Is the office a place to work and pray?
“Spirituality in the Workplace is about individuals and organizations seeing work as a spiritual path, as an opportunity to grow and to contribute to society in a meaningful way.
It is about care, compassion and support of others; about integrity and people being true to themselves and others. It means individuals and organizations attempting to live their values more fully in the work they do.”
Spirituality at work, also known as “workplace spirituality,” is a movement that began emerging in the United States in the early 1920s and was spearheaded by individuals who wanted to live their faith and spiritual values in the workplace. Over the last several decades, many scholarly studies have been conducted on this topic. Numerous books, articles and Web sites delve deeper into various principles and perspectives for those who are truly interested in sharing their spirit, ethics and values with their bosses, co-workers, clients and suppliers. In fact, Businessweek Magazine elevated the trend in a cover story in its June 5, 2005, cover story entitled “Companies hit the road less traveled: Can spirituality enlighten the bottom line?"
Meshing spirituality with work seems to be a natural component of living. In fact, many enlightened teachers share a philosophy that we are “spiritual beings having a human existence” and that most Americans spend approximately one-third to one-half of their days working during much of their adulthood.
Author Gregory F. A. Pierce, in his book “Spirituality at Work: 10 Ways to Balance Your Life On-the-Job,” (see sidebar) contends that the work we do represents a major reflection of who we are as spiritual beings. Pierce’s ten disciplines of workplace spirituality include:
1) Finding sacred objects
2) Living with imperfection
3) Assuring quality
4) Giving thanks and congratulations
5) Building support and community
6) Dealing with others as you would have them deal with you
7) Deciding what is enough—and sticking to it
8) Balancing work, personal, family, church and community responsibilities
9) Working to make “the system” work
10) Engaging in ongoing personal and professional development
And, in a guest column for The El Paso Times published and posted October 2, 2011 (see sidebar), Aliana Apodaca, a motivational speaker and executive coach, wrote:
“America's employees are expressing a hunger for a connection to something larger than themselves. For many, this hunger can be fed at home or at church. But where do we spend most of our time? Why not at work? How can we bring our spiritual self to work and share with our colleagues in a way that is respectful and accepting? Employees want an intimate relationship. They want to be valued and to know management values their efforts.
How do we step into this world of "spirituality at work"?
Step One: Know yourself. What are your personal spiritual values?
Step Two: Create a list of actions and behaviors that reflect your spiritual values at work and at home—and live them!
Step Three: What are your company's values? Are they aligned with your own? Do you follow the company values and your values in all your actions?”
Spirituality “Shows Up” at Work
Workplaces and work situations that have a solid spiritual base are typically easy to identify. Here are some common characteristics of a spiritual workplace:
- Meshing of core values into overall culture, business practices and product and service offering
- Diversity and equal opportunity hiring practices
- Existence of family leave, bereavement and employee assistance programs
- Allowing for prayer, meditation or time off during the work day to attend church, temple or synagogue services
- Focus on life/work balance, health and wellness
- Encouraging personal and professional growth
- Availability of sick leave, regular holidays and “floating holidays” to accommodate different religious holidays
- Community outreach or “corporate social responsibility programs”
Marc Sharpe, Orthodox Jew and venture capitalist in Houston who moved to the U.S. from London in 1994, is a member of the board of the directors for the Houston Holocaust Museum. He also chairs the Corporate Development Committee for the museum. This committee is recruiting Houston area corporations in supporting the museum and its mission. “The Holocaust Museum it tied to a historic event that impacted not only Jewish people, but many others,” Sharpe explains. “The mission of the museum is about using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides to teach current generations about prejudice, apathy and hatred to promote a broader message of tolerance. Corporations can spread that message and we can help the corporations in helping us through their employees.”
Sharpe says that his co-workers and clients always express interest in learning more about his faith every time he takes a Jewish holiday. “People seem to be interested in why I am recognizing the holiday and understanding what that holiday is all about,” he says.
Geetha Gomathan, a resident of the Bay Area of Houston since 1997 and a native of India, practices the Hindu faith. A senior information technology profession who works for a multi-national company with thousands of employees worldwide, Gomathan first came to live and study in the U.S. in 1989.
“In my work place, usually the issue of religion doesn’t come up at all; largely because I work for a company with employees in many countries throughout the world. We don’t discuss religion, politics or sexual orientation,” Gomathan shares. “For me, Hinduism is a way of life so I don’t even think of it as something that affects the way I work. I am always being myself. A fundamental belief in the Hindu faith is to do your duty as the individual. I am a daughter, mother, wife and employee. I have many roles and it is my duty to do my best. The moral foundations that we are taught by all faiths serve as a foundation that helps us to treat others well and behave ethically in the work place.”
Gomathan and her family celebrate the Hindu holidays that revolve around the lunar calendar but also enjoy celebrating the traditions and spirit of giving and sharing at Christmas. She added that her company provides employees an opportunity to take “floating holidays” to celebrate as needed for religious and spiritual traditions.
Eager to Learn More?
A considerable amount of information is available for anyone interested in learning more about the topic of spirituality in the work place. Check out these books and Web sites when you want to explore and become more enlightened!
Spirituality at Work: 10 Ways to Balance Your Life On-the-Job by
Gregory F. A. Pierce
Practicing Spirituality at Work E-Course
Led by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Aliana Apodaca: Focus on spirituality at work
Guest column by Aliana Apodaca for The El Paso Times
October 2, 201
Wikipedia: Workplace Spirituality