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Ask your fellow Muslim colleagues how they’re feeling after a couple of days of fasting and they’ll tell you, "I’m feeling mint", "I feel belting" or "I’m buzzin". Okay, maybe they won’t say exactly that – unless they’re from 't'up north' like me – but you know what I mean.
What they will most likely fail to mention is that they struggle through the tiring fasting schedule during the Islamic month of Ramadan. We simply grit our teeth and battle through.
You see, patience, Sabr in Islam is one of the best and most valuable virtues of life. Through patience, Muslims believe that they can grow closer to God, Allah and attain true peace.
Hilal, meaning the crescent moon visible after a new moon begins, kickstarts the month of Ramadan 2022 in Blackburn, UK (Image: Faizal Mulla, Supply Chain Manager at Wejo)
What a typical schedule might look like during Ramadan - especially for someone working in the tech industry like me
Generally speaking, we’ll wake up early around 3:30am for Suhur, a meal before fasting begins, followed by morning prayer, Fajr.
Like me, my fellow Muslims will probably have some fruit, maybe some slow energy releasing foods, like porridge oats or high-fiber cereal, alongside a cup of coffee/tea, and plenty of water to keep hydrated throughout the day. Some will practice special diets or different nutritional meals, but in general this is normally what we will eat at this time of the morning.
After all of that, getting back to sleep can be difficult. I don’t know about you, but I cannot sleep for the life of me on a full stomach. For those on a 9-to-5-ish shift pattern, they’ll probably have a few hours after prayers to sleep, before they must wake up to begin their day.
After a full day at work, they’ll probably be lacking energy, feeling drained and struggling to keep their eyes open. If they’re lucky, some will get an opportunity to nod off and get an hour-or-twos nap. Others, who are not so fortunate to find respite, will be busy with family responsibilities, or a busy life schedule. In between all of this, when we get a chance we will pray the Qur'an – the central religious text of Islam – and perform other daily noon and midday prayers, Zohar and Asar.
Fast forward to 8:30pm, and we’ll sit down for Iftar, a meal after sunset to break our fast, followed by sunset prayers, Maghrib. A couple of hours later, we’ll have nightly prayers, Ishaa, which is accompanied by additional Ramadan prayers called Taraweeh.
Now you’re probably guessing after reading this that surely it must be past Midnight by now… and you’re not wrong. We now have approximately three hours give-or-take to get some rest, before we must wake up and the whole cycle starts again.
This schedule lasts 29/30 days before Eid al-Fitr celebrations mark the end of Ramadan.
My experience this Ramadan
I've been fortunate to have had a very different experience this Ramadan. You see, I work at wejo, an autonomous, electric and connected vehicle data tech company based out of sunny Manchester, UK.
Like most tech companies these days, we have flexible working hours and you’re generally held accountable for the results you deliver, and not the hours you log. This means I am in control of when, where, and how I work.
Don’t get me wrong, fasting still takes it out of me – and before you ask, “You can at least have water, right?" the answer is "No". We abstain from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset, including water and all caffeinated drinks (ha-ha, can you tell I’m a coffee junkie). It’s that Sabr (patience) we must exercise, that I mentioned above.
Anyways, where was I? That’s right. By giving me ownership of my time and the ability to choose a shift pattern that works for me, wejo has helped to ease that struggle.
As I mentioned before I cannot sleep after eating early in the morning, so begin my working day at 6:30am, finishing at 3:00pm. I know a few of my other colleagues, who are working from 11:00am to 7:00pm because that shift pattern works for them.
What I’m getting to here is that wejo has accommodated for my needs, my beliefs, and my mental state. They’ve realised I can still give 100% if I’m able to work the time that suits my needs.
Like most people, my best work comes to me when I feel relaxed, and I am able to focus – and it also helps that I have the caffeine kick of a cup of coffee when I start my morning.
So, what can you do to support your Muslim colleagues in Ramadan?
To create an inclusive environment where Muslim colleagues can continue to shine during Ramadan, here are a few suggestions for you to consider.
Will any of these suggestions break the bank? Will they interrupt working schedules? or affect productivity? Not really.
What it will most certainly do is support your understanding of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace and show your Muslim employees you truly respect and value their beliefs.
A couple of acknowledgements
I have to say, I’m blessed to be working at a company that champions all of the aforementioned points.
When I asked my manager Kae Kronthaler-Williams, SVP of Global Marketing at Wejo, if I can change my working hours this Ramadan. She was quick to answer…
"Niz, absolutely! You don’t even have to ask. I know you’ll deliver. Do what works for you. I trust you completely."
Other colleagues from across the United Kingdom and the United States have also been understanding and accommodating by rescheduling meetings for earlier in the day, that may otherwise be scheduled for later in the afternoon.
The company also sent out comms to all employees to create awareness of how their wejo Muslim colleagues will be fasting during Ramadan, and what this period means to them – which I thought was really warming and nice to see.
What I’m trying to say here is that I am very lucky to be working for a tech company that cares about its employees in this way and has fashioned a culture that encourages us to speak openly about our personal needs, whether they be belief-led, or other.
One final note...
If you’re feeling really brave, why don’t you try fasting for a day to better understand what your Muslim friends and colleagues go through in their daily life during the fasting month.
Maybe you can have a team Zoom Suhur meal in the morning to start the fast and if you’re in the office, have a small Iftar, evening meal party… again, this is just a suggestion. Whatever you do, consult your Muslim colleagues, and see if it works for them – taking into account their schedules.
I look forward to a time when all companies, whether they’re in the tech industry or any other, can be as understanding and mindful of their employees. Until then, Ramadan Mubarak to all, and "May the Force be with you!"
By the way, after reading this, if you’re interested in working at wejo, here are all the open roles available at the moment: Join us! - Wejo (teamtailor.com) I’m not plugging the company where I work and nor have, I been asked to. I’m simply sharing these open opportunities, so you can take a peek for yourself.
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