Expo 2020 staff cultivating good Ramadan habits

When marketing manager Basma Ahmad Essa decided to practise yoga in the evenings, she shared her goal with a colleague.

The Emirati, who works for Expo 2020, was reacting to a “Make it or Break it Challenge” at work, which encourages employees to cultivate a new positive habit or break an old one.

“This worked particularly well for me,” says Ms Essa, who has worked for Expo 2020 since 2014. “When I told a colleague [about doing yoga] she said she wanted to join in as well. Having a shared goal is more fun and definitely creates a sense of solidarity in the office.”

The challenge is one of a range of initiatives introduced by the company’s HR department to help staff cope during Ramadan.

With UAE Ramadan fasting hours at 15 hours and 10 minutes the longest for a number of years according to Ebrahim Al Jarwan, general supervisor at Sharjah Planetarium, Expo 2020 has added guidance for the holy month into its year-round wellness initiative “Yalla Expo”.

The Ramadan programme kicked off with a workshop covering science and nutrition of intermittent fasting, using the fasting period to lose weight, the do’s and don’ts of fasting as well as hydration, staying active and sleep hygiene.

While the challenge is designed to reflect the spirit of Ramadan as a time for self-reflection and discipline, the organisation’s new Yalla App promotes all Ramadan activities and events.

“The unifying theme of all our Ramadan activities is ‘connection’,” says Rita Penteado, head of human resources at Expo 2020. “We want to encourage connecting with our communities, families and colleagues.”

Tim Garrett from Corporate Wellness says support from companies for healthy fasting and staying fit can improve an employee’s overall health.

“Fasting can have many health benefits if done correctly, however, often people reach for the wrong foods after Iftar and some of this is down to not knowing what’s best for them,” he explains.

q&a sensible ways to fast

Krysia McKechnie expands on the health benefits of fasting:

Are there health advantages to fasting?

Yes and these are widely recognised in the medical world. Studies have shown that benefits range from weight loss, to higher metabolic rates to a reduction in the risk of developing diabetes. However, unhealthy eating and lack of exercise can also lead to weight gain, an increased risk of diabetes and a lack of concentration or drowsiness.

What sort of significant consequences?

According to Tim Garrett from Corporate Wellness, falling asleep at work can lead to potentially dangerous accidents. “Missed opportunities and low productivity are all issues that can have significant impacts if healthy fasting habits aren’t adopted,” he adds.

And why is it so bad to reach for the junk food during Ramadan?

When people eat junk it is metabolised more quickly, which often causes them to reach for more food and stay awake later at night. This cycle can have significant adverse effects on the body. Sleep patterns are disturbed, and this coupled with a low energy state later in the day when the body has run out of fuel means that employees can be less productive and need to go home and sleep.

What will Yalla Expo offer Expo 2020 staff the rest of the year?

The company will run a different wellness campaign each month focusing on topics such as nutrition, physical fitness, and social well-being.


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