The Workplace as a Spiritual Practice 

The Workplace as a Spiritual Practice  April 10, 2024

I imagine I’m not alone in the feeling that I spend too much time at work. The trussell between our work and personal life is unavoidable in today’s modern world. And because many of us spend up to 90% of our day at the office, it’s critical to use some of this time for other important aspects of our lives, such as our spiritual development. Instead of viewing the workplace as a competitive bloodsport, embracing it as a spiritual practice could transform everyday work challenges into opportunities for personal growth.

One of the most insidious philosophies that have arisen in the West is the idea that business isn’t personal. This crafty little trope allows a person to behave badly while maintaining a clear conscience. In my career as a public relations executive I’ve seen genuinely good people do awful things while proudly proclaiming that “it’s not personal, it’s business.” What, I wonder, should be more personal than the workplace? After all, a person choosing to spend the majority of their day at work so they can provide for their family is most definitely personal. 

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Unlike our social lives, we can’t choose our colleagues or bosses. And even within companies with the best corporate cultures, you’ll never avoid the one or two jerks you’ll have to deal with on a daily basis. So, instead of positioning or plotting against that person in a Darwinian way, we could instead use the office to develop our patience and kindness. If we actually adopted this as a spiritual practice, the jerk at work could help you advance spiritually much faster than spending time with those you’re already friendly with. 

Speaking of corporate environments, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are becoming commonplace. ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational mission. Spirituality is quickly becoming a main-stay in ERG groups. In fact, I have a client that makes an app called Skylight which is designed for corporate environments and contains spiritual practices that are non-denominational and non-sectarian, such as meditation, affirmations and contemplative prayer. The Skylight app has seen an enormous amount of adoption with younger generations (GenZennials) who make up about 38% of the current workforce and are opting out of formal religious practices/attendance to embrace practices such as those found on Skylight.

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One of my favorite Buddhist teachers, David Nichtern, has written extensively about integrating spiritual practice within the workplace. His teachings involve applying mindfulness and compassion in our interactions and tasks, seeing each challenge as an opportunity to practice patience, empathy, and ethical conduct. Nichtern encourages us to find a deeper sense of fulfillment in our work, turning professional endeavors into meaningful contributions to our inner growth and the well-being of others.

This reflective approach can lead to greater creativity and innovation as employees feel more connected to their colleagues and motivated to contribute positively. Encouraging spirituality in the workplace will not only support collaboration and productivity, but more importantly, will provide individuals with a sense of calm and resilience needed to face the ever-increasing stresses and challenges of the workplace. 



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