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Employers who want to be supportive need to go beyond simply providing complimentary tea and coffee. They should show a genuine concern for their employees' personal lives and offer assistance during difficult times. A prime example of this is during the observance of Ramadan, where employers can provide crucial support to their employees.
Observing Ramadan can certainly have an impact on employees during their working day, such as changes in their energy levels, attentiveness, or schedule. However, some employers may be hesitant to offer support during this time due to fear of making mistakes or being disrespectful. If you're reading this article and considering what you can do to support your employees, then you're already on the right track as a supportive employer. With the help of these tips, you can extend your support even further.
What is Ramadan and when is it?
Ramadan is a significant month in the Islamic calendar as it marks the time when the Prophet Muhammad first received the Qur’an. During this month, most physically able Muslims will observe daily fasts from dawn until sunset, and many will make a greater effort to refrain from harmful behaviors and substances. The dates of Ramadan vary annually due to the lunar-based Islamic calendar. This year the month of Ramadan commenced on the evening of Wednesday, March 22nd, and will conclude on Friday, April 21st.
Why do Muslims observe fasting?
Muslims observe fasting during Ramadan as it is one of the five pillars of Islam and is a religious obligation mentioned in the Qur’an. Fasting begins at puberty and is observed by those in good health. Apart from being a way of worship, fasting allows Muslims to feel closer to Allah and also instills qualities such as patience and empathy towards those less fortunate. During Ramadan, individuals abstain from all food and drink from dawn until sunset. This can be challenging as it results in a long day, with meals being consumed before dawn and after sunset. The timing of dawn and sunset changes based on location and time of year.
What you can do to support your employees
When it comes to supporting employees who observe Ramadan, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every individual may have their unique way of celebrating the occasion. Therefore, offering support goes beyond merely figuring out what to say to those who are fasting. It requires taking a comprehensive approach that acknowledges and respects their religious beliefs.
Ensuring that employees have the flexibility to adjust their schedules or take time off is crucial during Ramadan. The longer nights spent with family, community, or in worship, combined with fasting during the day, can lead to unpredictable energy levels.
Limiting the number of meetings and scheduling them during core hours, allowing for more frequent rest breaks, and providing the option to adjust working hours to start and finish earlier can all be beneficial for your employees.
However, it is essential to balance these accommodations with the needs of the wider business and avoid making assumptions. Instead, consider each case individually and have discussions with each employee to determine the best approach.
In the month of Ramadan, it's probable that some of the daily prayers may coincide with office hours. To show support and understanding towards your employees, it's not unreasonable to consider designating a meeting room as a prayer room during that period. This simple gesture can go a long way in making them feel valued.
In some cases, employees might prefer to forego their lunch hour to leave work earlier. It's important to have open conversations to determine how best to support employees during this time. There are several small adjustments that employers can make to help those observing Ramadan, but it's essential not to assume and instead listen to their needs to provide the right support.
Demonstrating compassion and understanding is one of the most supportive things employers can do for their employees during Ramadan. As many employees perform Taraweeh, a special prayer that can last until the early hours, and wake up for Suhoor around 4am, it's likely they won't be getting as much sleep. This can result in some employees feeling tired, unfocused and low on energy during the day.
Being compassionate towards employees in this situation shows that the employer cares and supports their religious observances. It's also important to be mindful of company or external events that may conflict with Ramadan practices. For example, scheduling work drinks during this time may make Muslim employees uncomfortable attending if alcohol is present. Delaying events such as team lunches until after Ramadan, if possible, allows employees to fully participate. While life must go on, if there are controllable factors that can be postponed, it's an easy way to accommodate and support employees observing Ramadan.
Due to the lunar calendar, it is difficult to plan in advance for the exact dates of Ramadan and Eid. Eid is anticipated to occur either on Friday, April 21st or Saturday, April 22nd, but its precise date is dependent on the sighting of the new moon and therefore won't be determined until closer to the event.
As a result, there may be some last-minute requests for annual leave or schedule changes so that employees can take time off during the appropriate period. Incorporating this into your preparation and allowing for last-minute time-off requests is a simple method to support your workers during Ramadan, whether it is for celebrating Eid or to assist them in following their fasting schedule, particularly during the final 10 holy days of Ramadan. Collaborating with your workers to help them maintain their work obligations while adhering to their religious beliefs is a sign of a genuinely supportive employer.
Effective communication is crucial for supporting your employees during Ramadan. It's important to have an open dialogue with your employees to understand their needs, what accommodations would be helpful, and what is necessary. Assuming their experience and needs can create an unfavorable environment, so it's important to approach the conversation with empathy and respect.
Creating a supportive culture requires having an open line of communication where your employees feel comfortable approaching you to request time off, accommodations, or simply to share their thoughts and feelings. This applies not only during Ramadan but also for any significant life event that may affect your employees.
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