Great resignation. Quiet quitting. These are the terms that took over the headlines in the past years as labor consequences of the pandemic and its fallout. Employees quit due to low pay, lack of opportunities for advancement, and feeling disrespected at work, while others still show up in the office but are only doing the bare minimum to get by. They were and are still indeed a major concern for executives and HR professionals as the terms reflect increasing employee burnout.
Oftentimes, burnout is caused by issues at work, especially when the job being carried out is beyond employees’ control or the tasks are in conflict with their sense of self. The disarray caused by the past years has put management coping with uncertainty and challenge of keeping the business going. Hence, some expect employees to be flexible and take on extra responsibilities. There is, however, one antidote to employee burnout that has been increasingly discussed in business ethics literature – that is workplace spirituality.
What is Workplace Spirituality?
Not to be confused with religion or any belief system, workplace spirituality refers to employee experiences of spirituality in the workplace. It “concerns with inner life nourishment through pursuing meaningful work that gives a sense of self-connectedness, connectedness with work, and with co-workers” (Ibid). It is associated with inherent source of inspiration and meaningful existence. In other words, workplace spirituality is looking at work beyond paychecks and task performance but through meaning, value, and purpose. As Simon Sinek would put it – this is the why’s of our lives – explaining our purpose and reasons of our existence and behavior.
Spirituality in the workplace is manifested in four dimensions: 1) meaningful work, 2) sense of community, 3) transcendence of self, and 4) inner life.
Meaningful work is the search for purpose, values, and self-worth in the workplace. Work that has personal significance and relates to what is viewed as important is meaningful work. People experience joy and show enthusiasm in reporting to office as this type of work gives them the sense of completeness and personal fulfillment.
Sense of community is the embodiment of interconnectedness, which workplace spirituality essentially is at a collective level. An organization is a community and it is helpful when it provides employees environment and practices that promote sense of community. Offices can be a place for positive connections with others with a great deal of compassion, humanism, integrity, respect, trust, harmony, diversity, and peace. In this way, workers are highly likely to remain in the organization due to their strong connections with people and in the organization.
Transcendence is defined as “a connection to something greater than oneself”. It allows workers to rise above traditionally divisive boundaries like hierarchies and demographic by relating oneself to other people, causes, and nature. It is shown by employees’ alignment with organizational values, which can be measured by their perception of organization’s concern about workers, care and conscience, and leaders’ supportive attitude, as well as their appreciation of their organization’s values, mission, and goals. People tend to think highly of organizations that consider the welfare of its people, customers, and society.
The idea of inner life conveys the integration of self in work environment. When there is goodness of fit between the person and organization, the job becomes highly motivating. Having a good workplace atmosphere for one’s self-concept and social identity facilitates the spiritual expression of people at work.
Benefits of cultivating spirituality at work
- Improved productivity. Organizations that meet its employees’ search for meaning, sense of belongingness, and feelings of completeness and joy influence employees’ performance in the long run. A study about employees in hospitality industry in Nepal found that workplace spirituality plays an important role in productivity and job satisfaction.
- Higher job satisfaction. Companies that adhere to and promote spiritual values are likely to create an environment where employees feel satisfied at work. Values of a spiritual organization impacts business and employees’ plans, alongside organizational performance and employee attitudes. This was confirmed by research wherein they examined the relationship of job satisfaction and workplace spirituality of white collar employees in South Africa. Promotion, implementation, and encouragement of spiritual values interwoven into business strategies, cultures, and practices is suggested.
- Individual fulfillment. Spirituality has long been associated with Maslow’s higher needs like belonging and sense of achievement. Fostering spirituality may lead to employees feeling complete when they report to work, resulting in high personal fulfillment and increased morale.
- Increased creativity. Mindfulness, the ability to focus on present-day experience, is one of the popular spirituality-related concepts, has positive influence on creativity. Furthermore, spirituality, combined with creativity, is linked to transformative coping and related mental health benefits (Ibid).
- Fosters stronger trust. Honesty and trust are vital attributes of a spiritual workplace. In qualitative research in South Africa (Ibid), senior managers perceived spirituality to have significant impact on several workplace outcomes, including encouraging honesty and reducing selfishness. Trust between the management and the workers plays a pivotal role in the future performance of organizations, especially during economic depression. It can result in better organizational performance by effective decision-making, better communication between managers, better focus on the customer concern, and greater innovation.
How to integrate spirituality in your office?
Workplace spirituality involves a particular way of thinking on both personal and organizational levels. Thus, building a workplace that promotes spiritual values is slow and long process. Employers may take workplace spirituality adoption in certain ways, while employees may adjust at a different rate. Nevertheless, the main goal will always be to create better workplace for people to flourish in. Here are some of the ways to nourish spirituality in your organization.
- Defining clear organizational mission and vision. Have clear mission and vision statements that aim at supporting and benefiting not just your clients but also the society. Furthermore, ensure that actions realizing companies’ mission and vision do not have negative impact on people, other organizations, and environment. Employees and managers must be well-acquainted with the organization’s purpose, more so the prospective employees.
- Promote diversity in the workplace. Foster a workplace where different thoughts and ideas from employees are encouraged and embraced. Leaders must always seek perspectives and advice from colleagues, regardless of their ranks, to improve communication and productivity in the workplace. This helps organization retain diverse talent, improve productivity, and be an attractive option for free-thinking job seekers.
- Practice kindness and respect in the workplace. Nurture a workplace filled with positive attitude and goodwill by providing a space for collaboration and meaningful conversations for the employees. This can also be done by organizing team-building activities, recognizing a well-done job, providing positive feedback and recommendations, being considerate and making time for employees, among others. Respecting and being sensitive to others’ boundaries and expectations is also important.
- Build trust and discourage fear. Enrich an environment of trust wherein people can work, learn, and collaborate to achieve common goals. Create a network of support and compassion to eliminate fear in the workplace. Spirituality can flourish fully in the absence of fear.
- Know your employees. Knowing your employees and appreciating their talent can build a sense of community in the organization. Hosting social events or simple dining outside work can go a long way. By being approachable, paying attention to their needs and motivations can give the impression that the organization have their support.
- Provide training for personality development. This may include honing skills for self-awareness and self-leadership to help them realize their value and self-worth, as well as managing work-life balance, and proper business conduct.
Author: Lucil Aguada
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