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Spirituality in the Workplace

18 Aug 2020 1:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

by guest author, Sarah Warnock, Seed Planter and Master's student

Many of you will balk at the title of this article.

Indeed, the word ‘Spirituality’ can be simultaneously synonymous with Religion AND woo-woo new age ideals. Oftentimes mentioning the word spirituality is a social faux-pas akin to mentioning politics at the dinner table.

It might interest you to know that over the last 10 years there has been a steady increase in the amount of research exploring spirituality in the workplace, or as it’s referred to in the literature 'Workplace Spirituality' (WPS).

WPS is described as “informal and personal,” “distinct from institutionalised religion” and “non-denominational, broadly inclusive and tolerant” and exists as an acknowledgement that employees within an organisation are individuals who want to experience a sense of purpose and meaning both in their work and through being connected to others in their workplace community. As a concept, WPS grew in popularity as organisations began to explore how they could reduce turnover and absenteeism by increasing job satisfaction, after finding many employees felt disheartened and insecure about their lives (Hassan, Nadeem & Akhter, 2016). We could explore the many reasons why this might be (some of these are considered in my previous article about Emotional Labour and the cost managing our emotions at work has on our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing), however it is more interesting to me to move the conversation about spirituality itself forward.

Over the weeks of our Nationwide lockdown I have no doubt many of you were kept busier than your usual, working from home with children etc. However, for others, how many of you were confronted with considering the meaning of life and work in the absence of collegial connection, daily routines and, in the cases of those of us not considered essential, actual job purpose?

It is inevitable that the majority of us go to work because we must – to feed, clothe and house ourselves and our families. However, is this all that motivates us to work? Beyond our pay-check, what ELSE keeps us coming back to work every-day and, if/when we reach a point of no longer wanting to show up to work anymore, what has been lost or is not being fulfilled?

In a PHD Thesis published in 2003, the author Joan Marque compiled a list of themes she proposed related to a Spiritual Workplace. These included notions of Ethics; Truth and Honesty; Respect; Openness; Understanding; Encouraging diversity; few organisational barriers; interconnectedness and, a sense of peace and harmony. I am curious at how many of you experience these at your workplace and how many of you are motivated to experience these in your lives both through your work and in general.

As you sit at your desk today or as you make your way home tonight, perhaps you might like to consider what spirituality means to you at this point in your life? You might take a few deep breaths first, feel the chair beneath you and purposefully sit a little taller to really recognise that it is you that is sitting and thinking. Try having a conversation with yourself, inside your head about what the word spirituality conjures up for you.

Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? Why? Why not?

What do you think is the difference between Spirituality and Religion?

Do you think Spirituality has a role in the workplace? Why? Why not?

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Growing up in the Hutt Valley, Sara was ready to disappear into the bigwide world and moved to Melbourne to pursue a career in recruitment consultancy post undergraduate study. Not only did that not work out but health challenges lead to attending an accidental yoga class on an early Thursday morning. Fast forward to completing a 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, Sara spent a year in India practicing yoga and nannying before returning home to the Hutt Valley to complete her Primary Teaching Diploma at Victoria University. As she moved into her first (and only) full time classroom teaching role she found yoga supported her and her children to settle into their day. The mental and emotional workload of teaching quickly took its toll on her mental health and she left the classroom but still felt strongly that there was something worthwhile bringing Yoga into the primary classroom. After a chance encounter with the Hutt City Council recreation team a yoga in schools pilot programme was born. Sara is now completing a Master of Education at Victoria University exploring Burnout in Primary Teaching. Her goal is to utilise this research to justify further doctoral research exploring mental, emotional and physical wellbeing in teaching and learning.

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