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How to build a supportive workplace this Ramadan

The holy month of Ramadan officially began on 6 May (Monday), following the sighting of the crescent moon on 5 May, and will last for a month.

Anyone who has grown up in Malaysia, Singapore or any country where the occasion is celebrated would be familiar with what happens each day - our Muslim team members, colleagues and friends fast from dawn till sunset, and use this month to grow spiritually.

It is important that they are surrounded by supportive managers and colleagues in an environment where they spend most of their day, especially if it is a busy period at the workplace.

On that note, we'd like to reiterate a few important points for HR to note when working along side those who are fasting at the workplace this month:

Know the correct greetings and the prayer timings

A little greeting can mean a lot to those that celebrate this month. Take this time to wish your Muslim staff a healthy and happy Ramadan.

A simple "Ramadan Kareem" (Have a generous Ramadan) or "Ramadan Mubarak" (Blessed Ramadan), for the start of the month, and "Eid Mubarak" to signify the last day of Ramadan (Eid-al-Fitr) are some of the ways you can wish them.

As for prayer timings, Malaysia and Singapore differ in their stipulated timings. Further, each state in Malaysia could also have their own set of rules. As such, be sure to check out the designated websites to know these timings, so you can be aware when your employees have to head out for their prayers.

Here are some official websites you can visit:

Be sensitive to those who can and cannot fast

Ensure you and your colleagues are sensitive not just to those who are fasting, but to the Muslims who aren't fasting, or can't fast for certain reasons. Chances are, the latter groups may feel conscious eating or drinking while their fellow Muslims are fasting.

You could remind everyone to be aware of this. Try and encourage those who can't fast to have lunch with their colleagues as per usual instead of eating alone, so that they don't feel awkward when surrounded by supportive colleagues. Do also remind non-Muslims not to eat right in front of their Muslim colleagues, unless these colleagues are truly fine with it.

Create work and timing flexibility as required

As those observing Ramadan will have to prepare for Iftar (evening meal where they break fast), it will be really helpful if they are allowed to leave work 30 minutes to an hour early. This way, not only do they get to prepare early, but they also do get to rest on time to wake up for their pre-dawn meal (Suhoor) the next day.

Further, if your work allows, this would be a great time to introduce flexible working practices such as shift work or job swapping - so that, colleagues are able to work in tandem with each to get the job done, albeit with tweaked or flexible work timings.

When it comes to holding meetings, try to keep them in the mornings when those who are fasting still feel relatively more fresh, as opposed to the afternoon where energy levels can take a dip given just how humid Southeast Asian climates can be.

Ultimately, be the most supportive you can be

At the end of the day, everyone in the office plays an important role in ensuring Muslim employees have a good, fruitful Ramadan at work. Fasting for 16-18 hours a day is no easy task, therefore it is important for managers and colleague to be mindful of how this can impact behaviours and work practices.

In line with this, if your budget allows it, it would be lovely to host an Iftar at office itself, allowing fasting staff to break their fast and sharing a glimpse of an important part of their lives with their non-fasting colleagues.

Your full support will help your colleagues grow during this period, which will in turn help everyone else make use of the safe space to grow spiritually, mentally and culturally.

The Human Resources team wishes all our Muslim readers a Blessed Ramadan. 

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