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Staff during Ramadan

How Ramadan may boost staff productivity and well-being

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A recent research by UK-based Oxford Strategic Consulting (OSC) found that changing work models are becoming more hospitable to the Ramadan work schedule. 

Rather than worry about the negative effects on business, business leaders should instead focus on improving well-being, increasing engagement and embracing flexible work patterns during the Islamic holy month.

According to the press release, more vacation time can improve performance and well-being. In fact, it shared that an internal study in 2006 by accounting firm Ernst & Young found that employees’ year-end performance ratings from supervisors improved by 8% for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took

The press release said: “Employees who took vacations more frequently were also significantly less likely to leave the firm, which helped to increase retention rates.

What might appear a short-term gain in working people beyond the stage where they are being effective can be offset by longer term problems such as staff burn-out, errors, retention and recruitment problems as well as significant diminishing returns in productivity.

On this note, professor William Scott-Jackson, chairman of OSC said: “A great leader helps their team work effectively and happily to make the very most of every hour rather than just put in the hours.”

The report also explained that shorter work hours do not necessarily translate to decreased productivity. For example, when the UK was forced to work a 3-day week due to a miners’ strike in the 1970s; it showed that production fell by only 6%.

According to the research, it noticed a significant fall-off in productivity after 8 hours of working. In fact, the majority of productivity tends to occur between the 2nd and 6th hours of work. Office workers were found to be especially susceptible to deterioration in performance after 6 useful hours of work per day; compared with 8 hours for more manual jobs.

ALSO READ: MEF: Flexible working hours the answer to better productivity in Malaysia

Next, the report shared that shorter work weeks can increase staff happiness and engagement in the long term. Taking the Swedish government’s 30-hour work week for select employees as example, the two-year study found that staff were happier, less stressed and enjoyed work more. However, the only downside was that the scheme proved too expensive for participating employers.

Given the religious and cultural significance of Ramadan, prevailing work norms during the holy month are unlikely to change because of fiscal concerns.

The shorter work weeks during Ramadan may reflect an opportunity for employers to nurture more productive staff by focusing on employee engagement and team commitment in the month’s less urgent and informal environment.

ALSO READ: Sweden experiments with a 6-hour workday

Lastly, the research also showed that greater control over workloads and schedules can boost well-being. In fact, a study by the Birmingham Business School found that employees with more autonomy experienced greater overall well-being and job satisfaction.

On this note, OSC recommends employers to encourage employees to work when and where they will feel comfortable during the month of Ramadan.

It said: “Flexibility is key – team building exercises, meetings and brainstorming workshops can take place around Iftar (the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan as they break fast) and other social events.”

OSC also suggested to have less essential tasks to be done remotely from home. It highlighted that breaking the monotony of routine helps formulate new ideas within an organisation and also build stronger bonds between employees

“Ramadan does not have to be an unproductive period for businesses. Instead, business leaders can derive value from the Islamic holy month by focusing on improving well-being, increasing engagement and embracing flexibility within the organisation,” it concluded.

Photo / 123RF

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