It pays to be spiritual.
That is the conclusion reached by researchers Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath.
In an opinion piece in the Sunday Review of the New York Times, they 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, and over half of the people surveyed said their place of employment does not provide time for creative, strategic brainstorming.
Only 36 percent of employees feel like their work is meaningful, and only 25 percent “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—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
“The more effectively leaders and organizations support employees in meeting these core needs, the more likely the employees are to experience engagement, loyalty, job satisfaction and positive energy at work, and the lower their perceived levels of stress,” the authors concluded.
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 and job commitment.
The researchers asserted that meeting these four needs means helping employees find meaning in their work.
They encouraged 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,” Schwartz and Porath wrote.
The Bible has attested to this fact for thousands of years. Attend any place of worship and talk to clergy, and they will affirm that people are spiritual beings.
Therefore, 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).
Our desire to find meaning results in our bowing to almost anything that provides us with a sense of meaning.
We idolize money and progress, bowing to the almighty dollar because we measure success by the amount of money we make.
We idolize beauty, worshipping 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 hearts.
Ironically, sometimes it takes a survey in the world of business to tell us something we Christians have known for years: Faith is important in every area of our lives because we were made to worship a God that is the only one who can fill that empty hole in our hearts.
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 says. “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” (Ecclesiastes 3:9,12-13).
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—can become burdensome at times.
Yet, God gives us the ability to connect with him through our work in order to make a difference in the world around us. This is true whether we work in a cubicle or farm the land.
Building time for spiritual exercises into our work schedule will only further that connection, and make us more fruitful in our labors.
Joe LaGuardia is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Vero Beach, Florida.