace the diversity that they claim to be wearing on their sleeves. Imbibing the essence and message of the spirituality and holiness in your work culture will not only make for a progressive work community but make your employees feel included and valued.