Posted 17/08/2022

Belonging at Swan: Abdullah's story

Our vision is for Swan to be a truly inclusive workplace that enables individuals to be the best possible versions of themselves and feel at home at Swan. People perform better when they can be themselves and nobody should have to hide who they are. To help us achieve this vision we have a number of employee network groups – SwanTogether, SwanNation, SwanProud and Inspiring Swans. With assistance from these groups, we will be sharing stories from across the organisation to learn more about our fantastically diverse Swan people.

Last week, we chatted to Employment and Training Manager, Abdullah, about his experience as a Muslim at Swan and how Swan creates a culture that allows him to freely observe his faith at work.

How well do you feel that Swan accommodates your religious practices and allows you to balance your work and your faith?

I've been working at Swan for 17 years and I feel that it is a very diverse organisation that really accommodates individuals with religious or cultural views. Even when I was at the Blackwall Reach office, there was a dedicated room there for us to pray. At Swan, I really enjoy the liberty and the sense of freedom to observe and throughout my 17 years here, I have never had any problems whatsoever with being able to freely observe my religion.

What is it about the culture at Swan that gives you this sense of liberty to observe your faith?

Swan is a very diverse organisation, and it is very aware of this fact, with many religious and cultural programs to accommodate all the various groups. I would say Swan is 10 out of 10 to be honest - I've seen very few organisations which encourage that kind of liberty and freedom for employees. The SwanTogether group gives us a space to raise awareness for and share our beliefs and cultures with others, for example, I talked about Ramadan in one session. The way everybody is encouraged to be themselves creates such a great environment and culture of belonging at Swan.

We also look at our customers’ diversity as well. For example, if you enter a Muslim household, many staff know to take their shoes off or when making a repair appointment on a Friday for a Muslim customer, we will try to avoid between one to two o'clock because people might be at prayer or in the mosque. Those are the little things that our people take into consideration. Accepting all religions and cultures is well ingrained into our working practice as well as our contractors. This gives comfort to both staff and our customers and there is a strong sense that we celebrate diversity, both internally and externally.

How does your faith impact how you do your job on a day-to-day basis?

I don't think there is any negative impact, but rather a positive impact. Having that alternative focus to your work really helps with concentration. Our prayer is very short, around 7 to 10 minutes and during the summer months, it's only one prayer, which is around 1 or 2pm. This time away from your computer really makes you more productive. If you’re doing something on the screen for a couple of hours and then you take a 10-minute break, have your ablution (washing of the hands and face before prayer) and devote to your prayer, it sort of shifts your mind and you come back a lot more energised. I feel that I am then much more productive because it centralises your thoughts, refocuses you from distractions and you are then more likely to spot mistakes in something you had read five times already for example.

Also, one of the great things about Islam is that it is not only a religion but a code of life, from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. The trust between the employee and the employer and doing my job correctly is part of the worshiping as well. For me, it’s all just a positive impact on my work.

Do you think your faith gives you a particular passion to work in an organisation like Swan, with a social purpose to help our customers and communities have a better life?

My role is about helping people to get into jobs and making a difference in people's lives and I take pride each time I help someone get a job or gain new skills. Whenever I help someone, it gives me a sense of fulfilment not just in my job but as a human being. If you look at someone’s mindset and their ideology, it’s very much a result of their culture and religious observance as well as family and upbringing. My faith has definitely made a huge contribution to where I am today and has motivated me to help others, so there is a positive correlation there for sure.