The concept of wellness at work can feel like a unicorn: nice to imagine but a fantasy in reality. ‘Wellbeing’ and ‘workplace’ aren’t exactly two things that have traditionally gone together. Wellbeing is usually seen as something that is pursued outside work to give us the strength to survive in work. However, this writer believes the impossible can be achieved, especially as Christians. Wellness at work can be a thing. We can learn, through Christ and His word, to be winners at wellbeing in the workplace. Interested? Read on.
There is plenty of expert content out there offering handy self-help tips for thriving at work – including some on our Glorify blog. You can find advice on everything from setting healthy boundaries and being assertive with colleagues to healthy exercises you can do at your desk. All these things are valuable, but that is not the angle we are looking at here.
Chasing contentedness in Christ
I’m interested in how our faith specifically can help us to experience wellness at work. In the midst of complex, busy and often stressful workplaces, how does being a follower of Jesus better position us to find an eternal and fruitful perspective on what we are doing?
It is a spiritual quest to understand what the Apostle Paul experienced as he proclaimed:
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13
The question, then, is: how can we exist practically with that level of stability and contentedness within work?
Wellness at work: thoughts from Colossians
Consider this foundational text from Paul’s letter to the Colossians:
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:6-8
Perhaps read that one more time to allow it to soak in. Especially if you skim-read it the first time.
There’s a lot in this short passage that can help us in the context of staying grounded, keeping perspective and maintaining a sense of wellness at work.
Here’s three keys as a starter:
1. Be rooted, built up and strengthened in the faith
My background is as a commercial real estate lawyer. Buildings fascinate me. I love cities with spectacular architectural landmarks: The Sydney Opera House, the Taj Mahal, the London Eye, the Burj Khalifa, these are stunning and impressive buildings from the outside. Great to look at. There’s an important twist though. None of these buildings would be viable or sustainable without the deep and unseen foundations that keep them standing through thick and thin. A snazzy building with no foundations will collapse fast.
The Shard in London has 53 metre deep piles to support the building. The building is then designed around a solid concrete core that supports the external steel and glass structure. The unseen foundations and the ‘boring’ concrete core are in fact the most important parts of the glamorous looking building.
So it is with us. This is the analogy that Paul is using as he encourages the Colossian church. The strength of a building lies in the unseen – in its foundation and internal core. Consequently, a lot of work needs to go into the seemingly boring parts of the structure to ensure everything else can flourish.
Build down deep
As a result of this, the reality is simple. If we are going to survive and thrive and achieve wellness at work, we need to have strong foundations in our relationship with Jesus. He is the source of our strength and joy. Sometimes, that takes a bit of grit, commitment and discipline. It means engaging with the ‘unseen’ work of faith: prioritising building deep and Godly friendships, investing in community, studying scripture regularly and praying with consistency. These are the life habits that can pay dividends, holding us up at work even when the environment is tough.
To achieve wellbeing in the workplace, we need to find our nutrients and foundations in Christ. He has everything we need. We must get our strength from Him. We cannot survive by ourselves! Resolve to root yourself in Jesus today. Let Him strengthen and stabilise your core. Rely on Him as you head into work.
2. Don’t be a prisoner
Having encouraged us to build strong foundations, Paul continues with a warning: don’t let anyone take you captive with ideas and philosophies that don’t depend on Christ. This is a profound statement and one we would do well to reflect upon.
We live in cities and countries where the cultures around us are (in general) not motivated by Christian principles. Instead we are surrounded by the secular ‘spirit of the age’ – societies that value money, fame, popularity, sex and materialism above almost everything else. These Christ-less philosophies and desires are destructive to us as Christians and have the potential to trap us on the unfulfilling, unhealthy and unsatisfying treadmill of a worldly life.
It’s not that money, popularity or material things are necessarily bad in themselves. Rather, it is the positioning of those things above God that makes them dangerous. As we drift from the way and priorities of life designed for us by our Creator and conform to the passions of the world around us, it compromises our wellness at every level.
Don’t settle for less than freedom
Consequently, if we are going to experience wellbeing at work, we cannot allow ourselves to be taken captive to the culture and philosophies of our secular environments. Christ came to set us free!
As a result, we must learn to live with His perspective. That means resisting becoming slaves to our workplace culture. We can’t afford to be entrapped by office politics or the desire for worldly success. Money or the next promotion cannot become an idol for us. We need to draw our strength from elsewhere.
Put simply, then, our worldview and philosophy must depend on Christ if we are going to live the liberated and abundant life He promises us. With Him, the yoke is light. In Christ, there is rest, refreshment and renewal. These are the pillars we need to rely on to thrive.
3. Overflow with thankfulness
It might be tough to be thankful in a challenging work environment., but believe me, it’s worth it. Paul encourages us to overflow with thankfulness. That means intentionally searching it out in every nook and cranny of our work-life. Even when it seems hard to find. Gratitude is a powerful weapon. It helps us to shift our perspective and keeps us grounded in what we do have rather than what we don’t have.
Consequently, if you’re experiencing a stressful time at work at the moment, why not try starting a ‘gratitude journal’? At the end of each day, think of one or two things that you can be thankful for. It can be anything, big or small. Perhaps you had a great breakfast. Perhaps a colleague complimented you on a piece of work. Maybe you are simply thankful to have a job during these tough times. A little gratitude can go a long way in helping you to recalibrate your perspective and discover wellness at work.
You are doing better than you think you are
Let me end by stirring you with Paul’s own words of encouragement, later in the same letter: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24
So work hard, but for the Lord. Root yourself in Him. Look to be thankful. Then, through the power of His spirit, may you discover enduring wellness at work.