We are now in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and around 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide - around 19.5 million of those in Malaysia and 900,000 in Singapore - are observing this occasion for giving, sharing and self-reflection.
Of course, with colleagues, suppliers and customers observing the fast plus the altered office and sleeping hours, some impact on business is inevitable. Some Jordanian economists have even estimated a drop in overall productivity of around 30-50% among workers, depending on country.
However, there are some basic ways that both individuals and businesses can use this time very effectively, while the Ramadan period of self-reflection can apply to firms too, offering ways to think more creatively about doing business.
Here are our top 5 tips for staying focused, and a further 5 tips for realising the business opportunities. We’ve tried to keep it applicable to the whole community, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, so there’s useful advice for everyone.
1. Plan your week, plan your day
Planning is the most important activity during Ramadan. You need to develop a sense of what both you and your colleagues are capable of during this time with regards to output. This means your to-do lists will need to be realistic. Give yourself goals but make them achievable ones. Prioritise tasks on your to-do list and tick them off during the day so it’s complete by the evening and you already have a clear idea of what’s a priority the next day. Bear in mind that some of your suppliers will be operating a reduced hours and reduced staff model, while others may be unaffected, so plan your work accordingly
2. Use your morning peak time
The fast begins at morning prayer (around 4am) and last until evening prayers (around 7-7.30 pm). For most people, this means their peak energy levels are likely to be in the mornings. This is the time for any important meetings and more critical tasks, so you can give them your maximum focus and attention and colleagues will likely be at work refreshed and more attentive
3. Reduce travel
Travel saps time and energy. This is a good opportunity to use any teleconferencing and online collaboration software you might have as well as phone calls. In fact, if you have good ‘virtual’ resources, consider giving the staff more flexible working and eliminate that 30 minutes-plus commute at either end of the day
4. Keep it simple
This is the time to take your work methods down to brass tacks. Reduce email use and pick up the phone instead, or walk over to your nearby colleagues to save time, to get those activities completed. It’s also a good time to complete smaller quick-win tasks and keep a variety of work going. Long, more complex projects will drain the brain
5. Be flexible
Some people will be better able to handle this period than others. Some will want to start early and leave early, some might want increased breaks. Conversation, understanding and adaptive tactics are the keys here. Work to people’s strengths. Realise that you may need to adapt your plans – maybe you didn’t have as much energy as you thought you would in the afternoon. Time to think laterally
Realising the Opportunities:
1. Start/increase your CSR efforts
A focus of the Ramadan month is charitable giving and many organisations will launch Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) campaigns during this period. This is a good time for firms to get involved in CSR, or even perhaps set up their CSR programme. Donations and support to charities are good, or even thinking proactively, such as company days out to distribute food and essentials to the poor and needy
2. Mix work and socialising
A major part of Ramadan is socialising, so there are great opportunities for networking, especially at Iftars (post-fast meal). Perhaps even organise your own after-work Iftar and invite colleagues, partners, clients and suppliers. There’s really no better opportunity for face-to-face time
3. Expect delays
It’s usual for important business decisions to be postponed until after Hari Raya Aidilfitri, also known as Eid (the day that marks the end of Ramadan). People don’t want to make decisions when not operating at 100%; build this into your business plans. As staff are tired from a reduced sleep and food, there will be a slow down in office responsiveness as well
4. Ramadan offers
For some sectors, such as consumer goods and food & beverages, Ramadan sees overall increased business. While this may seem paradoxical, the after-fast eating and social activities mean increased purchasing in these areas. Many retailers will launch Ramadan promotions and it’s common to see automotive and property deals unveiled. These may prove advantageous for businesses as well
5. Complete your B-list activities
Ramadan provides an excellent opportunity for business planning and internal training, allowing a focus on business goals and development of staff skills (just schedule this for the morning period). These are activities that often get pushed to the back of the queue during the rest of the year. It’s also a great time to clear backlogs, get admin in order and make preparations for a work boost after Hari Raya