Productivity in Ramadan Study: Recommendations (for Employers)

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Productivity in Ramadan 2011 Report

Insights & recommendations for employers:

  • The study provides beneficial insight on how employers can support Muslim employees in honoring their religious requirements.  This attention is expected to result in employee goodwill as well as productivity improvements.
  • It is clear from survey responses that most Muslims fast, and those who fast do see an increased level of spiritual activity for which the respondents value employer flexibility.
  • An important insight from this survey is that most survey respondents (77%) say they try to maintain same level of work productivity during Ramadan and feel that work should continue uninterrupted.  Also, although there are no specific religious injunctions on reducing work hours, increased spiritual activity is to be expected and accommodated.  Reduced or flexible scheduling is especially important for work that requires severe physical labor.
  • For Muslim majority OIC  based employers specifically:
  • Most OIC based employees (74%) said they were happy with their employers’ flexibility during Ramadan.   At the same time, over 25% have higher expectations of their employers.
  • The survey highlights areas in which OIC based employers can improve their efforts to support Ramadan and productivity.  These include:
  • Organizing Iftar and Eid gatherings and gift-giving, and
  • Arranging for special Ramadan working hours, prayer times and facilities. (Special hours may not necessarily mean a reduction of hours but an adjustment with consideration to key prayer times and Iftar.)
  • Be aware of the activities Muslims are striving for to achieve spiritual excellence (e.g. reading the Qur’an regularly, praying at a mosque, giving extra in charity etc.).  Perhaps special programs can be created to facilitate these efforts.
  • While a majority (61%) of respondents from OIC countries said their company’s productivity does not suffer during Ramadan, a sizeable 26% said their company’s productivity unnecessarily suffers.  This should be a cause for companies to evaluate their practices and policies.
  • For Muslim minority non-OIC based employers:
  • Contrasted with OIC based employees, non-OIC based employees were less happy with their employers’ flexibility during Ramadan (48% vs. 74%).   Although commendable that a good percentage of Non-Muslim majority based companies do accommodate for Muslim needs, the gap does present HR departments within these companies’ opportunities to engage with their Muslim employees to impact not just goodwill but productivity.
  • As mentioned earlier, most Muslims during Ramadan expect to be as productive as they would be at any other time.  However, the survey results show that they engage in added spiritual activity which reduces physical energy.  Any accommodation of this reality is expected to increase goodwill and productivity.
  • The survey highlights areas in which non-OIC based employers can improve their efforts to support Ramadan and productivity.  These include:
    • A big percentage of non-OIC based respondents (49%) expressed desire for employees to set special Ramadan working hours. (Special hours may not necessarily mean reduction of hours but an adjustment—for example, providing an early start and an early end to the workday.) 25% of the respondents stated that their employers provide special working hours.
    • 38% also expressed an interest in special prayer time or facility.
    • Additional, but less prioritized requests include activities such as organizing Iftar and Eid gatherings.

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  1. Conducted a survey to determine actual Ramadan practices and expectations of Muslim workers, and
  2. Looked at Ramadan work-hour differences in various Muslim majority countries and its resulting economic impact, and to suggest areas of Ramadan productivity improvements.

Productivity in Ramadan Study: Recommendations for Human Resource Departments

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Productivity in Ramadan 2011 Report

Expert Commentary by Farah Ghias, HR Consultant, GCC/USA

For HR departments in non-OIC countries, the challenge falls in balancing the needs of Muslim employees with organizational priorities.  There are a number of reasons why an HR department in a non-OIC country would have an interest in becoming more accommodating to its Muslims employees’ needs during Ramadan.

Diversity, in particular, is an increasing concern for organizations trying to reap the full benefit of a diverse workforce.  Diversity initiatives are driven by high profile firms, concerned not only with legal compliance, but also with the business case for diversity.  Employers with reputations for encouraging inclusiveness, tolerance, and diversity are more likely to benefit from a widened talent pool.  Attracting a heterogeneous workforce also requires that organizations be inclusive when designing policies and procedures in order to better accommodate and retain the diversity they attract.

Organizations that have not reached the level of valuing diversity for its business case may still be driven to pay attention to diversity in order to avoid litigation.  For example, under US employment law, “employers must reasonably accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious practices unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.”

Poor HR practice towards diversity generally stems from a lack of awareness.  Understanding Muslim practices and employment preferences during Ramadan would help ensure that reasonable measures were taken to accommodate them.   A look at the most practiced activities during Ramadan can give employers insight into the kind of accommodation Muslim employees may require.  Examples include providing a quiet space to perform the daily prayers, or avoiding the scheduling of night shifts to allow Muslim employees to attend Taraweeh prayers.  Relatively minor adjustments that are unlikely to cause disruption to work can significantly increase satisfaction levels of Muslim employees.

In the balancing act between employee demands and organizational productivity, the bigger challenge OIC countries face is maintaining productivity.  Employees in OIC countries are generally satisfied with the accommodations made by employers during Ramadan (74%). Although 77% of respondents believe that work should continue uninterrupted during Ramadan, 26% of OIC respondents believe that their company’s productivity suffers unnecessarily.  Organizations would benefit greatly to identify the causes for these unnecessary drops in productivity.  Furthermore, whereas 76% of OIC organizations set special working hours, 77% of respondents feel that they try to maintain the same level of work productivity during Ramadan as they do outside of Ramadan.  Thus, shortened work hours may actually hinder employee desire to maintain similar levels of output during Ramadan as they accomplish outside of Ramadan.

Having said this, high percentages of employees desire a higher level of spirituality during Ramadan.  So although it may be unnecessary to significantly reduce working hours during Ramadan, organizations should not create undue work pressure that consumes employees’ time outside of regular work hours, in order to allow time for spiritual activities.

In both OIC and non-OIC countries, HR departments should regularly consult staff and management to help find the optimal balance between employee needs and the needs of the organization.

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  1. Conducted a survey to determine actual Ramadan practices and expectations of Muslim workers, and
  2. Looked at Ramadan work-hour differences in various Muslim majority countries and its resulting economic impact, and to suggest areas of Ramadan productivity improvements.

Productivity in Ramadan Study: Acknowledgement

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Productivity in Ramadan 2011 Report

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

This report was authored by DinarStandard team: Rafi-uddin Shikoh, Maria Zain (Analysis), Deborah McNichol (Editor,) with input and suggestions from the ProductiveMuslim team: Mohammed Faris, Lotifa Begum, Ahlam Yassin, Saliha Celenlizade, as well as expert advice and input from the following advisors: Husain Quadri, and Farah Ghias. ProductiveMuslim team was also instrumental in distribution of the survey.

ABOUT DinarStandard™
www.dinarstandard.com;  advisory.dinarstandard.com

DinarStandard™ specializes in the emerging Muslim markets — helping companies with their growth strategies.   For more than 5 years, DinarStandard™ has been a pioneer in researching and highlighting the emergence of the Muslim Lifestyle Market globally.  It has been delivering Muslim market analysis, feasibility studies and growth strategies for its clients.  Its anchor report, the DS100–Top 100 Businesses of the Muslim World, and other original reports are regularly covered by global media such as The Economist, Forbes, Zaman (Turkey,) Malaysian Star and many others.

ABOUT ProductiveMuslim Ltd
www.productivemuslim.com;  www.productiveramadan.com

ProductiveMuslim Ltd is a private UK company dedicated to promoting productivity amongst Muslims worldwide. Since its launch in June 2008, ProductiveMuslim Ltd launched three websites dedicated to its message of productivity for the Muslim market, these are: ProductiveMuslim.comProductiveRamadan.com, and LeadingProductiveLives.com. It delivers its message through daily articles, weekly videos, weekly e-mail newsletter, as well as seminars and workshops in various cities. It specializes in developing productivity resources for its audience including worksheets, animation videos, and interactive online courses for members.

Disclaimer & Copyrights

The contents of this report are based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative assessments of data.  While every care has been taken in the preparation of this report, no responsibility is taken by ProductiveMuslim Ltd or DinarStandard as to the accuracy or completeness of the data used or consequent conclusions based on that data, due to the limited set of information provided by each institution.

This report is protected by United States and international copyright law, and all rights are reserved. Copyrights in the contents and data of this report are jointly owned by ProductiveMuslim Ltd and DinarStandard unless otherwise indicated. The content and data found on this report may not be distributed, modified, transmitted, reused, or reposted for private, public or commercial purposes without the express written permission of both ProductiveMuslim Ltd and DinarStandard.

Should you have any enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact Rafi-uddin Shikoh, tel: +1 347 624 7454, rafishikoh (@) dinarstandard.com, or Mohammed Faris, tel: +44 117 230 9442, mohammed (@) productivemuslim.com.

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Productivity in Ramadan Study: Economic Context

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Productivity in Ramadan 2011 Report

Work-hour Changes & Economic Impact:

In the Muslim-majority OIC countries, the month of Ramadan sees a reduction or an adjustment of work hours.  There are varying instances on work hours during Ramadan.  In some cases, work reduction or adjustment is government mandated.  Some countries leave scheduling at the discretion of the employers, and others mandate government office hours, while permitting the private sector to use its own discretion.

The purpose of this working-hours brief analysis is to provide a broader perspective to this report by evaluating the varying work-hour change practices across OIC countries, and their economic impact.  The evaluation highlights the different approaches in creating a balanced and flexible Ramadan work schedule.

Definition—Adjustment  vs. Reduction: An adjustment in work hours means the working day starts early (e.g. in Indonesia) and finishes early. A reduction means that the number of scheduled work hours is reduced.

Ramadan work-hour practices:  A selection of eleven OIC countries was evaluated for general differences in approach toward Ramadan work hours.  This included the six GCC countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain), Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia.  The table below shows each country’s Ramadan hour practices:

[table id=22 /]

Economic impact:  Conducting a thorough economic impact assessment of Ramadan work hour reduction is beyond the scope of this study.  However, we have used a basic approach using national GDP-per-hour-per day to determine the financial impact of reduced hours on each of the eleven OIC economies.

For those countries who average two hour workday reduction (GCC, Pakistan, Egypt), the total hours lost are approximately forty, which is essentially equivalent to one week of economic productivity.  Percentage-wise, this averages to a 7.7% loss in such a country’s monthly GDP value.   For those who average a one hour workday reduction (Indonesia, Malaysia), the total lost hours are twenty, which averages to 3.8% loss in those economies’ average monthly GDP value.  This assessment does not consider end of Ramadan Eid holidays.

Using this evaluation, the chart below shows estimated GDP impact to the select economies of the OIC. Although a detailed analysis of economic impact would have to be undertaken in order to understand the full complexity of the Ramadan dynamic, the above assessment does show that the economies suffer roughly 4% in monthly GDP per hour of work reduction per day.

Estimated Loss in monthly GDP due to reduced Ramadan hours
Estimated Loss in monthly GDP due to reduced Ramadan hours

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Productivity in Ramadan Study: Religious Context

RELIGIOUS  CONTEXT:

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Productivity in Ramadan 2011 Report

DISCLAIMER: We present here select Quranic and prophetic statements in regards to Ramadan and productivity with sources referenced.  We are not Sharia scholars or that this section has not been reviewed by any scholarly body for comprehensiveness.

 

From a spiritual perspective, the purpose of the Muslim fast has been articulated in the following verse of the Qur’an:

“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.”[1]

Moreover, the Qur’an mentions that fasting is not meant to be a burden or difficulty for the person, Allah says:

“Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.”[2]

Fasting is not meant to be a physical exercise of self-restraint, but a spiritual exercise of self-restraint from bad deeds and all that goes against the teachings of Islam.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever does not give up false statements (i.e. telling lies), and evil deeds, and speaking bad words to others, Allah is not in need of his (fasting) leaving his food and drink.” [3]

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) emphasized and encouraged extra worship during the month.  He said:

“Ramadan has come to you. (It is) a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with blessing, for He sends down Mercy, decreases sins and answers prayers. In it, Allah looks at your competition (in good deeds), and boasts about you to His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for the unfortunate one is he who is deprived in (this month) of the mercy of Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted.”[4]

These encouraging injunctions to increase worship need also to be balanced by other similar injunctions from the Qur’an and Sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that enjoin the Muslim worker to take care of his or her responsibilities and perform duties with utmost care:

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“God loves that when any one of you does a job, he does it perfectly.”[5]

He (peace be upon him) also said: “He whom we have appointed for a job and have provided with livelihood, then whatever he appropriates beyond this is ill-gotten.”[6]

Historically, Ramadan was a productive time for the advancement of the Ummah, “It is in this noble month that many great events occurred in the history of Islam like the victory of faith over disbelief in the Battle of Badr, the conquest of Makkah, Battle of ‘Ayn Jaaloot and other decisive battles.”[7]

Given the added demands of fasting and extra worship during Ramadan, it is clear why observant Muslim workers may find it difficult to balance Ramadan’s spiritual demands with work and family responsibilities.

As for employers, how far should they go to accommodate their Muslim workers’ spiritual demands?  Saif Bin Rashid Al Gabiri, Director of Ifta and Research Administration in the Dubai Department of Islamic Affairs and Awqaf, summarizes the issue succinctly: “The month of Ramadan is a month of performing rituals, praying and fasting. However, working is part of worshipping. The Sharia does not force the employer to reduce working hours. There is no clause that says working hours must be reduced. On the other hand, Muslims must get time to fulfill their religious duties.”[8]

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[1] Holy Qur’an, Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #183, Yusuf Ali Translation.

[2] Holy Qur’an, Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #185, Yusuf Ali Translation.

[3] Sahih Bukhari, Book #73, Hadith #83.

[4] Narrated by Tabarani.

[5] Bayhaqi’s Shu’ab al-iman by Suyuti, v.1, p. 75

[6] Abu Dawud, v. 2, p.121

[7] Ramadan and Eeman (Faith) by ‘Alî Abd-ur-Rahmân al-Hudhaifî, Islamic Network:  http://www.islaam.net/main/display.php?id=369&category=130

[8] “Is work during Ramadan worship?” Spero News, accessed August 22, 2011, http://www.speroforum.com/a/2064/Is-work-during-Ramadan-worship

Are We Over Commercializing Ramadan?

Ramadan-Textile-Ad1-239x300

Ramadan is here, and while many of the pious are gearing up for a month of  self-denial  and supplication, many Muslims are also frantically stocking up on supplies in preparation for Iftar gatherings and boundless hospitality. A Western, non-Muslim observer, would see a huge paradox that the month of fasting and abstinence is regarded by many Muslims as the month of feasting and overabundance.

Companies in Muslim countries are quick to capitalize on consumers increased spending as well as the promise of a captive television audience that expects to be entertained both by a profusion of new shows especially produced for Ramadan, as well as equally captivating commercials. (Ramadan commercials in Egypt actually remind me of Super Ball commercials, both in the competition among advertisers to produce the best, and the budgets spent on both producing and airing them.)

Initially it was food-related companies that would take advantage of consumer’s heightened interest in food and increased spending on food items to increase their marketing messaging during Ramadan. Now, it is not only food-related companies; hotels for example launch special Ramadan packages, and cell phone network providers emotionally appeal  to the value of keeping in touch and provide their most attractive offers. Ramadan is also the time for many companies to launch new products.

This leads me to wonder, as marketers, where do we draw the line between business practicality and opportunism?

How do we align our Muslim values and trying to preserve the true spirit of Ramadan with business common sense, especially in challenging economic times?

Do you have an example of a company that has succeeded in achieving this balance?