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Five ways to maximise productivity during Ramadan

A drop in productivity during Ramadan is generally accepted by the Middle East’s construction sector, but there are ways to maximise productivity during the Holy Month

Onsite productivity might take a hit during the Holy Month, but what measures can be taken to minimise its impact?
Onsite productivity might take a hit during the Holy Month, but what measures can be taken to minimise its impact?

With the Holy Month upon us, there is a sense of inevitability within the construction sector over falls in onsite productivity. Not only does Ramadan entail reduced working hours, but it also coincides with the region’s midday break rule.

Of course, this temporary slowdown is not negative per se. Ramadan is a time of increased devotion and reflection and as such, it is fitting that priorities from outside the professional sphere come to the fore. Moreover, the Middle East’s construction industry makes provisions for reduced activity during the summer months.

Nevertheless, there is no reason that work should drop off altogether. With this in mind, Construction Week has compiled a list of top tips for construction outfits looking to maximise their productivity levels during the Holy Month.

1. Concentrate your resources on critical activities

There’s no getting away from the fact that working hours will fall during Ramadan. Most construction companies in the Middle East see a drop in field hours, owing to labour policies that prohibit shifts of more than eight hours, both during the day and at night. Then there’s the midday break rule to consider. In the UAE, for example, labourers are not permitted to work in direct sunlight during the hours of 12:30 and 15:00, from mid-June until mid-September.

Contractors must work to make the most out of the time that their workers spend on site. With this in mind, a focus on critical activities is vital during the Holy Month. The key to success in this respect is effective planning. It is vital for the construction professionals who are on site to be fully aware of the priorities for the shift in question. It is also important to set out firm – but realistic – timeframes for works that need to be completed.

‘Working smarter and not harder’ might be fast becoming a cliché, but when working hours are limited, it makes perfect sense.

2. Ramp up workforce development

Use the Holy Month as an opportunity to educate your workforce. It is the sun that poses the greatest danger to workers’ welfare during the summer, so when outdoor work is not possible, why not deliver training and development sessions in a sheltered, air conditioned environment? Of course, it is still imperative to ensure that your employees are given sufficient time to rest and recuperate.

Workforce education should be an important focus for construction companies throughout the year, but the summer months provide an excellent opportunity to make progress within this field. In-house training is an important tool in addressing the Middle East’s skills gap. Strengthening and broadening the skills of your employees will not only motivate them, but will also contribute significantly to overall productivity.

What’s more, the positive effects of this training and development drive will continue long into the future.

3. Focus on corporate social responsibility

Productivity is not just about how much progress is achieved on site. Effective corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives have far-reaching ramifications for the community at large, your workforce, and ultimately, your company’s bottom line.

First of all, CSR is wholly in keeping with the spirit of the Holy Month. Ramadan represents a period of increased worship, devotion, and reflection for the Muslim faith. It is also a time of increased charitable giving, one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

So how is this linked to productivity? It’s simple; effective CSR activities can have an extremely positive effect on staff morale. Use the Holy Month as an opportunity to build team cohesion in support of those who are fasting. Some of the Middle East’s construction outfits, for example, hold celebratory Iftars for employees and their families.

Again, companies should never underestimate the impact that good morale can have on productivity.

4. Look at the big picture

Use the lull as an opportunity to evaluate your company’s projects and operations. What processes could be implemented to drive efficiencies at the work site? The summer months are an excellent time for experimentation.

Are there any onsite processes that could be tweaked? Are there any technologies that you’ve been meaning to trial? Are there any issues or disputes that you’ve been intending to resolve?

This period of the year is also ideal for ‘big picture’ thinking. Reflect on how you and your colleagues collaborate, not just within your company but also with other stakeholders. Could lines of communication be strengthened? Is there room for improvement within your procurement process?

Most companies plan for Ramadan and the midday work break in advance, allocating resources before and after these periods to make up for reduced levels of activity. Use this change of pace as a window to fine tune your operations.

5. Plan for the future

Following on from the previous point, make the most of your chance to optimise your company’s strategy for the rest of the year. What will be your major priorities once Ramadan and the midday work ban are over?

Devise ways to maintain the efficiencies that have been driven during this period once working hours have returned to normal. Consider your longer-term strategies for procurement, education, and investment.

If, following the summer months, your workforce returns to a ‘business-as-usual’ mindset, all of your hard work will have been in vain. By ensuring that the lessons learned during Ramadan stay learned, you’ll be reaping the rewards offered by greater productivity long after the Holy Month is over.

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