Malaysia and Singapore have the largest Muslim population in Southeast Asia after 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 these countries.
Here are five tips that companies doing business in Malaysia or Singapore should know.
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 hungry Muslim employees - above all, try to avoid scheduling breakfast and lunch meetings. When you do meet, it is polite to avoid offering Muslims teas or coffees.
It also helps for non-Muslims to arrange meetings at or near the offices of their Muslim counterparts.
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 to the 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.
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 this days; alternatively firms can reallocate work, or draft in temporary cover.
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...