ASK SGO: How can we support our colleagues who observe Ramadan during COVID?

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Ramadan Mubarak to those observing the month of Ramadan

During this time, many Muslims around the world will be fasting from sunrise to sunset, praying, reflecting, and thinking of ways to gather as a community. This year community gatherings will look different since many of us are practicing physical distancing as best as we can. As a result, there are a few tips and considerations both employers and employees can incorporate to help make this month a bit easier for those observing.

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Tips for Employers

Not every Muslim observes Ramadan the same way 
While we want to create a supportive and inclusive space, we shouldn’t assume that every Muslim is observing Ramadan in the same way. For example, people who have health conditions, pregnant, or older are excused from fasting. So while someone may identify as Muslim, they may be observing only certain aspects of Ramadan at any given time. On the other hand, if your employees have expressed that they will be fasting, feel free to reach out to them and ask how you can be of support during this time. If you’re not sure whether any of your employees will be fasting, send an email to everyone about Ramadan and let folks know they can reach out to their direct supervisor for any accommodations they may need. 

It’s okay to talk about food (or eat and drink) in front of most people 
Recently during our team meeting, one of our CEO’s asked if it was okay to eat during our virtual team meeting. While I appreciated the question, for many of us it’s  totally fine for you to eat or drink in front of us. Obviosuly I can’t speak for every Muslim in the world but many of us have been fasting for years and used to having food near us while fasting so we’ll survive! However, I’m sure some people would appreciate it if they weren’t invited to virtual team luncheons or dinners so feel free to change the theme of your meetings events if you’d like.

Be flexible with work hours 
During Ramadan, many Muslims frequent the mosque for additional prayers and participate in many social gatherings and events. Since all in-person events are pretty much cancelled this Ramadan, iftars and night prayers will be happening at home. Some of us will be going to sleep pretty late and waking up very early than usual. To this end, ask your employee if they’d like to adjust their hours for the month. 

Send a care package or send a food voucher 
Since many people will not be socializing with friends and family, it’ll feel lonely for some people who mostly socialize at the mosque or at muslim events. People sometimes share gifts, prepare food for one another, or eat as a community. Sending a care package with fruits, granola bars or anything else they’d like would be a great surprise. You could also send an electronic gift card to a local restaurant or through a delivery service so they can order dinner for the night. 

Tips for Employees 

Decide what work hours are best for you 
If your manager is okay with you adjusting your hours, it’s great to know what time frame works best for you. Use the first week of Ramadan to figure out when you have the most energy and are focused. Think about important upcoming meetings, projects, and tasks that require your full attention and try to schedule them, if possible, during the times you’re alert. Luckily I work for a company that’s really flexible and open to me working earlier so I’ll be trying out a 7-3pm this month.

Get enough rest 
Many Muslims have learned the art of balancing late night prayers and early morning work hours. However this does not mean that we should be extremely tired when trying to complete professional and personal tasks. With that said, try to get as much rest during the days where you have to wake up really early. For example, if you have to go to work at 8am during weekdays but are off on weekends, maybe you can go to bed a bit earlier on weekdays and stay up during the night on weekends. Or, you could take a nap break, instead of a lunch break, during work hours. Figure out what works for you and get some rest!

Participate in virtual gatherings 
From virtual movie nights, happy hours, and book clubs, there’s so much space and opportunity to connect with one another. Participating in Ramadan related events is no different. Being physically distant does not mean we can’t continue to create community. Many local groups and mosques are having virtual iftars, halaqas, nightly prayers and classes for people of all ages. Check out your local mosque or online community calendar to see what’s happening.