Ramadan is a specific period in the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims around the world fast for a month between the rising (fajr/suhoor) and setting (maghrib/iftar) of the sun. When fasting, you do not eat, drink (including water), smoke or have sex.
This year, Ramadan started on March 23 and ends on April 21. Here’s what you can do to support staff who are fasting during this period. .
Why do we fast during Ramadan?
The month of fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and a period of purification, reflection and togetherness. It’s a month of greater focus on tolerance, generosity and charity.
We learn discipline during Ramadan, test our endurance and increase our respect and empathy. It’s an important time during which Muslims reflect.
Also the case for Ömer*, a developer at a tech company, who has participated in Ramadan since the age of 11. He says: “For me, Ramadan is the time of the year when I work on my patience and self-control, be grateful and show compassion for those less fortunate.”
For many people, this year’s Ramadan also involves reflecting on the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.
More importantly, children, the elderly, pregnant people, people who are travelling and people taking medication for physical or mental reasons do not have to fast.
Ramadan and mental well-being
Ramadan is a period of repentance and gratitude. We take a step back to reflect on our actions and rest. This has a positive effect on mental well-being, Ömer adds :
“Fasting by choice always helps me reduce stress and gloom. The special rituals of Ramadan help me feel better physically, mentally and emotionally.”
At the same time, Ramadan can also bring challenges. For instance, fasting can cause you to have less energy, be less productive and even experience mood swings. So it helps to establish your own rituals and routines that support you when fasting.
Ömer: “During the fasting month, I keep exercising but do shorter workouts at a lower intensity. This way, I can still maintain my fitness level. I eat lots of fruit and vegetables and make sure I’m hydrated enough. I also go for a walk for 15 minutes every day before iftar, the fast-breaking evening meal.”
It also helps Ömer to be aware of how his body uses energy and how external things can cause distractions. Sleeping well, having a good overview of his schedule and drinking and eating well all help him here.
Ramadan at work
Fasting can impact energy levels and productivity. There are several things you can do to accommodate your employees during this period:
- Be aware that not everyone wants to be treated differently because they are fasting. It’s best to ask people individually about their needs and any support they may want during the month of Ramadan.
- Raise awareness of Ramadan, it’s particularly important in teams with people who are fasting to make sure the rest of the team understands what the Ramadan month involves.
- Plan the tasks and workload of someone who is fasting in a way that works for them. Make sure you can reduce the workload if someone has less energy or focus during the fasting month.
- Provide flexible working hours and hybrid options. For people fasting, it may be nice to arrive at work a little earlier or later because of the associated rituals, the fasting itself and possibly reduced energy levels.
- Be understanding and accommodating about leave requests during Ramadan or at the end of the fasting month. Give people space to enjoy all the rituals, time with loved ones and moments of reflection and self-care.
Ramadan comes with all sorts of rituals that people are using to turn inward and find inner peace. “I use this period to find peace, let go of bad habits and develop good ones,” Ömer says.
The period teaches him to not only be aware of his own self but also to be grateful: “Ramadan is a time for showing compassion and gratitude and sharing this with others. In addition, it teaches me to be more patient and disciplined.”
And these are plenty of qualities that make people more resilient and happy. For instance, a survey of hospital staff shows that Ramadan is an effective way to reduce stress and depression.
Want to wish someone a happy Ramadan? You can use the expression ‘Ramadan Kareem’ or ‘Ramadan Mubarak’.
* Ömer’s name and job titlehave been changed for privacy reasons.