Ramadan – Religious tradition or threat to performance?
This week the Ramadan is starting which is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and a time, in which Moslems are fasting.
The Ramadan is one of the five pillars of the Islam and so one of the most important Muslim practices. Because of the shorter lunar months the Ramadan shifts every year and will take place at the height of summer in the next years – from July 20 until August 19 this year. The Ramadan is celebrated differently in various confessions but the core similarity is that the fasting Moslems are not allowed to eat and drink at daytime and should use more time for prayers at night as well at on daytime. At the end of the day the fast-breaking finishes the fasting – often celebrated within the family and / or the religious community with a sip of water and a date.
With an estimated 700 million Muslim global workforce the topic of Ramadan is not only a religious one – but also important for employers and employees. As the time of fasting could be up to 20 hours a day (dawn to sunset) the waiver of drinking could be – especially with the high temperatures in summer – a problem for the security and performance of the employees at work because of dehydration. Principally the fasting does not have an impact on the performance of the employees as contemplation and a higher concentration among others are goals of the Ramadan and laziness is against the spirit of it. Furthermore there are exceptions for the fasting possible for hardworking employees (as well as for elderly or ill people, pregnant women etc.). They have to catch up on the fasting days at a different time e.g. at the weekends. Anyway, the Ramadan could have an impact on the work-life balance, as meals and prayers at night as well as additional prayers and fast-breaking at daytime change the normal daily routine.
According to the survey “Productivity in Ramadan – Strategies for the modern Muslim work environment”, 77% of the Muslim working professional respondents point out that they try to maintain the same level of work productivity during Ramadan and they feel that work should continue uninterrupted. However, 18% think that their productivity drops during the time of fasting. Having this in mind employers and their Muslim employees should try to find out the best way of work-life balance during Ramadan to ensure a consistent high level of productivity whilst respecting the religion and tradition of all employees. Already small adjustments e.g. the possibility to skip the lunch break and to leave early, the decision to provide places where employees are able to pray, the opportunity to celebrate fast-break with other Muslim colleagues at work or the flexibility to get days off for the festival at the end of Ramadan will make a great impact for the fasting Muslim.
Most important is to be aware of the challenges fasting employees are facing and to work together with them to create an inclusive atmosphere in which the employees as well as the employers are able to reach their goals. This prevents stress, unhappiness, inconvenience and embarrassment on both sides. Not only when employing fasting Muslims it is important to be aware of this topic. Also for example as an expatriate in a Muslim country or when working together with Muslim business partners it is advisable to know and respect the important issues concerning Ramadan.
Here are some links with tips for fasting employees and their employers: