Ramadan’s 6-hour workday: How good of an idea is that?

According to Egypt’s Labor Law, employees should work no more than eight hours a day, with no mention of an exception during the Holy month of Ramadan. However, a vast chunk of businesses in Egypt are shrinking working hours from eight to six hours during the fasting period, taking fasting employees and the slow work pace into account.

However, a six-hour workday is not necessarily a bad thing. As the world is looking at new ways to engineer a productive work model, studies and experiments have proven that short working hours could result in higher productivity and less health problems among employees. While the idea was hailed by employees around the world, some of its negative repercussions were noticed in countries that had implemented the model.

The negative repercussions of six-hour workdays
Sweden experimented with a six-hour workday for two years, allowing employees to work less hours while maintaining the same wages. During the first 18 months of the trial, a productivity boost was noted amongst nurses who took less sick leaves and proved boosted productivity, according to BBC.

While the experiment proved to be significantly efficient, with less reported health problems, some drawbacks were noticed. The disadvantages included that businesses needed to hire more employees, burdening companies with more costs. Hence, the temporary experiment could not turn into a permanent mode of operation due to higher expenses, according to Fast Company.

Ramadan vs the rest of the year
Additionally, shorter workdays come with more stress and rush. Business Insider listed breaks as one of the perks of an eight-hour workday, as opposed to a day with fewer hours to get the work done.

One thing to bear in mind is that most employees refrain from eating, drinking and smoking during Ramadan, which automatically translates into less break-time. But once the month is over, the usual routine of returns and breaks will become more frequent.

A survey that was conducted last year by Bayt.com revealed that 81.7% of professionals in the MENA feel more productive during Ramadan, according to Arabian Business.

“Over half (54.6%) [of respondents] said that they are likely to take more vacation days during Ramadan, compared to 45.4% who said the opposite is true,” Arabian Business adds.

In Egypt, could Ramadan be a test?
To see if a six-hour work day would be efficient in Egypt, Business Forward spoke to two employees at the Communications Office of the American University in Cairo (AUC) School of Business, where working hours are scheduled from 9:00am to 3:00pm during Ramadan.

In the first week of Ramadan, people will still be adjusting to fasting. However, later on, they will cope with six hours of work, according to Reem Abou Emera. She believes that the less hours she has to work, the more efficient she will be.

Reem Kandil seconds this opinion. Describing herself as a “chronic procrastinator”, Kandil says that she adapts to whatever hours she has – meaning that if she is given one hour to get the work done, she will cope to the timing. However, she would get the same amount of work done if she is given three hours, adding that she would be more focused and altogether productive with less working hours.

Both Abou Emera and Kandil believe that Ramadan is a good opportunity to experiment with a workday of reduced hours.

On the other hand, media and marketing officer at a multinational company Yara El-Braidy believes that Ramadan is not the ultimate opportunity to experiment with a six-hour workday, given the significant lack of productivity during the Holy month.

“If a similar system should be implemented after Ramadan, it should be closely monitored in order to avoid time being wasted through breaks and unnecessary activities,” El Braidy adds.

From his experience as an HR member at a recruitment agency, Shady Hany tells Business Forward that people usually cope with the hours of work they have in Ramadan, directly reflecting on their productivity.

“There is no one answer to whether reducing working hours will result in higher productivity or not,” Hany explains, clarifying that it also depends on the sector.

“If we are talking about services, reduced working hours will result in higher productivity. However, when talking about tangible goods, production will decrease in light of reduced working hours,” Hany concludes.


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