Many believe that Ramadan is associated with slowing down of operations, fewer work hours and general loss of effectiveness. Yet research by Oxford Strategic Consulting (OSC) indicates that changing work models are becoming more hospitable to the Ramadan work schedule.
The study advises that business leaders in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region should focus on improving well-being, increasing engagement and embracing flexible work patterns during the Holy Month.
More vacation time can improve performance and well-being. A 2006 internal study by the accounting firm Ernst & Young found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors improved by 8 percent. Employees who took vacations more frequently were also significantly less likely to leave the firm, which helped to increase retention rates.
What might appear a short-term gain in working people beyond the stage where they are really effective can be offset by longer term problems in staff burn-out, errors, retention and recruitment problems as well as significant diminishing returns in productivity. “A great leader helps their team work effectively and happily to make the very most of every hour rather than just put in the hours,’’ explains Professor William Scott-Jackson, Chairman of OSC and author of the upcoming Palgrave book Transforming Engagement, Happiness and Well-being.
The study reminded that shorter work hours do not necessarily translate to decreased productivity. Shorter work weeks can also increase staff happiness and engagement in the long term
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 concluded that Ramadan does not have to be an unproductive period for GCC businesses. Instead, business leaders can derive value from the Holy Month by focusing on improving well-being, increasing engagement and embracing flexibility within the organization.