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How to prepare for your first week at work during Ramadan

ramadan and work

Ramadan may be a time of spiritual reflection, but nowhere in the scriptures does it say you’re supposed to let go of your productivity during this holy period. Yes, going without food and water in extreme weather conditions and for long hours can take its toll. But studies have shown that fasting – if done right – can actually improve brain function and mood, increase vigilance and mental clarity.

Start the month off on the right note with our guide to fasting at work:

Prepare a sleep schedule
Both bedtime and wake-up time change significantly during Ramadan, leaving those who fast prone to headaches, body aches, high blood pressure and increased stress during the day. To ensure you get adequate sleep and feel refreshed, take a 10-minute walk after iftar. Stick to the same sleep schedule through the holy month so that your body becomes accustomed to it.

Be ready for an early start
Schedule your workday the night before. Organise it so that meetings and conference calls happen in the morning when you are at your most alert. Follow this routine through the weeks ahead as it will help ramp up your productivity.

Move around your schedule
This is especially important if you’re working remotely and doing business with other countries where the fast isn’t observed. Be sure to keep in mind time differences and how their daily routine will impact you in terms of meetings, deadlines, etc. Send an email clearly explaining your revised working hours.

Arrange your work wardrobe
While there is no official dress code, it is respectful and polite to dress modestly during Ramadan. Women should stow away strappy blouses and short skirts, opting for clothes that cover their elbows and knees, while men should stick to long-sleeved shirts.

Cut out caffeine
Most of us find it hard to get through the morning without coffee, let alone almost 15 hours of fasting. But it is best to avoid caffeine entirely during your fast period as coffee only increases the possibility of dehydration. Skipping your daily cuppa may leave you feeling a little dizzy at first, but you’ll be fine after a day or two.

Exercise before work
There’s no reason to skip exercise during Ramadan. Plus there’s scientific evidence that shows morning exercise can make us think and work better and become more productive. Keep your workouts short – 30 minutes – and stick to light cardiovascular exercises.

Plan your food and water intake
We’re told breakfast is the most important meal of the day, more so when suhoor is one of the two meals you’ll be having during Ramadan.

Stock your pantry with foods that are low sugar and high complex carbohydrates, as they take longer to digest. Oats, lentils and fresh produce like fruits and potatoes are good choices instead of a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Protein rich foods — lean meats, fish, eggs, milk, nuts or seeds —will stabilize blood sugar levels and curb hunger pangs. Avoid eating processed foods — the quicker your body breaks the meal down, the sooner you’ll get hungry. Start every meal with a fast-acting carb – such as dates – that will get your digestive systems up and running quickly.

Watch out for heat exhaustion
Without water, the first few days of your fast are likely to be the toughest in UAE’s extreme weather. You may experience symptoms of heat exhaustion – increased heart rate, dizziness, nausea and weakness – in which case lie down immediately and apply a cold compress to the forehead. Keep ice packs handy – placing them under the arms will reduce body temperature quickly.

Know your rights
The Labour Law (Federal Law 8 of 1980) entitles UAE employees to work reduced hours during Ramadan without any corresponding reduction in their salary. Work hours have been cut by two hours daily from June 6. If you’re asked to work beyond Ramadan hours – which may happen if you do business with non-Islamic countries — know you are entitled to receive overtime pay under the Labour Law.

Remember, the first week of fasting at work is the toughest. But by using these tips, and finding solace in prayer, you will sail through the month ahead.

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