Ramadan and the five-hour day

It’s Ramadan this month, and Muslims all over the world are fasting from sunrise to sunset. It’s a challenge at any time of year. But with long days and record temperatures, I find myself in awe of Muslim friends and colleagues, stoically getting on with their duties right through the working day.

In many Muslim countries, workplaces adopt a different rhythm during Ramadan. In Time On Our Side: Why we all need a shorter working week, Anna Coote quotes from a Kuwaiti man, Qaiss Dashti, who works for the UN.

“In the month of Ramadan in the Middle East all companies reduce the working hours from eight hours to five hours for 30 days, and surprisingly we all finish our work like it’s an eight hour work day. We even discuss this between ourselves as employees: how a shorter day is much better and makes us more positive and willing to use the rest of the time for sports or family, and I guess it reflects back on our performance at work”.

Qaiss’s story is a great example of Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”. With a shorter working day, how many more of us would get our work done, and still have those precious extra hours to walk out into the sunshine in time for a kickabout, or a chat with a friend?

More research needs to be done to establish the relationship between productivity and working hours – it’s likely that it varies between different jobs. When Ramadan finishes, workers in Kuwait, UAE and other Muslim countries will go back to finishing work at five pm rather than two. For the rest of us, there’s a tantalising glimpse of how ‘normal’ it can be for a whole workforce to adopt shorter working hours, without the sky falling in.

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