Companies Provide Time and Space for Employees to Practice Faith

More companies are providing space and time for the workers to practice their faith as optional, noticing how diverse the workforce has become and at the same time how employees?desire to express their beliefs even in the office has grown.

At the national level, companies like Intel Corp. and Coca-Cola Co. provide space for Bible classes and other religious practice as well at the workplace.

Instead of having specific days off, most workers appreciate the time given to practice their faith by forming faith groups at the workplace.

At Ford, workers can join the Ford Interfaith Network, a 4-year-old faith group. About 8,000 employees are on its monthly e-mail list.

“I think it’s great that the company recognizes that employees don’t leave their faith at the door,?said Dan Dunnigan, the council’s chairman.

“There are ways that employees can work together,?said Tim Howlett, an attorney at Dickinson Wright in Detroit. “They can swap shifts or use flexible scheduling to cover those days.?

“It helps you get rid of a little bit of the stress at work,?said Nancy Klaus who works as a nurse at Lifetime Family Care.

Along with many other companies in Michigan -- Software company Altair Engineering, Ford Motor Co.’s Product Development Center, and Zoup! Fresh Food Co., Lifetime Family Care is a clinic located in Michigan that allows the employees to pray. Employees even created a special prayer box at the office where anyone at the clinic could slip a written prayer request into the box.

Generally displaying nativity scenes and other religious drawings on cubicles although not much of restriction has been imposed and laws protect workers from religious discrimination and mandate federal holidays like Christmas.

A decade ago, 61 percent of southeast Michigan employers made Good Friday a paid holiday, according to the American Society of Employers in Southfield, the Detroit News reported. Preliminary 2004 data show that number has dropped to 54 percent, which they think it is because many companies today allow people to choose holidays that they want off.

According to Catherine Eagan, president of Workplace Wisdom Publishing, September 11 incident is definitely one of the factors that have caused people to examine their spirituality at a deeper level.

“People who have a relationship with God in their private life now feel driven to express it in their public life,?Catherine Eagan said.

Her husband, Dr. J. Victor Eagan, who owns Eagan Orthodontics, said he frequently prays before working on patients, and his staff holds voluntary Bible study classes.

“There is a difference between allowing your morals and ethics (to) inspire your business and trying to convert people at work,?Dr. Eagan said. “So many businesses were afraid of people proselytizing they threw out the baby with the bathwater.?

Vivian S. Park
Ecumenical Press