In the workplace it’s incredibly important that importance is placed on diversity and inclusivity and therefore all religions, cultural celebrations and festivities should be respected and celebrated! GulfTalent survey found that 75% of companies in the GCC region also provide Ramadan-related benefits such as extra time off, food and beverage services, and Ramadan-themed events. Across the world, around 1.6 billion Muslims will be celebrating Ramadan and in this blog, we’ll be showing you how you can properly support employees celebrating Ramadan. But first, let’s look into the celebration a little bit…
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan, the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar, remembers the month that the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad and fasting (sawm) and prayer (salat) are two of the five pillars of Islam that helps Muslims connect deeper to their faith during Ramadan. Ramadan is a time for good deeds, prayer, spending time with loved ones and helping those in need whilst also abstaining from drinking, eating and anything that could be considered a bad habit.
Ramadan dates change each year but this year it starts on Wednesday 22nd March and will last until Friday 21st April. During Ramadan, Muslims fast between dawn and sunset. Outside of this, it is common to have one meal ‘suhoor’ just before dawn and ‘iftar’ directly after sunset.
This might mean that many of your employees will be abstaining from food and drink during working hours and could be fasting for up to 14 hours. Therefore it’s really important to support your employees in various ways…
How to Communicate With Employees during Ramadan
As with most things in the workplace, communication is key, make sure you communicate and show your awareness to any employees who are fasting during Ramadan and ask them if they need any special arrangements. Considering your employees needs will make them feel appreciated and recognised. Here are a number of things you can do to support employees observing Ramadan:
Be Understanding and Respectful
Being understanding and respectful is the best starting point. This can range from educating ourselves on the cultural practices during Ramadan to being mindful of any Muslim employees needs. Make sure you communicate with employees to find out if there is anything that they need that will support them better.
In a statement, the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission recommends that employers should "take steps to foster a culture of inclusion and respect for all employees, regardless of their religion or belief", and should provide support and reasonable adjustments to help employees observe their religious practices, such as fasting during Ramadan.
You could even ask if any Muslim employees are comfortable hosting a sharing session on Ramadan and practices, this can help educate the rest of your workforce so they can support their teammates and will eliminate any possible misunderstandings, especially on topics that can be considered sensitive such as flexible timings and lunch breaks.
Accommodate Any Special Needs of Your Employees
Practising Ramadan might be difficult for some employees and certain changes for the month might make the lives of any employees who are observing Ramadan much easier.
Altered sleep patterns and fasting can really impact your energy levels as the day goes on, especially in the first few days so giving employees the option to start work earlier or leave earlier might make all the difference in your employees day. For example, if an employee who is fasting usually stays late, letting them leave an hour or two earlier can have a huge impact on their productivity and performance.
Employees observing Ramadan might want to take annual leave for the festival of Eid which marks the end of Ramadan and the end of fasting, so make sure you’ve spoken to your employees and work together to accommodate their needs.
If your employees are coming into the office, do you have a space dedicated to prayer? If not you should consider having a dedicated space for prayer, contemplation and meditation in your office for employees to use privately. Be sure to ask employees the things that they would prefer and that will allow them to do their job efficiently.
Allow Flexible Working
Flexibility is very important during Ramadan so giving your employees the choice to work around when they’ll feel the most productive at certain points in the day is a huge benefit and can be done by some companies. If this is an option for your employees then let them take advantage of choosing when they will work best.
If this isn’t an option for some companies then you can structure the workday for those observing Ramadan by:
- Holding meetings at suitable times of the day
- Arrange working hours differently for the month - earlier start times or later start times. Some staff might even wish to work through their lunch and finish earlier
- Avoid compulsory team lunches or evening meetings
Recommended Reading 📖: How Flexible Working Can Encourage Employee Engagement and Output
Encourage Rest Breaks
Employees observing Ramadan should be encouraged to take rest breaks where needed, more so than usual when not eating or drinking so that they can feel relaxed and rested. Many people will want to connect with their faith more in Ramadan than other times of the year through more prayer than usual and attending congregational prayers so employers should be sensitive to this.
How to Wish Your Colleagues a ‘Happy Ramadan’
Ramadan is a really important celebration for Muslim employees, so be sure to show your support and kindness by wishing colleagues a happy Ramadan! You can do this by wishing colleagues:
- Ramadan Mubarak - means ‘Happy Ramadan’
- Ramadan Kareem - which means ‘have a generous Ramadan’.
As part of the celebrations, you could even treat your employees to an iftar meal at the end of the day and bring everyone together over the values of food, generosity and gratitude!
How to Include Ramadan in Your Company Updates
Utilise your intranet social feed to post articles and resources educating the rest of your workforce on Ramadan or create a hub for those celebrating Ramadan to come together in celebration!
With business communications, it’s important to be transparent and considerate to everyone. Therefore this is a great opportunity to set out a clear policy for those observing Ramadan (this can be done for a range of religious celebrations within your organisation) which sets out a range of expected standards and what those observing the celebration can expect in terms of support from your company.
Are you posting a monthly update? Make sure you use this as an opportunity to wish all employees celebrating Ramadan a happy and healthy Ramadan!
By being attentive to employees and celebrating your employees' cultures and values you can pave the way in supporting diversity and inclusion in your workplace. This will have a huge impact on your organisation as a whole. By setting an example of education and understanding of different cultures, religions and celebrations your workforce will become connected and strengthen relationships with one another.
Read our Diversity & Inclusion Guide for more tips on inclusivity in the workplace