Preface: Reflecting on 2018, I’m recalling 7 things that made a big difference this year. I’m writing as a note to my future self – but they might be of help to you too.

It’s amazing what stands out to you in times of despair. In the midst of this transformational and turbulent year, I found myself embarking on a degree in Organisational Leadership and contracted to work a couple days per week in an international organisation working to make it a transformational workplace. My suspicions have been confirmed – transformation is best done in the home and workplace.

Today, we are seeing a surge in workplace spirituality programs appearing across many industries as research continues to prove its innate value and role in humanising the workplace in the wake of the industrial revolution.

The Why
Over the last 8 years, or so, I have mainly with church communities and leaders to make the most of a few hours of church-life engagement per week. It’s tough work and frustrating for leaders who really want to see their flock pursue virtuous living in a Godly way. And there are as many ways to bring about this transformation as there are books, programs and theories promoting change in churchieland. The hope of many pastors, who want their people to grow in maturity, (not just grow in attendance) is that they’ll turn up on Sunday, worship, connect, listen and do what is preached + get involved in a midweek small group study and some kind of contributive service to the faith community. Is that wrong? No. But if that is the only arena followers of Christ look to for transformation, we shouldn’t be surprised when unhealthy dependency that results in shallow maturity ensue.

As mentioned, I suspected the places of transformation God had in mind were way beyond the place we spend 2-4 hours per week in (church life). I was encouraged to discover that at the time of the Reformation 501 years ago, Martin Luther, who had lived in a monastery and pursued virtuous living there, encouraged believers to practise formational living at HOME and in the WORKPLACE. Historians know that this is where the protestant work-ethic was birthed.

And this makes sense right? I mean, just on the premise of where you spend your time, it makes sense that workspace and home space are the places God would work in us to mature us! So what happened? How did the power shift to Sunday gathering? I dunno exactly, but it did and I think it’s a huge reason we are due for another reformation that undoes this unhealthy expectancy upon pastors and church-life etc.. don’t get me started!!

The How
God opened a generous door to work with a great bunch of people across the year to explore what workplace spirituality and transformation could look like across 5 countries in the Asia Pacific region.

We began by examining and considering current workplace culture, including their habits, language, stories and values in the 100+ staff across the regional offices.

Secondly, we considered ways to increase communication and belonging across department personnel by creating daily, interactive one-on-one and small group reflection times centered around 15 Christian faith-based workplace-applicable virtues. The virtues were explained by video and in writing on Mondays and then discussed throughout the week at daily staff insight meetings and in the reflection times.

Thirdly, we tracked sentiment with company-wide surveys and anecdotal evidence collection.

The Outcome and Value

Now, in under 10 months, we’ve seen an increase in workplace engagement by an average of 7.6% and personal growth factors by an average of 10.3% in the Australian office. An average of over 5% region-wide.  An organisational development dream! Now to give some perspective here, international studies by Gallop suggest that 71% of employees in Australian and New Zealand are not engaged with their work. Leaving only about 3 in 10 people engaged in work their feel is meaningful. Australia is below the average of 67% not engaged.

This is from Gallop’s 2017 Global Workplace Report: “Despite their employees’ high overall life evaluations, employers in Australia/New Zealand face an ongoing conundrum. Gallup finds that workers in the region have lackluster employee engagement scores: Just 14% are engaged in their job, showing up every day with enthusiasm and the motivation to be highly productive. Another 15% of employees are actively disengaged — not only unhappy at work, but determined to undermine their colleagues’ positive efforts. The remaining 71% of employees fall into the “not engaged” category; they show up each day but do just what is absolutely necessary to get through the day — and no more. ”   source: Gallop’s State of the Global Workplace 2017

Now here was our challenge. We started at an engagement score of 80% in the Australia office. Already very high. Way above average. But, we increased it to 87%. You could say the figures went from ‘great to greater’. I have to step back and say, ‘Wow, God’.

An increasing body of research around workplace spirituality indicates clearly that bottom lines are increased, creativity is increased, interpersonal staff conflict decreases and so much more.

I’m excited to see the program bring continued value to the organisation in the new year. I’m also keen to see how it is translated to other workplace settings, someday. For me personally, so many things have opened my eyes beyond a Sunday gathering to what might be possible when business owners catch a vision to make their workplaces transformational.

Could this be a shift the Christian community needs to embrace? Transformation at home and work? I think so.

Note to my future self:
Dave, you have a passion for people and seeing the world become a better place. You understand business, leadership, spirituality and transformation. All your personality profiles point towards you being a builder of community. So much adds up for you here.  This idea that home and work spaces should be monastic is profound. Consider the benefits of serving in this space, the return is incredibly rewarding.