Unlocking the Potential of Ramadan: Benefits for Individuals & Organisations

While there is always room for improvement when it comes to inclusivity, it is also important to reflect on how far we have come. In the last few years, awareness, visibility and support for Ramadan has come a long way. If I’m honest, it has caught me by surprise and I’ve been learning how to navigate this new normal. 

In 2022, I wrote an article for Significant Insights delving into my personal Ramadan journey that year. In the piece, I expressed my initial apprehension about sharing the significance of Ramadan in my life. Even just a few years ago, little was known about the benefits of fasting and a common default assumption was that observing Ramadan would negatively impact workplace productivity. 

Thanks to initiatives like the Ramadan Lights and the impactful work of organisations such as the Ramadan Tent Project, along with high-profile events like Eid at Netflix, the narrative surrounding Ramadan is evolving. I now feel increasingly comfortable sharing my experiences, believing that doing so can contribute to positive change.

Before we get started, a disclaimer – I’m not a religious scholar. But I am someone who has fasted for as long as I can remember, and certainly throughout my professional career. Through these lived experiences, along with the work I do more broadly within Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, I hope to offer some guidance, unlocking the potential of Ramadan, and how individuals and businesses could approach the next month. 

Let’s start with some of the key benefits of Ramadan! 

Ramadan is about interrupting habits and getting out of autopilot. This means being mindful of what you consume physically and also mentally. It’s not just eating that can break your fast, but also behaviours such as swearing or speaking negatively about others. You learn to find alternative, healthier ways to feed your mind, body and soul. 

Ramadan is like a bootcamp for learning how to be more present. You simply can’t allow yourself to spend too much time thinking beyond the current moment or else the task at hand starts to feel overwhelming (e.g. number of hours or days left). 

Just like intermittent fasting, changing eating patterns during Ramadan creates a metabolic switch. This can boost memory, improve blood pressure and resting heart rates, and help to reduce the likelihood of getting diabetes. 

Particularly in today’s social media-driven world, comparison is too often the thief of joy. For many, Ramadan is a time to deepen one’s spiritual connection, such as remembering that “What’s meant for you will never miss you, and what missed you was never meant for you” (Imam Ali). 

So, it’s highly likely that Ramadan will leave your friends and colleagues even better than they were before. Here’s how you can support them along the way. 

While you may be supportive of Ramadan, it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone shares the same level of enthusiasm or encouragement. Some colleagues may have encountered negative assumptions or remarks in the past, leading them to be more guarded about their fasting practices. It’s essential to be supportive while also respecting their privacy. Avoid asking intrusive questions and allow individuals to share about their Ramadan journey to the extent they are comfortable.

Not all Muslim colleagues may be fasting – this could be due to health conditions or personal choices. They may be observing Ramadan in different ways or perhaps not at all. Reasons why people do or do not fast can be deeply personal so avoid making assumptions. For example, women are not able to fast during their menstrual cycle; this may be accompanied by a range of emotions that they are not comfortable discussing. You can support your colleagues by avoiding questions such as “How come you’re not fasting?”. 

Ramadan is also about tolerance and self-restraint. It’s natural that people will be eating around you, and it’s also the right of non-fasting colleagues to eat in the workplace. However, it’s important to consider how this can be made easier for those who are fasting. For instance, if you’re holding a meeting where food is being served, consider making participation optional for those who are fasting.

During the initial days of Ramadan, it’s important to be aware that your colleagues may find it particularly challenging as their bodies adjust to fasting. This presents an opportunity to show support by making accommodations where possible, such as allowing colleagues to adjust their working hours. Instead of taking a traditional lunch hour, individuals may find it more effective to start later, finish earlier, or take shorter breaks throughout the day. Engage in open communication with your colleagues and collaborate on creating a working schedule that ensures they can be their most effective during the month of Ramadan. 

Even after breaking their fast, friends or colleagues may prefer not to be in certain social settings during Ramadan, such as bars. It’s important to respect their decisions and offer alternative ways for them to feel connected to the team. For example, I personally enjoy going for walks during lunch to boost my vitamin D and energy levels. Perhaps you could create a walking club or explore other outdoor activities. Even better, ask your colleagues if there is anything specific they would like to do and take it from there! This demonstrates inclusivity and ensures everyone feels valued and included in team activities during Ramadan. 

I hope this piece serves as a helpful guide for all of us to maximise the benefits of Ramadan 2024. I look forward to hearing your learnings and reflections. 

Sania Haq, Founder, Bye 2 Stereotypes https://bye2stereotypes.com/