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We’re big on inclusivity here at WorkTango. And we wanted to broaden the conversation to include people who practice different faiths. Specifically, today, we’re going to talk about how to accommodate Muslims employees at work as they observe Ramadan in the workplace.
Don’t know what Ramadan is, but want to learn more to be mindful of what your Muslim colleagues might be experiencing this month? You’re in the right place.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. And it’s the holiest time of the year for Muslims. One important thing to note is that the Islamic calendar does not sync up neatly with the Gregorian calendar — which means Ramadan will fall at a different time of year, every year. Be sure to update your company calendar each year accordingly!
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In 2022, Ramadan will start on the evening of April 2 and end on the evening of May 2. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown for thirty days, with a typical fast lasting 11-16 hours, depending on where you live. Fasting means no food or drink as long as the sun is up — and, yes, that includes water, too.
Ramadan is about a lot more than not eating or drinking. It’s a time for Muslims to reassess their spirituality, reflect on their blessings, and work on becoming better versions of themselves. As the saying goes, “Ramadan is a time to starve the stomach to feed the soul.”
But it’s hard to get into that spiritual zone without some hiccups.
Imagine waking up to eat before the sun rises (this meal is called suhoor or sehri), then going to work at a 9-to-5 with no pick-me-ups between meetings, like coffee or a delicious snack.
On top of that, you’re juggling other priorities outside of the office. Like giving your kids your undivided attention. Or taking your car in for a much-needed oil change. Many Muslims also attend late-night prayers during Ramadan called Taraweeh that can last until midnight.
It’s no wonder that a lot of Muslims who fast during Ramadan can struggle with:
- Headaches (or worse, migraines)
Here’s the thing, though. Your coworkers don’t want you to pity them, but they do want you to understand where they’re coming from.
Ramadan may sound taxing, but it’s an auspicious occasion for Muslims that they look forward to each year. There are certain things you can do to make the month more comfortable for your fasting employees that will keep them engaged, productive, and most importantly, happy.
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Ways to accommodate your Muslim employees during Ramadan
1. Let flex workers pick their schedules
This tip is for the employees who don’t work a typical 9-to-5. Muslims set fasts in the morning (again, suhoor or sehri). And they break them at sunset, with a meal called iftar.
So let your employees schedule their shifts around these meals. This flexibility allows Muslim team members to choose times that are convenient for them. And when they feel the most productive. For example, some people may prefer to work early in the morning, right after suhoor. And others might work better late at night, after iftar.
2. Customize a work schedule for the 9-to-5 crew
It can be tough to work 8 hours straight on an empty stomach. So let your 9-to-5 workers create a custom schedule for Ramadan in the workplace. Allow them to work from home, or come into work after suhoor, then leave earlier. In addition, consider offering them the option to work through the lunch hour and go home earlier, since they won’t be using it. Keep an open mind. The goal is to negotiate a timetable that works for both parties.
Oh, and big P.S. Avoid scheduling lunch meetings when someone is fasting. It’s not considerate.
3. Provide private prayer spaces to observe Ramadan in the workplace
Here’s a fun fact. Did you know that Muslims pray five times a day, even outside of Ramadan? These prayers are scheduled at specific intervals throughout the day. And usually, they take just 5-10 minutes to complete.
Some of your employees might already have dedicated prayer spaces. But some Muslims use Ramadan as a time to become more religious. These members of your team might be looking for a place to pray at work for the first time.
Give your Muslim employees a safe (and private) space to pray. This can be as simple as letting them book a meeting room to themselves for 15 minutes. Or, if the option is available, let them go to a local mosque for prayers.
4. Give Muslim employees religious PTO
Sometimes it can be difficult for employees to balance fasting and work. And that’s normal. Allow your employees to take a bit of time off to settle into their new routine. And understand that sick days are inevitable for some of them. So offering them the ability to work from home is a great option, too.
And heads-up: Muslims also celebrate Eid-al-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan. It’s the equivalent of Christmas for them. They spend the day eating and drinking with friends and family. Just like you wouldn’t want to work on Christmas, they won’t want to work on Eid either! As a heads up, the rest of the world celebrates Eid for up to three days. Some employees may only take a day or two off, though.
Food for thought
Did this article about Ramadan in the workplace prompt a lot of follow-up questions? Remember, it’s okay to be curious. It’s also important to remember that fasting affects each person differently. And some days are easier than others. Don’t be afraid to ask your employees respectful questions to better understand their situation. Most Muslims welcome the opportunity to share their beliefs to bust stereotypes or misconceptions about Islam.
FYI — this is one of many reasons why it’s crucial for managers to keep an open and consistent dialogue with their employees, and vice versa. This method of communication ensures that a company will meet their employees’ needs, as well as their own. It’s a win-win situation!
You’re in good company
We hope this article about helping your employees observe Ramadan in the workplace was helpful. Because we admit it. When it comes to HR and the workplace, we’re not just excited — we’re super nerds.
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