While previous studies often failed to find a justification for the declining productivity rates during Ramadan, there is no denying the fact that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) market is usually hit by a decrease in the workflow within the summer months.

In GCC countries like the UAE, no less than 85 percent of the population are expats, who usually tend to travel back home at one point during the summer months. In recent years, Ramadan arrived in the heart of the summer season and working hours are reduced to six per day, as the rising weather temperatures makes it harder for fasting Muslims to remain fully-focused during the holy month.

Many working expats opt to fulfill their annual leaves during Ramadan, which will be followed by a two-day Eid Al Fitr holiday and businesses are expected to witness major stalemates during these periods.

Nonetheless, Ramadan can be a blessing in disguise for workers, who can be prepared enough so as to avoid delaying their scheduled plans. Summer and Ramadan can be a time to reevaluate their performances and fill the gaps.

Using the extra time at hand, entrepreneurs can similarly get the opportunity to catch up with ideas and projects that were pending in the mayhem of the usual daily commitments throughout the year.

The Ramadan season can also be a time to customize their ideas and initiatives according to the event, with retailers targeting specific promotions that are suited for the holy month.

Ramadan is always a time for family and friends’ gatherings, whether it is over iftar and suhour meals, or social activities, many meetings and businesses can be integrated within the friendly social frame.

Ramadan Kareem

A study issued by Oxford Strategic Consulting stresses that Ramadan can boost both productivity and well-being.

Citing human resources experts, the study notes that shorter work hours do not necessarily translate to decreased productivity.

“The Japanese, for example, consistently reduced working hours since the early 1970s but their productivity continued to rise over this period. The UK was forced to work a 3-day week due to a miners’ strike in the 1970s; however, experts were baffled to find that production fell by only 6%. Most studies indicate with significant fall-off in productivity after 8 hours of working, and 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,” a release on the study read.”

Additionally, Shorter work weeks can increase staff happiness and engagement in the long term.

“The Swedish government implemented a 30-hour work week for select employees during a two-year study and found that staff was happier, less stressed and enjoyed work more – the only downside being that the scheme proved too expensive for participating employers. Given the religious and cultural significance of Ramadan for MENA countries, prevailing work norms during the holy month are unlikely to change because of fiscal concerns.

“The shorter work weeks during Ramadan, then, 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.

The study added that greater control over workloads and schedules can boost well-being.

A study by the Birmingham Business School found that employees with more autonomy experienced greater overall well-being and job satisfaction. Thus, employers should use Ramadan to encourage employees to work more hours when and where they will feel comfortable.

“Flexibility is key: team building exercises, meetings and brainstorming workshops can take place around iftar and other social events, while less essential tasks can be done remotely from home. Breaking the monotony of routine helps formulate new ideas within an organization and also build stronger bonds between employees.”

Ramadan does not have to be an unproductive period for GCC 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 organization, the release concluded.


Source: Forbes Middle East