Ramadan 2021: How managers can support their Muslim colleagues
When a majority of the world was under lockdown last year, Ramadan shaped up to be a muted affair. While some mosques remain closed and social aspects of the celebrations suspended, the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar will still be diligently observed by millions of Muslims across the globe.
Ramadan in 2021 is expected to start on the evening of April 12 and could end on the evening of May 11 – culminating in the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the holy month. During this month, practicing Muslims will fast from sunrise to sundown. It is a time used to reassess one’s spirituality, and to reflect on their blessings and work towards self-improvement. As the saying goes, “Ramadan is a time to starve the stomach to feed the soul.”
Simply put: it should be respected. Muslim staffers should be able to break their fasts at sunset and partake in extra prayers without interruptions.
Now that a majority of business owners are striving to be more inclusive, employers, HR practitioners, line managers, and stakeholders could use this time to bolster their awareness about the personal and religious sensitivities of their staff.
This demonstrates good management and ensures employees perform to the best of their abilities. The right policies could nurture mutual trust that will ultimately lead to higher staff retention, better morale, and more productive employees. If it is your first time in charge of diverse team, here are some suggestions on how you can support those who will be observing Ramadan this year:
Implement flexible work schedules during Ramadan
Managers may want to consider giving fasting employees some flexibility around their work schedules that revolve around the first and last of their daily meals. For example, some people may prefer to work early in the morning, right after suhoor (the meal they have before beginning their fast). Others might feel more productive at night, after iftar (the breaking of the fast).
Flexible schedules could include allowing them to start their work day a little later, allowing them to work through lunch, or letting them leave work earlier to prepare for iftar.
Managing annual leave requests fairly
Managers might notice an increase in annual leave requests from their Muslim colleagues, especially towards the end of Ramadan.
In countries where Muslim holidays are not observed, encourage Muslim staff to make their requests early to ensure their requests can be managed fairly by management.
Provide prayer spaces
Muslims pray five times a day, even outside of Ramadan. These prayers are scheduled at specific intervals throughout the day. Prayers can take some 10 minutes to complete.
Even if your practicing staffers have never flagged the importance of these delegated spaces before, it’s important to remember that many consider Ramadan as a time to start anew.
If you haven’t already, consider making some accommodations by creating a clean and private space for staff to pray. This can be as simple as letting them book a meeting room to themselves for 15 minutes.
While employers are not legally bound to do so, these accommodations can serve as good business practice. Or, if possible, consider giving them some flexibility to go to a local mosque for a quick prayer during working hours if prayers in the office is a challenge to accommodate.
Be respectful towards those observing Ramadan
Employers and managers should try their best to make sure everyone in the workplace is aware of Ramadan – this could be done by putting a notice in the common room or by sending out a network-wide email.
For instance, it helps to reconsider meetings that revolve around food or pushing office parties where food and drinks will be aplenty to after iftar hours.
It’s also useful to use this time to promote greater understanding of other people’s cultures and to improve team dynamics. Consider hosting an iftar session and encouraging the office to share a meal together at sundown – alongside practicing peers who are ready to break their fast.
Improve your understanding of colleagues with diverse backgrounds
It’s always useful when staff have some basic understanding of each other’s culture and religion. If you’re keen on understanding your colleagues better, why not tap into the plethora of resources available at your fingertips online?
Managing a Diverse Team by co-author of The Female CEO, Vanessa Womack, is a great primer for managers with diverse teams. Through this course, participants learn the fundamentals of implementing an open-door policy that encourages communication, how to work with multigenerational teams, how to identify negative behaviours that could derail your team, and how to use coaching tools to work with your direct reports.
HEC Paris’ The Inspirational Leadership: Leading with Sense specialisation course uses the Savoir-Relier method to teach courage, empathy, humility, and resilience. Designed based on the Savoir-Relier protocol, its teachings have been implemented in organisations such as Apple, L’Oréal, LVMH, and Sanofi.
Foundations of diversity and inclusion is offered by the University of Virginia and explains how power and privilege play out in organisations. It also covers how companies can turn calls for action into new policies, how to have difficult conversations around race and power at work, and how to begin to root out bias in hiring practices.