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Supporting your Muslim staff during Ramadan fasting

Supporting your Muslim staff during Ramadan fastingIvana Georgievska
April 1, 2022

How do you support your Muslim staff during Ramadan fasting?

Every company is responsible for creating a positive culture that helps employees thrive and stay motivated. 

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We have a pretty diverse crew here at Talentroo. This is the first year when our two amazing colleagues, Amany Khemiri and Anam Alvi, experience the month of Ramadan as part of our team.

We were excited to sit and have a chat about what we can do as a company to make this period more pleasant and how to constructively express our support.

Hopefully, a summary of our conversation will help employers mold a more inclusive work environment for their employees, taking into consideration their cultures and traditions.

To avoid unintentionally asking “awkward” questions, the  “Working Muslim in Ramadan” guide explains the holiday while offering tips to employers.

The month of Ramadan is different every year because Muslims use the lunar calendar.

This year it begins on April 2-3, depending on the lunar sighting in the geographic region where you live, and will end on May 2-3.

What are the challenges you face during this period of working and fasting?

Amany: The most challenging thing is to go to bed early and have rejuvenating sleep. This year the window for eating, drinking, and socializing starts at around 7-8 PM.

We also get up before dawn to have another meal, which means we sleep for around 2-4 hours at night. 

Anam: For me, honestly, the most difficult part is the dehydration. You can go without food during the day, but getting used to not drinking water or fluids is the hardest part. Being sleep deprived, more irritable, and cranky doesn’t help either. 

What is the difference if you are a remote worker with and without fixed working hours? 

Anam: Even though we organize our time here at Talentroo, I’ve worked remotely under specific working hours during Covid and have worked in an office before, so yes, I can do the comparison.  

In the first instance, when your hours are fixed, your body reacts as it does. You’re tired, thirsty, with low glucose and energy levels, which obstruct the focus on the tasks. 

There is a higher chance my work is negatively affected for these reasons, especially in the mornings, when I’m very drowsy. 

In the case right now, with the free working hours, I look forward to organizing my time when my energy and focus are highest, especially for tasks that aren’t tied to deadlines. 

During Ramadan, I mainly work during the night or after waking up in the morning.  

Amany: When I worked as a freelancer, I usually did most of my work from 10 AM to 3 PM. I don’t do any work during the evening or at night. Then I need to lie down and rest for an hour before I get up and started preparing dinner.

Anam: The work is a good distraction from fasting, and the time goes by faster than during weekends. Work helps us go through the day.

Flexible working hours genuinely make a big difference.

Amany: The work also has a religious side to it. The more you work and put in effort throughout the day, the more significant and valued is the fasting. 

Generally speaking, working productively during Ramadan is challenging regardless of whether you work from home or an office. 

Anam: I love the honesty!

Amany: Working remotely in the true sense of the word is very helpful during this period. If not always. You have the freedom to manage your schedule much better.

Anam: I agree with Amany.

What is the best solution for you during this period? How can we best accommodate the work arrangements?

Anam: I find that if you have a given schedule for the day, without the choice to organize your own work time is the worse option. The company can offer the best support by providing flexibility.    

Amany: I would say that having an understanding that we’re starving, thirsty, and sleep-deprived can go a long way. Showing patience is the most important thing.      

Anam: A plan of weekly tasks provided in advance is terrific because we can approach the work on time and produce better quality. 

Of course, random daily tasks often come up and we can handle them accordingly.

Amany: Honestly, I don’t have any issues with workloads. I have problems when I don’t have specific deadlines.

When we work on big projects, having monthly plans and goals is the best way to go about it, in my opinion, especially when it is Ramadan. 

What kind of behavior from people in your work environment can make you frustrated or embarrassed?

Anam: Setting unrealistic deadlines. 

Amany: When it comes to behavior from non-fasting people, asking questions out of sheer curiosity and being positive about it is never a problem, but a pleasure to talk about. 

However, people often want to know certain information but choose demeaning or pitiful mannerisms or words in their questions.

For example, in the past few years, we see many mixed couples with the arrival of refugees from the Middle East. This somewhat negative culture of questioning others about everything started emerging. Especially on social media.  

During this period, more often than not I keep hearing questions like: “How do you deal with a person during Ramadan?” 

What does that mean? - You don’t have to deal with anybody. You only need to respect people. They’re doing this because of religious reasons, but also cultural aspects are involved. With time, Ramadan has become an integral part of a culture.

People need to be considerate, nonjudgmental, and perhaps think before asking questions.  

At the end of the day, fasting is my personal choice, my responsibility, which doesn’t give me the right to mistreat people. If I decide not to fast, that’s also my choice.

Regardless of our culture, religion, and traditions, I respect people and expect to be just as respected in return. That’s all, really.  


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