The CEO dropped me a message recently and said: “Look, even though you’re not eating lunch, make sure to take breaks. I know you’re gonna end up working through the entire day without realising.” It’s nice, you feel like people care. Those little moments make the biggest difference.
Some companies like to say “we’re a family”, or “we have a culture of caring”—but then overlook the importance of Ramadan.
Have people at work ever been insensitive about it?
I don't think anyone I've ever worked with has been Islamophobic or anti-Ramadan, in terms of me practising what I want. But I have been impacted unknowingly.
Like in a previous job, I was told that the founder didn’t want to approve my pay rise because my performance had dipped in the summer. That hurt. I didn’t think: “Oh, this guy hates Muslims.” Of course that wasn’t the case. But he could have asked me why I dipped, and I could have told him it’s because I was fasting.
You’d never say: “I can't believe women get pregnant and I have to pay them for x amount of months.” We just have to be patient. That’s the attitude that really helps us move forward. When I’m back, I’ll return that favour of care and patience tenfold.
“Some companies like to say “we’re a family”, or “we have a culture of caring”—but then overlook the importance of Ramadan.”
<quote-author>Bahram Ehsas<quote-author><quote-company>Head of Growth at Homerun<quote-company>
But I just have to accept that some things are out of my control. I've been fasting for 16 years. And I’d never change that for a western perspective of what deserves a pay rise—constant high performance every month of the year, including Ramadan and whatever else. In Afghanistan, a manager would never say you had a dip in the summer, because the entire company would have a dip in the summer!
What can managers do to help?
My current manager knows me well, and knows exactly what happens to me during Ramadan. We even joke about needing to get work finished before Ramadan starts.
Not everyone who fasts is good at telling people about it. Sometimes it feels like other people will think you’re creating an excuse, or that you’re trying to get away with not working as hard. You think to yourself: “It’s self-inflicted, so how can anyone sympathise?” I don’t want to tell people, because I don't know if they would understand or even care.
So it’s nice when the manager—who’s a third party—advocates for you, because they have no need to feel embarrassed. For them it’s easy, and for you it feels like they’ve got your back.
My manager has been able to tell the leadership team: “This is Bahram right now. Understand that he's not suddenly dropped off the cliff because he wants to, it’s because he's fasting.” She has this patience, this understanding, that Ramadan doesn’t define me as a whole.
How does Ramadan impact your mental health?
Let’s say you take a random week in the year, and you decide to meditate that week and be really introspective. You start caring more, being more conscious. But then you go out into the world, and your friends don’t have the same mindset. You notice it, and maybe it annoys you a little bit.
Ramadan is a collective moment—everyone is trying to be more spiritual, more mindful, more caring, and more giving. Your friends are more switched-on, more conscious about how they speak to you. You feel this really nice sense of community—people around you are on the same wavelength. It brings you closer to your family, and you feel much happier.