A few weeks ago, Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath wrote an opinion piece in the Sunday Review of the New York Times, that outlined factors that benefit or hinder employee productivity.
At first glance, the numbers are dismal: A majority of workers in the United States and abroad are burned out; over half of the people surveyed say that their place of employment does not provide time for creative and strategic brainstorming.
Only 36% of employees feel like their work is meaningful, while only 25% “connect” to their company’s mission.
The researchers explain that companies can turn these statistics around by being intentional in meeting four “core needs” of their employees, including physical, mental, emotional, and–oddly–spiritual needs.
This prognosis is not from a spiritual or religious bias. Both the survey and the company that performed the survey are secular in nature. Yet, spirituality is named as a significant factor in increasing a worker’s overall health as well as commitment to his or her job.
For this study, the researchers argued that meeting one’s spiritual needs means helping employees make meaning of their work. They encourage companies to connect them to the larger needs in society and the demands that communities have for providing a better world.
“Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations,” they write. Meeting a worker’s spiritual need can make “the highest single impact of any variable in our survey.”
The Bible has attested to this fact for thousands of years. Attend any place of worship and talk to any number of clergy, and they will affirm that people are spiritual beings, and connecting to something larger than themselves is an innate part of being human.
No wonder the first of the ten commandments is to avoid putting any idol before God (Exodus 20:3). But we are so spiritual, we bow to almost anything that provides us with a sense of meaning.
We idolize money and progress, bowing to the almighty buck because we measure success by the amount we make.
We idolize beauty, worshiping celebrities and exercise plans that promise to make us mini-gods of our own choosing.
We idolize relationships, seeking fulfillment by placing our trust in each other, hoping that the “right” person will fill that vacuous, nagging hole in our heart.
It takes a survey in the world of business to tell us something we Christians have known for years: We were made to worship a God that is the only one who can fill that empty hole in our heart.
The author of Ecclesiastes, for instance, states that one’s work and toil are burdensome, but trusting in God can make our lives meaningful and valuable.
“What gain have the workers from their toil?,” Ecclesiastes 3:9 states, “I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil” (vv. 12-13).
After Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, God gave them various “curses” as consequences for their sin. Eve’s consequence was the pain and hardship brought on by giving birth.
Adam’s consequence was to work and toil in an unforgiving landscape. They faced two different kinds of labor, but labor nonetheless.
A life of spiritual formation puts this lesson in perspective. We realize that we have to work to make ends meet, and that most forms of work–no matter how meaningful–gets burdensome at times.
Yet, God gives us the ability to connect with Him in order to make a difference in the world around us, whether we work in a cubicle or farm the land. Building time for spiritual exercises into our work schedule will only further that connection.