Is there a place for faith and spirituality at work?

Early on during the pandemic, my mornings were a rush of activity. The minute I woke up, I’d check my smartphone for emails and social media notifications. Then, I would tend to my family, drink my coffee, and check out a news website, all with the slightly distracting sounds of Cartoon Network playing on the t.v. in the background. If I got up the motivation, I would force myself to go to the garage to do some cardio on the elliptical trainer, while multi-tasking on the phone or by watching Netflix on my tablet. After that, I’d have just enough time to take a quick shower, before settling into helping my son with online schooling. (Oh – and somewhere in there, I actually tried to get some work done)! 

Over the past few months, I fell into a different pattern. I wish I could say it happened intentionally, but to be honest, it changed because (1) I hate the elliptical, and (2) it got too cold to exercise comfortably in the garage. So, I set up a quiet space in my home and started doing yoga.

The sessions were relatively short – anywhere from 10 -20 minutes. I followed them up with some meditation and prayer. It was a small time investment, but it made a massive difference in how I felt throughout my day. Those moments of grounding myself and tapping into my spirituality gave me a sense of peace and presence that I wasn’t experiencing to the same extent with my other, more haphazard and erratic routine. And, even though I have been meditating for years, the discipline of prioritizing it with a set schedule, instead of fitting it in where I could, seems to have made a big difference. As a result, my new morning routine has now become a daily practice (well, almost daily – nobody’s perfect). 

Because of how connected those practices made me feel, I have also become much more intentional about taking a few moments to check in with myself and my spirit throughout the day. For example, last week, I took a moment to close my eyes and deep breathe when I felt a bit frazzled in the five minutes I had between dealing with my son’s zoom-related technical glitches, and facilitating my own online group presentation across the hall. (The topic was resilience – oh, the irony!) Sometimes, I say a short prayer before a coaching call, asking to bring the best of myself to the session so I can best be of service to my client. Other times, I might take a dance break to an inspiring song to get me going when zoom fatigue feels like it’s about to set in. These brief moments of tapping into what’s important and deeply renewing to me on a spiritual level, help me to feel more settled and connected. They also enhance my work performance.

Tapping into Spirituality at Work

I work with a lot of clients who would describe themselves as spiritual. They believe in a higher power, or feel that there’s a deep purpose in their lives – something bigger than themselves that is important to their sense of identity and their place in the world. Still, although this might be something that they draw on in their personal lives, when the focus turns to their professional endeavors, exercising spirituality at work often doesn’t even cross their minds. Therefore, a big part of themselves – that brings them such a sense of meaning and renewal – is completely ignored.

I get it – business is a highly cognitive field. We focus on metrics, logic, goals. Business education is intellectual and “left-brained.” Even topics related to people are often approached academically – focusing on theories, research, and engagement percentiles.  

I also know that if you were to present a slide deck and your justification was, “God told me to do it,” it wouldn’t exactly fly at most companies. Or, if you suggested that you shouldn’t actually do any tangible work on a project because you prayed, and you’re waiting for something to happen, you likely wouldn’t have a job for very long (and FYI, even James 2:14 would take issue with that)! 

I’m all for empirical data. If you’ve read my blog, you know that I cite studies all the time. Our intellect is important. We have brains for a reason. Analyzing data, making logical deductions, developing strategies, critical thinking, and considering different possible paths forward, all play an essential role in coming up with well thought out and defensible approaches.

But here’s the thing – most people who describe themselves as spiritual, say that it’s an important part of their lives. Yet, it’s an aspect of themselves that often gets put by the wayside – being relegated to an hour or two at a service on Sunday mornings, or a quick reading of a spiritual text if they’re not too bleary-eyed before bed. Although they might pray about something in their personal lives, they don’t even think to pray for guidance about business issues – whether it’s coming up with a great idea, having a little help to present effectively in a meeting, or summoning up the strength to deal with a really stressful issue at work.

I’m not one to proselytize (and I would definitely suggest that you don’t do it either in the workplace). So, if you’re not someone who would describe yourself as spiritual, I‘m not suggesting that you need to change your beliefs or initiate a spiritual practice. (I actually don’t even explore the topic of spirituality in sessions with clients, unless they mention that it’s something important to them).

What I am suggesting, however,  is that if your spirituality is deeply important to you, you might want to be intentional about drawing on it as a resource – even in your professional life. Spirituality is deeply personal, so how you approach it will be unique to you. But if it’s something that centers you, gives you a sense of meaning, or bolsters up your sense of courage, then why wouldn’t you tap into it?

A couple of months ago, a client told me that she had been spinning her wheels working on a project with a tight timeline. She was getting more and more frustrated, and feeling more and more stuck. Even though she thought she should take a break, with time ticking away, she didn’t feel that she had the luxury to do so.

Finally, she became fed up with the lack of progress she was making. Exasperated, she took a deep breath, got centered, and recited a prayer that she had tacked up on the bulletin board in her home office. She took a brief walk, then dove back into her work. 

In our session, she recounted how after returning from her 15 minute break, she came up with ideas and noticed details in the work that she had somehow missed before. Her feeling of overwhelm stopped, and her efficiency increased. (For the skeptics: whether it was the break, the prayer, the walk, or the deep breath that did it, does it really matter? The point is that she tapped into a variety of resources that gave her a sense of peace, and she was able to feel less stressed and more effective).

I’ve heard other similar accounts, and I’ve had plenty of similar experiences on a personal level.  Still, my point is not to open a discussion on metaphysics; instead, it’s to encourage you to ensure that the way that you are working and living is aligned with your deeply held values. When you do that, you show up in a more grounded, authentic, and embodied way. 

Whether you choose to pray, meditate, read things that inspire you, go for a mindful walk, put your values into action, feel into your spiritual side, follow an intuitive nudge, write affirmations, or make more room for awe (the feeling of being part of something greater than yourself), the key is to be intentional about drawing on those practices that give you a sense of meaning, strength, and renewal.

So ultimately, the question isn’t do I think there is a place for faith and spirituality at work. The real question is – do you?

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