Employee Spiritual Wellness

Ashley Whitelock
Ashley Whitelock
Spirituality in the workplace can be a tricky subject, and one that you may not know how to navigate as an HR professional. We’re here to give you some information on how you can specifically consider spirituality as you create an environment of wellness for your employees.

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What Is Employee Spiritual Wellness?

Employee spiritual wellness is how an individual feels about their ability to express their beliefs, values, and purpose. Employees should feel that their job provides opportunities for them to practice their spirituality, rather than get in the way of it or challenge it. Consider companies that implement PTO specifically for wellness days vs. companies that make requesting time off difficult. Employees need to feel that they define their own spiritual wellness and that they can decide the amount of attention and magnitude they want to give to it.

Spiritual wellness is distinct from psychological wellness. Mental health centers around an individual’s stress, anxiety, emotions, thoughts and feelings. While spiritual wellness can incorporate some of those same characteristics, it centers more around the values and beliefs that someone holds.

Why Employee Spiritual Wellness Is Important

As HR professionals, we need to be familiar with Title VII, a federal law that is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits any form of discrimination against an individual based on race, color, sex, gender, or religion. Creating a company culture that advocates for spiritual wellness helps prevent legal issues before they occur, such as an employee believing their religious beliefs prevented a well-deserved promotion.

While legal consequences may be reason enough to implement policies and initiatives to encourage spiritual wellness, another important fact to consider is the performance of the employee. When employees have the energy and time to focus on what is important to them, they are more focused at work and more willing to give 100% in the workplace.

Creating an inclusive culture increases retention rates: employees stay because they know that your business is a place where they can truly be themselves and have a good work-life balance. Employees feel that their differences do not ostracize them from the group, but rather help them bring unique talents, skills, and life experience to the company. When you invest in your employees, they will invest in you.

How Should We Talk About Spirituality and Religion In the Workplace?

We want to be careful about how we discuss and consider spirituality and religion in the workplace. Religious beliefs should never be a decision factor in the hiring process. When applicants are interviewing for a position, it is important to avoid questions that may prompt answers about a candidate’s religious beliefs.

It is also important to acknowledge that while some employees may belong to an organized religion, others have different ways of practicing their spirituality. The workplace should be an environment where all employees feel free to talk about their beliefs and values without fear of judgement or ridicule. Specific religions and customs should not be given a preference over others; for instance, a Christmas party focused on only Christian traditions and beliefs may exclude or even demean non-Christian employees. Meetings, activities, or gatherings with religious themes and practices should be completely voluntary. Furthermore, employees should not feel that a decision to not participate in an event or activity due to religious beliefs would cause them any disadvantage. If possible, events and activities should be inclusive (or completely exclusive) of all religions.

Characteristics of Spiritually Healthy Employees

A good leader is someone who knows their employees and is able to identify when they may be struggling. You will generally be able to tell if an employee is spiritually healthy. Some key characteristics include being focused, communicative, and engaged.

Focused

Have you ever had something going on in your personal life, and the next day at work it’s all you can think about? You keep trying to focus on the tasks at hand, but your mind continuously draws you back to whatever is bothering you. If an employee feels that they do not have the time or energy to give to their spirituality, they may become distracted at work. They may worry about balancing work with personal life and feel like they are juggling too many things. This can lead to lower productivity, job dissatisfaction and burnout.

Employees who have a sense of purpose, a sturdy personal identity, and a belief system about themselves and the world around them are more confident. When they know that their company supports them in these beliefs, they can focus on their work and give that 100%.

Communicative

In addition to being focused, spiritually healthy employees are communicative. When they know that their employer values religious and spiritual beliefs and is respectful and mindful of them, employees are more willing to share their needs and desires.

Engaged

Spiritually supported employees know that their voice matters and that they will be heard in their workplace. They may be more willing to share and offer their ideas and opinions. They may be more apt to develop friendships with their co-workers as they see others accepting them for who they are. They may be willing to attend more workplace activities and parties if they feel their values are included and respected.

How to Encourage Employee Spiritual Wellness

There are many ways a company can encourage employee spiritual wellness. Being flexible with time off, creating a safe environment, encouraging diversity, and ensuring top-down participation are just a few examples.

Be Flexible With Time Off

A well-debated topic in the world of HR is the benefit of time off. Some employers argue that giving employees too much time off is risky and will not incentivize reliability. While there may be some cases of employees abusing time-off policies, most employees understand the value of such a benefit and do not jeopardize it.

Being flexible with your time-off policy is a way to show your employees that you care. Consider offering paid personal days for employees to focus on their spiritual wellness. An employee wellness day could be used for family time, being out in nature, practicing mindfulness, or attending a religious event. Be mindful of religious holidays and sacred days of the week, and be considerate of employees who ask for these days off. Some jobs may require that employees work on these days, but do your best to accommodate when you can and make policies clear during the interview process.

Create a Safe Environment

Employees need to feel that their workplace is a safe space to express their beliefs and practice their faith. Try offering opportunities in the workplace for employees to meditate, pray, think, or just be. Normalize stepping away from the computer and taking a minute to collect your thoughts. Implement a dress code policy that allows religious clothing to be worn. Encourage employees to share their goals and support each other in their desires. For instance, employees may help each other as they strive to break a bad habit or dedicate more time to personal reflection. This could include sharing personal anecdotes, scriptures, or explaining religious customs and rituals.

Encourage Diversity

There are many ways to nurture diversity. Have an open conversation about spirituality in the workplace. Allow individuals to express their beliefs. Prioritize diversity in the hiring process. Consider creating a diversity committee—a group of employees that assesses the company’s efforts to create a diverse culture. Be creative in company activities, and allow opportunities for different religions to be represented. Encourage employees to listen and learn from one another.

Top-down Participation

Encouraging employee spiritual wellness requires effort from more than HR. Employees need to see that their leaders and managers are excited and on board with a spiritually inclusive workplace. These leaders may be hesitant about this topic, but you can start the conversation. You can provide evidence of the benefits of prioritizing spiritual wellness. Give examples, such as those provided in this article, to show how the company might start. Answer their questions and be compassionate with their concerns. Help them understand the protection that this kind of culture provides the company in productivity and legal compliance.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Employee Spiritual Wellness

What is workplace spirituality?
Workplace spirituality is the environment created by a company to give employees the ability to express their beliefs and values as desired. A company can have a healthy workplace spirituality or an unhealthy one. This culture is created by HR professionals and company leaders.
What is the difference between spiritual and mental wellness?
Mental wellness centers around an individual’s stress, anxiety, emotions, thoughts, and feelings. While spiritual wellness can incorporate some of those same characteristics, it centers more around the values and beliefs that someone holds. It is the purpose that an individual has, what they feel is important, what centers them, and what they believe about themselves.
Is it legal to talk about spirituality in the workplace?
Yes. It is legal to talk about spirituality in the workplace as long as religious conversations and activities are completely voluntary. However, no employee can be discriminated against for their spirituality. Questions about religion should be avoided during the interview process.
Ashley Whitelock
Ashley Whitelock

Ashley Whitelock graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Sociology. After deciding to pursue a career in HR, she received her certification as an Associate Professional in Human Resources. In 2021, she started working as an HR Generalist for CIT Electronics.

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