Sunday, July 31, 2011

How do HR Managers prepare for Ramadan?

Whether you have Muslim employees or not, that is not the question. Nowadays the workplace is so diverse that somewhere somehow you will always have a connection. Besides, think about your client base. What about the suppliers? Monocultural, monoreligious, monoracial and other "monos" are extinct just like those creatures of the Jurassic Park: welcome to the World of Diversity!

The significance of Ramadan cannot be downplayed in the Muslim community: it is the most important month of the year, the month when the Qur'an was revealed, a period of fasting, repentance, increased prayer and charity. It lasts for a year and ends with Eid, day of celebration and gratitude. All Muslims (except for children, sick adults, warriors, pregnant women and some others) fast, which means that from the break of dawn until sunset they must engage in two aspects of fasting:

  • physical: refrain from food, drink and intimacy (depending on location and season may last from 12 to 17 hrs);
  • spiritual: refrain from blameworthy thoughts and acts during all hours.

Every day of Ramadan, after sunset, Muslims break fast with Iftar, the evening meal that can be consumed only after the sun goes down. If you think that you can survive for a month without water and food for 12-17 hours a day, I suggest you try it, even if you do that purely for for the reasons of challenging yourself and cleansing your entire body along the way.

"How does this affect me?" you would ask. Well, think about all the restrictions some of your fellow employees are subjected to during Ramadan and here are a few simple steps that you can follow and alert others to, in order to contribute to the inclusive atmosphere at your organization:

  • try to avoid the following for your Muslim colleagues and business partners: meetings which include lunch, meetings going beyond 5 PM, social functions (e.g. parties) 
  • be understanding that it is the most important month in the Muslim calendar
  • it is common to take vacation during the last week of Ramadan
  • Eid is day off, especially for those with family
  • greet colleagues with "Ramadan Mubarak" (Blessed Ramadan), as a nice way to cross into a new culture
  • if invited to share Iftar, go for it - it will be fun!

Even if this "soft" stuff is not for you, please consider the following limitations:

  • Holiday jams to Muslim countries begin over a week before Ramadan till three days after Eid
  • Congestion occurs on flights to and from the Gulf area during the second half of Ramadan (people visiting Mecca)
  • Working hours in some companies end earlier during Ramadan - please plan accordingly!
In the end, if there is one thing that you should do to foster inclusiveness is be considerate and supportive

Ramadan Mubarak!

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