Flexible working and diversity-led management styles will enable bosses to help their observant staff through a physically demanding stage in the calendar.
Ramadan is on its way this month, and managers should be aware that it poses a series of challenges to normal patterns of business. We look at the kind of provisions that bosses can put in place to ensure the Ramadan period runs smoothly – but first, let’s start with a few basics…
What is Ramadan? It is the biggest religious observance in the Islamic faith. Muslims will refrain from eating, drinking, sex and smoking during daylight hours, as well as participating in special night prayers and spending many hours studying their faith.
When is Ramadan? The date moves back by ten days annually, and is this year scheduled for either 17 June or 18 June, differing for respective Muslim groups. It lasts for approximately a month and the celebration of Eid marks its end. The last ten days and nights of Ramadan are of particular importance and Muslims may want to increase their worship and take time off during this time, says Khaldoon Al Doory of Ashridge Business School.
Do adherents work during the period? Many Muslims maintain their work schedule during this period, and such religious observance, combined with a demanding and high-paced work environment, can potentially leave Muslim employees feeling fatigued and struggling with concentration levels.
With all that in mind, there are a number of measures employers should put in place - such as flexible working - to aid Muslim employees to carry out their roles sufficiently and ensure limited disruption to business. (Source)
1. FLEXIBLE WORKING HOURS
With Ramadan taking place during the summer, the effects of not eating or drinking for many hours is likely to be exacerbated. Employers can help their Muslim staff by offering them the opportunity to take a later lunch hour at a later time, so they can break their fast during that time. Also allowing Muslim staff to start their work day an hour or two later than usual can allow them to catch up on sleep, while for other staff allowing them to finish their day early (at around 3pm) can prevent them working when they’re tired and drained of energy. (Source)
PR account executive Mevi Kauser, who will be observing Ramadan, told us: “Ultimately though, Ramadan shouldn’t be a time that you are treated drastically differently, but the days are long and to ensure maximum productivity it would be nice for managers to show some understanding and flexibility.”
2. PRAYER ROOM AND FACILITIES
Muslims are required to pray five times a day for approximately five to ten minutes and, particularly during Ramadan, adherents are likely to place significant importance on the practice. Therefore, employers would be well advised to provide a secure room for Muslim workers to pray during the month. As well as providing a clean and private environment for Muslim employees to pray, it allows for workers to return to their desks swiftly afterwards. If staff are required to be committed to a desk space at certain times it may be a good idea to agree on allocated times in which they can read their prayers. (Source)
Graham White, HR director at Westminster City Council, says: “We have developed quiet space in our two main buildings, for meditation, prayer and religious observance, and they are appropriately prepared. We ensure we keep our general managers team up to date with any impending religious days and they are aware of what likely requests they might get.” (Source)
3. AVOID WORK SOCIAL GATHERINGS
Bosses should also be careful about organising work social gatherings during the period of Ramadan. During the day, many Muslims may distance themselves from areas where there is food or drink, and during the evening they are likely to be at home and with family observing the religious festival. Therefore, if companies do hold social team events during Ramadan, they should consider that many Muslim staff might decline the invitation. And don’t expect Muslim colleagues to join you in taking a client out for a meal, for example. (Source)
4. RAISE AWARENESS
Small gestures, such as writing about Ramadan and its importance to Muslims in company newsletters and putting up posters around the office, can help all employees, particularly those unfamiliar with Islam, understand the festival. Making Muslim staff feel comfortable in balancing their religious and work obligations, and sharing those experiences with colleagues can help quash misconceptions.
"Muslims have to remain constant in acts of worship, and also to work hard to earn a living and support their families," says Saiyyidah Zaidi-Stone, author of the Working Muslim. "Ramadan should not be used as an excuse for not working to one’s usual level of commitment and productivity and it is important to remember one’s obligations to employers." (Source)
5. REVIEW HEALTH AND SAFETY GUIDELINES
Bosses should be vigilant in making sure Muslim staff are coping well health-wise during Ramadan, and staff should be allowed regular breaks to get some fresh air and splash water on their faces to regain concentration and focus. Furthermore, companies must make special considerations for Muslim employees working heavy machinery, as fasting can reduce physical strength and fatigue, and this combination could put the operator and others at risk of hurt. (Source)
Employers should have a short risk assessment of affected staff and discuss ways of relieving physical pressure on them, such as changing their work schedule. (Source)
According to Yosie Saint-Cyr, managing editor of HRinfodesk: “These workers can become dehydrated and this can cause serious health problems (i.e., headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and lightheadedness ), especially if they are performing tasks and jobs that require them to work with machinery, or at heights that exposes them to high temperatures etc. As a result, employers need to take additional precautions to protect such workers from the potential hazards.” (Source)
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