Reduced office hours in Ramadan: UAE firms can offer remote work options to employees, say experts

From implementing flexible hours and remote working to organising Iftar get-togethers, they have highlighted how the private sector can build team spirit


Sahim Salim

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Published: Tue 14 Mar 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 15 Mar 2023, 4:37 PM

During the holy month of Ramadan, Dubai resident Hesham (name changed), ends his fast with colleagues in office despite having a family here. That’s because his shift starts in the afternoon and ends at around 8.30pm throughout the month.

“The only time I had Iftar at home was during the Covid-19 pandemic, when remote working was activated. I wish my company would implement virtual working during the holy month so I can end my fast at home with my family,” he said.

Hesham’s case is similar to many others who have to work through evening hours. And experts are calling on companies to do much more than just reduce office hours during the holy month. The UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) on Monday announced a two-hour reduction in work hours for private sector employees for Ramadan.

From implementing flexible hours and remote working to organising Iftar get-togethers, the experts have highlighted how private sector firms can build team spirit among employees during the month.

Aisha Amarsi, senior manager for human resources at global recruitment agency Hays, said employers should strive to create an inclusive and supportive workplace culture that values and respects the religious beliefs and practices of their employees.

Aisha Amarsi
Aisha Amarsi

Firms can offer more flexibility around remote and hybrid working, “particularly on a Friday, to allow employees to observe religious obligations such as prayers”.

“(Companies can) organise Iftar events or provide meals for their employees to end their fast. (They can also) offer extra breaks or adjust break timings to allow employees to rest and recharge during the day,” said Amarsi.

Nicki Wilson, owner and managing director of Dubai-based Genie Recruitment, said UAE residents must celebrate local traditions. These include team Iftars or “having someone observing Ramadan teaching the other members of the team ways they could contribute”.

Nicki Wilson
Nicki Wilson

“Ramadan is about giving and kindness, so having charitable incentives would be a great way to have the team bond around this time, too.

“Also, be aware of your non-fasting employees, having a dedicated space where individuals can eat and drink is always appreciated,” she added.

Wilson called on managers to ensure they delegate work effectively. “Ramadan is a time for empathy and respect, which must come into the workplace, too. If a manager is aware that someone is fasting or perhaps experiencing a lack of sleep or energy, they can delegate tasks a bit more creatively with other team members. An open communication policy is needed among team members.”

Managing the workload

Reduced work hours and easing the workload for fasting employees don’t have to affect productivity. Amarsi said employers and employees can prioritise tasks to ensure that the most important work is done during the reduced work hours.

“Set clear expectations for employees regarding what work needs to be completed. This includes outlining specific tasks or projects that need to be completed, as well as any deadlines or goals that need to be met,” she added.

Another way to boost productivity is to focus on results rather than the hours worked. This involves setting goals and measuring productivity based on the results achieved, rather than the amount of time spent working.

“Overall, managing workload and productivity with reduced work hours requires clear communication, effective prioritisation, and a focus on results rather than hours worked,” said Amarsi.

Wilson highlighted how for fasting employees, even though the work hours have been reduced by two, they “won't be eating lunch or having breaks for coffee”.

“Just make sure you have regular breaks from the laptop and/or have regular walks out in the fresh air,” Wilson advised.


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