Most organisations become concerned when approaching the holy month of Ramadan which begins with the sighting of the new moon of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, especially when it comes to work productivity. Contrary to this belief, research by Oxford Strategic Consulting has shown that the fasting period of Ramadan can boost both productivity and well-being.

In project management, the holy month of Ramadan offers project managers the opportunity to discover new ideas and methods on how to be productive on the job. Nonetheless, the boom of railway projects in Malaysia, such as the KVMRT and LRT 3 among many others, this can be a challenging period for project managers and engineers of Islamic faith.

This article aims to share some essential methods to help project managers remain effective during the month of fasting.

What do Experts say?

“The productivity of workers declines in the holy month of Ramadan by 35 to 50 percent as a result of shorter working hours and the change in behaviour during this month.”
– Sunnuqrot, Samer, interview with BBC

Ramadan creates a loss of 42 working hours per fasting participant each year, representing an overall 2.5 percent reduction in productivity annually.
– Hassan, Rumy. “The costs of Ramadan need to be counted.” The Guardian, n.p. 2015.

77% of respondents claimed, “they maintained the same level of work productivity during the month of Ramadan as they feel that work should continue uninterrupted”
– “Productivity in Ramadan: Strategies for the Modern Muslim Work Environment.”Dinar Standard and Productive Muslim Ltd.,n.p. 2011.

How to Stay Productive during the month of Ramadan?

Self-management is vital during the period of fasting. Utilize the early hours of the day wisely and get the most important tasks and meetings done during these hours”, says Vahid Aghania, our PMCC CORPORATION Project Manager based in Palembang, Indonesia and managing systems engineering for the current LRT Palembang project.

Our tips for amplifying your productivity during the holy month of Ramadan:

1. Plan your Tasks and Time

Create a personal action list. “Many times, I can see procrastination and delay of open issues as well as lacking risk mitigation measures during the month of fasting. This has a negative impact on the project. This problem is caused by the failure to record and monitor issues in an action list.” –Peter Wyss, Managing Director of PMCC.

Focus some of your time on in-house tasks such as planning, procurement, design and drawing. These tasks can be easily overlooked in the chaos of the usual daily commitments throughout the year.

2. Go Digital!

There is an abundance of ingenious apps to assist you daily. Advocate the use of these apps and use them to set meetings with your clients and team efficiently. Utilize Skype for long distance communication to save time. Take notes on the go with Evernote to make sure you don’t lose or forget important information. At PMCC, we work very closely with technology and enhance our productivity with the help of the Microsoft Office 365 platform. Consider doing this yourself.

3. Be Flexible

With rapid energy depletion while fasting, do not be disheartened. Pick up where you left off when your energy levels are restored after breaking your fast during ‘buka puasa’.
You should also communicate with your stakeholders and employers to reschedule your working hours to better suit your energy levels. Do this to ensure sufficient productivity and timely hand-overs by the initially agreed deadlines.

4. Slow Down and Recalibrate

When the opportunity presents itself, take some time to reassess your project’s requirements. Take this down time to think and recalibrate ideas and pending actions that may be affected due to daily commitments.
Keep in mind that construction work rates may slow down if your construction workers consist of mostly fasting Muslims. Do not see this as a liability, because if used correctly, this down time can prove to be quite helpful. You can use this ‘non-active’ time to find more efficient practices on the project site. For instance, you can communicate with your team as well as your construction workers, to find alternative ways to use shorter working hours more efficiently.

5. Be Creative with your Approach and Methods.

This point is strongly linked with the ones mentioned above. With vast creativity, you can find ways to remain productive even when project progress is threatened. Find new ways and incentives to motivate your team. Arrange ‘buka puasa’ sessions with your team to strengthen your relationship and show your sensitivity to everyone’s culture. Use this time to prevent “deadline panics” and conflicts by listening to everyone’s concerns and coming up with creative compromises for any issues that bubble up during the month of fasting.

A study by Oxford Strategic Consulting offered this opinion,

Flexibility is key: team building exercises, meetings and brainstorming workshops can take place around iftar (the breaking of fast) as well as other social events, while less essential tasks can be done remotely from home. Breaking the monotony of routine helps formulate new ideas within an organization and also builds stronger bonds between employees.”

6. Health is Wealth

It is very crucial to keep your health in check during the Holy Month of Ramadan to ensure that you get the most nutrients needed by the body. WFP Egypt-based nutritionists Dr. Alia Hafiz, Michele Doura and Ayan Barre shared some tips to help you stay fit and healthy during the month of Ramadan. A detailed read can be read at World Food Program

Just to offer a summary:

  • Never Skip Suhour or the last meal before the start of the fast.
  • Aim to eat at least 7 servings of fruit and vegetables every day
  • Cut down on sugary and processed foods
  • Break your fast slowly and don’t over indulge
  • Make soups a regular item on your Iftar or breaking of the fast meals
  • Avoid caffeinated and carbonated drinks
  • Avoid deep fried food
  • Avoid working out during fasting hours
  • Adapt fasting to your physical condition

Although some research does show that the productivity of workers have a tendency of declining in the holy month, there is still the possibility of managing and minimizing the occurrence by planning your time and tasks effectively, utilizing technology to your advantage, staying flexible when needed, taking time to reassess your project needs, incorporating creativity in your approach to organize activities customised to the Holy Month of Ramadan, as well as staying fit and healthy on the job.

As your trusted project partner, we at PMCC CORPORATION hope we have offered you some insight to achieving a productive Ramadan while on your project. On behalf of our whole team we would like to wish you a joyous and blessed Ramadan.