Hungry for Ramadan

sleep_desk.jpgDespite the fact that I have been blogging and writing about the Muslim American experience for many years, I am quite private about my religious beliefs in the workplace. (That is, until my boss Googles my somewhat unique name and sees what I’ve been up to!) I suspect many Muslim Americans keep their faith close to their chest as well. While it is easy to downplay religion during most of the year, there is no way the fasting Muslim can hide it during Ramadan. So how do fasting and the office mix?
In my experience at least, they mix fairly well. Of course, it depends on what kind of job you have, but for the average white-collar employee, I’ve found that most people are understanding and accomodating. You might have to miss (or tolerate) a few company luncheons and birthday parties, and engage in water cooler talk without the water, but otherwise it’s not too bad. The biggest inconvenience has been rescheduling or cancelling corporate lunches. (Though in the case of a few Muslim clients, I’ve been able to change them to corporate iftar dinners instead.)

But if you’re not careful, fasting can make it difficult to maintain the quality of work, and you might find yourself running on fumes towards the end of the day–especially if you’re used to powering your day with a healthy dose of caffeine. Here are some tips I’ve used in the past to maintain my productivity:

  • Trade in your lunch hour. Since you’re not eating lunch, you can work straight through it–and take the hour off at the end of the day when your attention starts to fade a bit. Or take that lunch hour and use it to snooze (as long as it’s ok with your bosses). This will also help keep your energy up.
  • Keep as busy as possible. I’ve found that keeping as busy as possible is the best way to get through a day at the office while fasting. It especially helps if you can find ways to get out from behind your desk. Take on more work if you have to–you’ll impress your co-workers who thought you’d slack off during the month.
  • Load balance your workday. Reserve the morning hours for meetings, intellectually demanding work, or tasks that require concentration, and save the busywork and routine tasks for later in the day.
  • For those of you who work with fasting Muslim colleages: There’s no need to go out of your way to accomodate your fasting Muslim colleagues. Just do something nice, like treating them to lunch either before or after Ramadan. Or discreetly wake them up if you find them slumped over in their chair. (Because most of us have been up from 4:30 or 5 a.m. and have been going full-steam until 10 or 11 p.m. at night.)
    And don’t bother with that “Lunch is on me today!” line during Ramadan. Trust me–your Muslim colleagues have heard it many times before!

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