The month of Ramadan affects business, industry and projects within the Muslim world, it also affects partners and stakeholders that have links with these countries. For a month regional businesses adapt and connect with a fasting population and workforce by changing working hours, working in shifts and preparing for the many that take leave from work during this time. This all affects schedules, milestones and day-to-day business. In order to ascertain how and to what extent Ramadan affects projects and organisations in the GCC region I co-ordinated a unique survey of 40 project managers and mangers from the region and summarised the results.
A Survey on ‘The effect of Ramadan on work productivity’
The purpose of this unique survey is to ascertain the effect of the month of Ramadan in the GCC on work productivity. Feedback from the survey is collected and grouped into the following five categories;
- Increase in spirituality = Increase in work productivity
- Productivity due to other factors
- Unproductive with no reasons
- Unproductive with reasons
- Advice and lessons learned
In summary, Twenty eight percent of respondents directly linked increased productivity at work to the spiritual and religious significance of Ramadan. Twenty two percent stated that productivity increased in the month of Ramadan due to other factors. Twenty percent of responses disclosed a noticeable decrease in productivity but offered no explanation for their response. Another fifteen percent commented that Ramadan was an unproductive period for projects and offered explanations as to why. Fifteen percent of respondents offered planning advice and lessons learned but did not comment on whether Ramadan affected work in a productive or unproductive way.
Increase in spirituality = Increase in work productivity
Responses grouped in this category linked the religious, spiritual significance of Ramadan and benefits of fasting to increase in personal work productivity. One manager commented that self-restraint and increase of prayers during Ramadan was like ‘fuel to the engine of the machine’. Many commented on how not breaking for lunch and tea helped them to get more done. Also, business meetings separated from the distraction of food were more productive. Some commented that a lighter stomach made thinking more agile and execution of their work more efficient. One project manager believed individuals that embraced ‘The spirit of the month’ noticeably improved in personality by becoming more tolerant, patient, less critical and argumentative.
Responses in this category connected the religious, spiritual effect of Ramadan to improved work productivity, focus and discipline. It is interesting to note that many of the comments highlighted that Ramadan separated the easily distracted, volatile and inefficient personalities from those who adapt and continue to be productive even through personal or external change.
Productive due to other reasons
Twenty out of forty responses concluded that Ramadan as a productive work period, nine of twenty comments attributed productivity to factors not related to religion or spirituality. Their reasons stated are;
- Temporarily altered working hours, shift work and shorter working days result in better planning and definition of work and delivery expectations that in turn increases organisation, discipline and accountability.
- Ramadan enforces proper utilisation of time and scheduling resulting in increase of productivity.
- For the service, food and retail business Ramadan is a busy and profitable month of the year. Productivity has to be increased through good planning and management in order for these businesses to capitalise on consumer demand.
- For some Ramadan as a quite period is productive for reviewing, reflecting and catching up with tasks and planning activities.
- Productive because the social and relaxed atmosphere is ideal for networking and relationship building. It is common to see networking and entertaining taking place at the many festive Ramadan tents, activities and buffets.
- Productive time to launch new brands, advertising and awareness campaigns
- This is a popular time for organisations to entertain employees and their families, which is productive as it promotes relationship building, commitment and generally good for company culture.
- Management and executives relax their expectations allowing employees space to work under less pressure and stress. Employees are happier and relaxed and carry out their work with more diligence.
Ramadan: unproductive work period
Fourteen of the forty respondents labelled Ramadan as a completely unproductive work period in the calendar. Out of the fourteen eight responded with no reason for their judgment whilst six did offer reasons as follows;
- Loss of productivity is expected in projects where work depends on manual labour. Fasting resources need frequent breaks and work shorter or altered schedules.
- Large numbers of resource take leave during Ramadan so fewer decisions are made and critical work accomplished.
- One respondent commented on his experience of Saudi Arabia where production intensive milestones are put on the back burner until after Ramadan, hence reducing progress to a minimum
- One manager commented that during Ramadan colleagues behave more irritated and angry.
- Finding mutually convenient times to hold meetings becomes more challenging.
- Everyone is focused on the spiritual side of Ramadan and switch off from work
- Salaries are paid in full even though working hours are reduced and the cost of extra resources to compensate for holiday absences makes Ramadan unproductive financially.
Lessons learned and advice
Six of the 40 respondents offered constructive and advice such as:
- Communicate early and openly with employees, stakeholders and western partners on work schedule implications.
- Actively manage the schedule in advance and ensure that it is calculated, reviewed and approved.
- Clearly communicate with all stakeholders on opening and closing times for factories, organisations and notify them of key resources not available.
- Working during the night can be a solution to avoid any schedule slippages and continue the project work.
- Move critical activities to be completed before or after Ramadan
- Actively accommodate fasting resources through making the work environment more comfortable. This ensures minimum disruption to work and increases employee commitment to the organisation.
For more information on this survey please contact: Saira Karim on firstname.lastname@example.org