Individual and Organizational Assets that Boost Belongingness: What Place for the Workplace in Supporting Social Connectedness, Spirituality/Faith, and Purpose?A free members-only event
June 6 – June 7, 2022Virtual Event
Encouraging our colleagues to “bring their whole selves” to work has been a welcome, albeit sometimes precarious, byproduct of the surge of interest in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs at workplaces. George Floyd and other high visibility race crimes have fostered a greater commitment to DEI and led to many companies endorsing Black Lives Matter. Other forms of discrimination related to religion, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation are also germane to DEI initiatives, but advocacy by groups such as MLFA (Muslim Legal Fund of America), Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), Anti-Defamation League (ADL, fighting anti-Semitism), or GLAD (GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders) have not been as prominent in discourse about the role employers can play in advancing safety, health equity, and social justice. This HERO Think Tank explores what role employers, organizational leaders, and grassroots organizers, such as worksite wellness champions, can play in broadening dialogue, affecting policies, and more deeply integrating principles of inclusion and acceptance in workplace health and well-being initiatives. In particular, we will examine the role of belongingness and how companies are facilitating social connectedness. We will facilitate discussions about the current state of workplace-based mental well-being and ask how meaning and purpose and even whether interfaith dialogue at work could have a place in fostering resilience, psychological safety, and improved well-being at work.
HERO has embraced the definition of well-being from Healthy People 2030, which was adapted from the New Economics Foundation and the Lambeth Happiness Program: “Well-being can be understood as how people think, feel and function, both on a personal and social level, and how they evaluate their lives as a whole.” Importantly, note that it is a definition that describes a state of well-being with life satisfaction elements that can be measured, but it does not explain how a person gets there. Since the advent of the workplace health and well-being movement, definitions about what constitutes personal wellness and what factors predict resilience and longevity have almost invariably included a spiritual dimension. For example, run an internet search on the “Wellness Wheel.” The wheel’s spokes represent a time-worn but instructive heuristic intended to convey the multi-dimensionality of good health. You will undoubtedly find, in multi-colored splendor, that social well-being holds equal footing alongside physical, emotional, financial. and environmental in any self-respecting conceptual model for advancing health. As the metaphor goes, when any of the spokes are shorter or missing, the wheel of a healthy life doesn’t roll along as well.
Indeed, there is ample scientific support for the connection between belongingness, spirituality, faith, and health. The additional longevity conferred by the morality-based lifestyle choices of Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists has been well documented. Similarly, the “Blue Zones” study shows centenarians are more likely to belong to a faith-based community and to regularly attend faith-based services. Researchers have also shown the power of prayer in preventing and resolving mental health problems as well as playing a role in physical healing.
Bromides that invariably arise about connectedness and spirituality are “I’m spiritual but not religious” or “There is a big difference between spirituality and faith.” This Think Tank is interested in the contributions of either or both. Simply put, we define spirituality as what individuals do to find peace and purpose. Meditation, time in nature, communing with art, or mindfulness practices can all foster a sense of spirit. We define religion as what groups of people believe about a higher power. Worship, prayer, religious music, and faith traditions for life’s milestones like birth, marriage, and death all play a role in well-being. For many, spirituality and religion are profoundly overlapping. For others, they are decidedly separate or unimportant, distracting or even bothersome. You can anticipate that in this Think Tank we will be both lumpers and splitters. That is, we will explore each of these differences in the context of barriers to, and boundaries for, integrating faith and spirituality into workplace well-being strategies. For some organizations, such as governmental agencies, boundaries between church and state are explicit. Other organizations are considered “faith-friendly” because of the spiritual beliefs of their founders or because they intentionally seek to appeal to faith-driven consumers.
To be sure, concepts relating to the role of exploring life’s meaning and purpose in mental well-being have already been trending affirmatively in worksite well-being initiatives. The advantages of ascribing meaningful work to a meaningful life and providing venues and tools for exploring purpose and passions are well accepted. But what are the limits and/or untapped potentialities of taking such ideas to the next level, to getting even more personal, to really bringing our whole selves to work, beliefs and all? Of concern is whether a deeper expression of one’s beliefs at work can, paradoxically, foster exclusion rather than inclusion given religious tenets about sexuality, gender roles, and false gods. We are planning this Think Tank with full appreciation for those parents who told us to avoid talking about politics or religion at a dinner party. At the same time, we have never experienced a HERO Think Tank where members have not been respectful and open-minded while learning about different approaches and opinions. It is in that spirit, one of curiosity and inclusivity, that we will examine “what place for the workplace” when it comes to examining how a feeling of belongingness affects mental well-being and what role the employer can play relative to spirituality, faith, life’s purpose, and well-being.
Participants will be able to:
- Discuss the role of leaders and managers in defining, respecting, and encouraging colleagues to bring their whole selves to work.
- Explain employee well-being benefits and threats attendant to fostering belongingness and discussing meaning and purpose as well as spirituality and faith at the workplace.
- Identify what could be included in an organizational code of respect for diverse beliefs.
- Explain differences between meditation, prayer, mindfulness practices, nature therapy, and worship as they affect individual and collective well-being.
- Describe the negative and positive effects that honoring faith traditions at work can have on religious employees and on non-believers.
- Discuss individual differences in faith traditions and whether, how, and if to provide venues for interfaith dialogue at work and impacts of such on employee well-being.
- List examples of organizational strategies aimed at responding to employee needs and preferences related to belongingness and mental well-being.
CHES/MCHES Credits Available: 9 (attendance required both days)
Sponsored by Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), a designated provider of continuing education contact hours (CECH) in health education by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. This program is designated for Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES) and/or Master Certified Health Education Specialists (MCHES) to receive up to 9 total Category I contact education contact hours. Maximum advanced-level continuing education contact hours available are 9. Provider ID#101039