We are big supporters of inclusion and belonging at Blu Ivy Group and we thought that as many of our Muslim colleagues, friends and clients begin Ramadan this month, it would be a nice moment to pause and shine a light on the ways that we can collectively be more mindful of their employee experience during Ramadan and explore ways to be more supportive, inclusive and accommodating to their faith.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan takes place this year between April 2nd and May 2nd and falls within the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Considered to be the holiest time of the year for Muslims, the next few weeks will for many, be profoundly focused on daily fasting, prayer, community, and the giving of alms. A typical day of fasting means no food or drink from just before sunup to sundown, as it is considered a time to reflect on one’s blessings, and to feed one’s soul. At the end of each day, at sunset they will typically come together as family and community for evening meals and calls to prayer.
A key part of making sure your colleagues feel truly supported and that they belong, is by recognizing significant cultural holidays and understanding ways to accommodate their observations and commitments.
As we approached this holiday, we asked some of our Muslim faith Blu Ivy employees (lovingly called Bluubs) to share insights and lessons on how we could be of better support during Ramadan and wanted to share our lessons, in hopes that it can help you work to better support your staff. A huge call out and gratitude to you Aiman for the time you spent sharing your perspective and recommendations! Much love.
Aiman Hashmi works in the Finance Team at Blu Ivy Group
What Our Employees Taught Us Makes a Difference For Them During The Holiday:
Of course, every person’s experience is different, but there are certainly things I struggle with during Ramadan that I imagine others do as well. When someone asks me how they can support me during this time, I really appreciate their thoughtfulness. I do think a few small steps like this can give Muslim employees a sense that they are being seen and cared for.
Start By Asking Questions
Do not be afraid to ask your employees respectful questions to better understand their situation. Most Muslims welcome the opportunity to share their beliefs to bust stereotypes or misconceptions about Islam. Simply reaching out to me to understand what this month means in terms of my personal commitments is a great start in being more supportive! It not only demonstrates that you care, but that you are seeking to be respectful of my personal obligations and creates a culture of belonging.
During the month of Ramadan, I often do not go to sleep until after midnight due to special prayers at the mosque called Taraweeh. On a daily basis during the month, I wake up before sunrise at around 4:30 a.m. to prepare the meal and stay up until 6:30 a.m. Then, I try to catch a quick nap before heading into work. Doing this every morning during the month becomes challenging as I become more sleep deprived as the month goes on. The last 10 days of Ramadan are very important and many of us will stay up all night until 6:30 a.m. to pray. Offering flexibility to Muslim employees this month for work hours, so that we can sleep an extra hour in the morning and work more in the evening is a huge help!
Space for Rest
On days when I must start my day at the usual time, I am usually super sleepy after 12 p.m. Midday breaks for prayer and napping can be a huge help. Employers can facilitate this by providing nap pods and a space for employees to pray — or simply by encouraging employees to rest at their desks.
Workers want to be home in time to open fast with their families. It is helpful when scheduling team meetings to be considerate of this. It’s also best if in-person meetings don’t include food — and if colleagues can be reminded not to bring snacks this month. It can be hard to be sitting right near a plate of treats when you’re craving food and are not able to eat!
A Time for Calm
For many of us, our energy levels are a bit lower than usual during Ramadan. Whenever possible, it is best to schedule events that require active participation or high energy output for another time. Also, consider the option of work from home this month to accommodate the fasting, sleep and work demands.
Consider providing Muslim employees PTO
Muslims also celebrate Eid-al-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan. This is the equivalent of Christmas for their faith. Typically, the day is spent eating and drinking with friends and family. Just like you would prefer not to work on Christmas, they will not want to work on Eid either! In many parts of the world, the Eid celebrations can last for three days. Offering this time off is a big step in providing equitable and inclusive experiences for our diverse workforce.
One important thing to note is that the Islamic calendar does not sync up neatly with the Gregorian calendar — which means Ramadan will fall at a different time of year, every year. Be sure to update your company calendar each year accordingly!
Creating a sense of belonging and inclusion isn’t just about warmly welcoming your staff into your existing company culture. It is also necessary to adjust your culture and practices to support and uplift your individual employees as whole people with a variety of identities, faiths, experiences and needs. At Blu Ivy, we frequently collaborate with clients to help them understand how they can turn their DEI aspirations into concrete action.
Authors: Stacy Parker and Aiman Hashmi
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