SHAFAQNA – Living in non-Muslim countries can be tricky at times, especially during Ramadan. Below is one of the many questions all of us might at one pint come to face.
“I work in a very small office of 12 people and am the only Muslim. Ramadan is approaching and Iâ€™m worried about how I can combine observing the traditional fast, while carrying on all aspects of my day job â€“ which typically involves a lot of client meetings and lunches. Iâ€™m new at the firm and as much as I want to do this, I also want to get on and do a good job in the office. How can I put this to my boss and make it work?”
Sit down with your boss
It should absolutely be possible for you to continue making progress in your new role at work and observe the fast that is traditional for the holy month of Ramadan â€“ the 9th month of the Islamic lunar year when Muslims typically avoid all food and drink during daylight hours for approximately 29-30 days.
What youâ€™re asking for is flexibility and understanding for a very short period, enabling you to work most productively. The key to achieving this from your side is great communication. With only a little over a week to go until the start of Ramadan is called â€“ on or around 18 June â€“ you need to sit down with your boss right away and agree a plan that will accommodate both your wishes and the needs of your firm.
First and foremost, consider what arrangements you would like to see in place for the next few weeks that will support your observance of Ramadan â€“ this will give you a proposed action plan you can take to your boss and put you on the front foot.
For example, as Ramadan is traditionally a time to spend with friends and family, decide whether you want to ask for any time at home.
In the UK employees are not automatically entitled to time off for Ramadan so you would need to use your annual leave allowance.
Think about your options
Although it would have been better for you to raise this earlier with your employer â€“ something to bear in mind for next year â€“ itâ€™s not too late to ask, should you wish to.
If, like many others observing Ramadan, youâ€™ll be avoiding food and water between sunset and sunrise, while working (and with your sleep-patterns likely disrupted too), then this will of course have a huge effect on your energy levels during the day.
Think about whether the following options would help you navigate through:
- Altering your working day to start earlier and finish earlier meaning you can head home when energy levels really start to flag
- Organising your day so meetings and conference calls happen, where possible, in the morning when you are at your most alert
- Taking regular breaks throughout the day to rest, make time for additional prayers and/or get some fresh air
- Working part-days in the office combined with remote working later in the day, allowing you to log on and work from home after you have broken the fast
Your attendance at client lunches where food and drink is enjoyed by non-Muslims during this period creates an additional challenge for you to think about. Your boss cannot require you to eat and drink at such an event, and if you would prefer to either attend and remain fasting, or not attend at all, then you need to discuss this openly.
Keep your boss in the loop
Once youâ€™ve decided what ideal combination of the above would help, sit down with your line manager and discuss what is achievable for both of you.
It is critical you demonstrate that youâ€™ve thought through properly how your flexible working plan will suit your role and fulfil your clientsâ€™ needs. You do need to bear in mind, however, that your ideal working pattern for Ramadan may not be compatible with your firmâ€™s business requirements, and that there is no formal obligation for them to accommodate all your wishes.
While you are proposing a plan that you believe will enable you to work as productively as possible, your boss will be battling against other business dynamics which may affect how much flexibility he or she can offer. Your firm has the right to refuse your requests but only if there are clear business reasons for doing so, not due to your faith or observation of Ramadan.
Once you have concluded your discussion and established a way forward, do the following to ensure the next month goes as smoothly for you at work as possible:
- Agree to meet weekly with your boss throughout Ramadan â€“ this keeps communication lines open and enables you to discuss how the arrangement is working in practice, as well as to make a practical plan for each week ahead and adapt to changing schedules
- Keep your actions in the office assertive and confident and donâ€™t miss out on opportunities to meet new clients or get involved with new projects
- Be open with colleagues and encourage their questions. Explain what youâ€™re doing and, if youâ€™re comfortable, why itâ€™s important to you. See it as a great opportunity to encourage teamwork and understanding.