Top 5 challenges of doing business during Ramadan in Singapore

Singapore has one of the largest Muslim populations in Southeast Asia after Malaysia and Indonesia, meaning that the Muslim calendar – particularly Ramadan, the annual month of fasting, and Raya Aidilfitri, the celebration which follows it – can have a material effect on the way business is done in Singapore.

1. Avoid breakfast and lunch meetings

During the month of Ramadan, the Muslim community will fast from sunrise to sunset, eating during the hours of darkness. Employers are encouraged to be sensitive to Muslim employees – above all, try to avoid scheduling breakfast and lunch meetings. When you do meet, it is polite to avoid offering Muslim teas or coffees. It also helps for non-Muslims to arrange meetings at or near the offices of their Muslim counterparts.

 2. Change in working hours

As Muslims begin fasting, their daily routine changes and many will request to change their working hours accordingly. Employers are strongly advised to provide a flexible working environment for Muslim employees as a sign of inclusiveness. Human resource departments should engage with employees to construct the best working hours structure. For example, many companies the option of removing their lunch break, letting them leave work an hour early in return.

 3. Flexible working days

Some employees may return to their hometown during Raya Aidilfitri. Employers are encouraged to grant these requests where possible. This may require a temporary loosening of HR policies such as flexible working or work-from-home allowances. Companies may also need to consider being more generous being when considering simultaneous annual leave requests. This flexibility requires forward-planning. Some companies will have to tweak their annual cycle to ensure periods of extreme busyness fall outside these days; alternatively, firms can reallocate work or draft in temporary cover.

 4. Proper greetings

During the month of fasting, you can wish a simple ‘Selamat Berbuka Puasa’. As on the celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, either a ‘Selamat Hari Raya’ or ‘Selamat Aidilfitri’ suffices. As a greeting to your employees and business partners, these are the words you can use on email, message or even verbally. Avoid saying ‘happy fasting’ as it can be deemed as being sarcastic. However, you can wish them ‘happy breakfasting’ or ‘selamat populations puasa’ during the communal meal at sundown.

 5. Dinner (breakfasting) is important

Muslims take their breakfasting meal very seriously – and because it takes place at sunset, the timing changes from day to day. This has implications for companies who employ night shift workers – the time of regular breaks will need to shift daily. Bosses can join their Muslim counterparts for dinner – some companies use Ramadan as an opportunity to organize events and company-wide gatherings.