Spirituality in the Workplace: Nova Scotia Businesses Bring Their Whole Self to Work

Businesses like Claussen Walters Realtors, Plovers the Environmental Store, and Capital Health to name a few, are not shy about their commitment to balancing financial viability with personal growth. It is not unusual in advertising these days to see yogis, monks and spiritual teachers promoting everything from computers to tea. The inference being if you use this product or service you are on your way to enlightenment, or at least, a more balanced life.

We all want balance in our life. We want work and play, health and wealth, family and freedom.It is estimated that 60% of our waking hours are spent at work. More employers are recognizing that providing a good work environment means less stress and greater productivity.

Spirituality in the workplace is not the practice of promoting religious beliefs on the jobsite. In fact, this practice is generally discouraged. Although difficult to clearly define, the literature on the topic offers this definition.

‘Spirituality in the Workplace is about individuals and organizations seeing work as a spiritual path, as an opportunity to grow and to contribute to society in a meaningful way. It is about care, compassion and support of others; about integrity and people being true to them selves and others. It means individuals and organizations attempting to live their values more fully in the work they do’.

– Dr. Jonathan Smith and John Rayment

Saint Mary’s University in Halifax is a world leader in this cause. It is the first Canadian University to establish a Centre for Spirituality and the Workplace.The Centre (established in 2004) is the first academic-based centre for spirituality and work in Canada. Housed in the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Centre aspires to be a centre of research and influence in the community, the nation, and the world. The Centre reflects the University’s role as a leader in research and community relationship building both locally and internationally. The Centre co-sponsors accredited courses open to students in all disciplines, as well as guest lectures that are open to the entire community.

In 2007 I had the opportunity to take two of these courses and attend guest lectures. It greatly enriched my understanding of what is happening in the business community by people committed to values, more than profits.

For example Dr. J. Robert Ouimet of Ouimet-Tomasso Inc. in Montreal visited St. Mary’s and shared his vision. Tomasso foods is a successful third generation family run business that, amongst other products, creates many of the organic frozen pasta entrees you see under the President’s Choice label.

Dr. Ouimet is so dedicated to balancing profits with the wellbeing and spiritual freedom of all employees that he wrote an extensive doctoral dissertation entitled, ‘Spirituality in Management Reconciles Human Well-Being, Productivity and Profits’. Spirituality infiltrates every aspect of the business. Close scrutiny of his practices reveals incredible commitment to 13 management tools developed over 35 years that have made a proven difference for his 700 employees. He frequently shares his story around the world at his own expense, and is the first to admit it is a continual challenge to meet his commitment.

This got me to thinking. I know of businesses in Nova Scotia that celebrate spirituality at work. Workplaces that invite people to bring their ‘whole selves’ to work, that are socially and environmentally responsible, that create space, both physical and psychological, for their employees to connect with whatever version of the Transcendent they choose. In short, a workplace, where body, mind and spirit can come to work together.

I would like to offer you a series of articles on local businesses and invite your feedback. What does spirituality in the workplace look like? How does it effect business management and employee benefits? Why is it important?

What happens at work when there is a serious illness or death in the workforce? Is there a place for the prayer commitments of a Muslim? How are layoffs handled? Do products and services respect animals and the environment?

These questions and more are the focus of this inquiry. I invite you to participate.

Grace McKnight is a feng shui designer who is passionate in her ability to combine creativity and spirituality in the service of others. She is completing an MA at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. Her focus of study is spirituality in the workplace and contemplative learning techniques.http://www.graceinspiredliving.ca

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