Fasting Muslims know the feeling of brain fog – fatigue, irritability, headaches and trouble concentrating. These symptoms specifically become noticeable during a normal workday.
In 2015, The Guardian wrote that Ramadan “creates a loss of 42 working hours per fasting participant each year, representing an overall 2.5 percent reduction in output annually,” in a research done by Rumy Hasan, a lecturer at the University of Sussex in England.
Shifted working hours and a disrupted sleeping pattern are two things a working Muslim who fasts experiences during the month of Ramadan, leading to a change in the level of productivity while working. Working hours are usually decreased to six instead of the usual eight, but the way these six hours are spent is very different than a usual work day.
Human resources advisor to Vezeeta Nourhan Waheed has witnessed changes on employees over the past years during Ramadan, stating that what is always common is the slow pace of the workflow.
“Earlier, when Ramadan came during the peak of the summer, it was like we went into a shutdown. The employees don’t have the capacity or energy to work,” Waheed says.
Waheed and her team are the ones responsible at the office to encourage employees to work and help them adjust to the changes of the working conditions.
“We try to do some activities to boost their energy,” she adds, “but we don’t force it on them, because we know that they could be tired. However, controlling the productivity of the employees would always be a result of the deadlines they have to meet.”
“We’ll talk after Ramadan”
Moreover, a very well-known catchphrase during that time of the year is “We’ll do it after Ramadan”. Meetings and phone calls are put off for sometimes a month in order to make sure that they produce viable and tangible outcomes.
Companies adjust their working hours in Ramadan to get the most out of the day
However, this is not only the case in Egypt, but in most Arab countries. Jordanian human resources employee Nada Hawamedeh, who works in a private Saudi company, said in an article published in 2013 that the vital meetings and decisions postponed until after Ramadan “cause lower productivity and performance, and results in losses for businesses,” Hawamedeh adds.
During the average eight-hour workday, more than two hours are wasted on distractions, such as socializing with coworkers, surfing the internet and spacing out, among others, according to a 10,000-respondent survey conducted by America Online and Salary.com. The research states that “employers spend $759 billion per year on salaries for which real work was expected, but not actually performed” in the United States (US).
Other research by Voucher Cloud in the United Kingdom (UK) suggests that employees are actually productive for just under 3 hours during an eight-hour workday.
Whichever numbers are correct, one needs to bear in mind that during Ramadan, the lack of food, coffee and cigarettes can further reduce productivity throughout the workday.
The trouble of getting the work done
“It usually takes one hour at work in the morning to be able to function normally,” senior training manager at Egyptian Banking Institute (EBI) Noha Abdelaziz says. “We wait attentively until the clock ticks three for us to leave.”
Abdelaziz’s work mainly depends on her coworkers, as she is the one responsible in signing and authorizing their tasks. Therefore, managing and dealing with a slow work momentum becomes part of her daily routine and chores.
During the average eight-hour workday, more than two hours are wasted on distractions
“The problem is that I wait all day for finished tasks. People, including me, become slow during Ramadan, since they feel as if there is no need for a hurry to finish a task,” Abdelaziz adds.
Adjusted working hours
While it all sounds very laid back, stress can emerge as the day progresses – that is why some companies adjust their working hours in order to get the most out of the day.
“The vibe at work becomes very stressful because one still needs to finish one’s work before Iftar [the time at which Muslims break their fast],” wireline field engineer at Schlumberger Ismail Karawya says. “I am very unproductive from 3 p.m. onwards, especially in the heat, so we adjust our working hours to start from 5-6 a.m. That way, we finish around 12 pm before the heat kicks in.”
Some believe that six-hour days are still too long during the holy month.
“Four working hours are the ultimate; you’d be very efficient during that time,” reservoir engineer at Pico International Petroleum Mostafa Mohamed says. “After three hours of work, we become tired and sleepy.”
When working hours are flexible, employers tend to arrive late to work or leave early; however, this luxury does not pertain to those working in governmental institutions and banks. The six-hour workday starts at 9 a.m. sharp and ends at 3 p.m.
“Definitely the production level decreases during Ramadan, and even though we have to stay the full six hours at the office, it takes one hour in the morning to start grasping what is happening, and by the time we leave, we are very tired,” risk analyst at a governmental institution Amina Sherif says.
Nevertheless, the last few days of Ramadan are at the door and the usual work routine will be back by next week. Bear in mind that banks will be off on June 17 and 18, 2018.