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Thu 13 Sep 2007 11:40 AM

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Ramadan rules? Work hard, pray hard

The holy month of Ramadan is upon us, and I am sure business leaders new to the region are already wondering what to make of it all.

The holy month of Ramadan is upon us, and I am sure business leaders new to the region are already wondering what to make of it all. Half days are generally accepted as the rule during this special period. Even if you do choose to remain open for business, the chances are that many of your key partners will not do the same, and so this inevitably affects your chances of getting a full day's work done.

Ramadan is a period that usually goes hand in hand with a slight drop in profits, marginally less distractions for employees, and an increase in the number of leave applications. How does one manage people correctly to produce a full day's work in half the time? Simple, they have to feel better about being at work.

How does one manage people correctly to produce a full day’s work in half the time?

Occupational health therapists will all tell you the same thing. More often than not, it is the actually quality of work time that is the key to success in the office, as opposed to the quantity.

Monitoring output on a corporate level, and individual productivity is at best a difficult enterprise. Technology has allowed business to function from everywhere; but it also allows people to be potentially distracted everywhere. Even with the big-brother mentality many blue-chip organisations have now adopted, the facebook menace is ever-present. Banning it will only result in other similar (time) killer-applications being allowed to flourish.

But are they to blame for the lack of productivity many offices suffer? Are we going to see a drop in productivity this month, or will we see stability? If an organisation's answer is the latter, then those companies have to ask themselves why the same people doing the same jobs are able to somehow get their work done in half the usual time.

Times like Ramadan are, in theory, difficult times for productivity in similar ways to a recession. The spectre of a recession is looming in some western economies. Hello credit crunch, and goodbye to the good times of liquidity for all. Let me be very clear; I believe recession to be a good thing, it is necessary, it is the capitalist systems' spring-clean. Generally speaking, smaller companies are often less productive, or have less access to credit facilities.

This makes it hard for new companies to launch, and even forces larger groups to consolidate, pushing smaller companies out of the market. Only the strong survive. If the larger companies do not consolidate, then they must economise, and that means increasing productivity through better us of their human capital.

But is Ramadan actually a period of lower output for companies here? I would argue this is not the case. I see Ramadan as a spiritual spring-clean. Speaking from a personal viewpoint, the mental focus that observance of the daily fast gives me as a Muslim is phenomenal. No time spent loitering over the morning coffee(s).

No need for lunch. There are very few distractions from the work in front of me, and certainly no loud music or smoking of cigarettes. Regular prayers and the giving of charity are a must for any Muslim, but the extra emphasis they are given this month allows a more positive perception of oneself. In short we become model employees; diligent, focussed, and filled with positive energy.

As a Muslim, I feel that the time spent for introspection during the holy month is part of the reason for this feeling of enlightenment. The difficulty lies in harnessing that power and energy, and being able to maintain it year round. The person who can do this will be ultimately successful in any field they choose. That person can be you.

Ramadan Kareem to one and all.

Rashid AW Galadari is chairman of Galadari Investment Office (GIO).