The workplace can be an overwhelming experience for the Christian. We want to do our jobs well, but we also want to attend to the personal and spiritual needs of our peers. We want to respect the work we’re doing, but not allow it to become an idol. How exactly do we embody a Christian life in the workplace, demonstrating God’s love for our neighbors—or, in this case, our coworkers—and at the same time respecting the work he’s called us to do?
While not exhaustive, here are four practical steps that can help.
1. Arrive on time, but be willing to leave early.
Growing up, many of us are taught that punctuality is an important part of being a mature adult. And that’s not wrong. As a Christian in the workplace, showing up for work on time demonstrates you respect your position and the time your employer is paying you to be there.
In some cases, you might be the only person who shows up on time. It will be noticed (and perhaps sometimes even lovingly mocked). But in the end, you’re establishing yourself as someone who views work as something to be respected and honored (Col. 3:23–24).
Showing up for work on time demonstrates you respect your position and the time your employer is paying you to be there.
On the flip side, employees in today’s workplace are often burdened by workaholism—lived out in the employee who aims to be the last one to turn off the lights, well past closing time. Don’t be that person.
Always be willing to leave on time, or early when appropriate. This demonstrates you are making the best use of your time in the office—not wasting it watching YouTube videos or chatting up your neighbors.
Your willingness to quit working at an appropriate time also demonstrates that work is not your master, that your priorities are not to climb the professional ladder at any cost, and that the relationships you’re building in your personal life matter.
2. Feast with those who feast.
Life can be filled with many pains and sorrows. But it is also filled with joyful celebrations—birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, and engagements. Just like with friends from home or church, celebrating with friends at work should become one of your priorities (Rom. 12:15).
Usually there is one person in the office who organizes personal or professional office celebrations for employees. Aim to be that person—or joyfully assist them.
Usually there is one person in the office who organizes personal or professional office celebrations for employees. Aim to be that person.
Why? In any workplace, there are employees who feel out of place or simply aren’t well-liked among their peers. A recognition of a celebratory event in their lives is one of the easiest ways to let them know they’re important.
Christians should also consider organizing unofficial social events with coworkers. No matter what your life circumstances may be, there are employees who would welcome the chance to have a casual social gathering outside the stresses of the office or their home lives.
Whether or not they show up, people will take heart that you thought of them. They were included and haven’t been forgotten.
3. Pray for your peers.
Throughout God’s Word, we’re called to pray for others (Matt. 5:43–45). But how many of us actually take note of our coworkers’ problems and pray for them? When someone tells you about a challenge, it’s easy to sympathize, but also easy to forget about it as the day goes on.
In this case, some practical steps can help. When someone tells you about their struggles, quietly (or openly, depending on your relationship) pray for them right then. If you’re not in place to do that, put a reminder on a sticky note (or on your phone with an alarm reminder) with the date and person’s name so you can go back and pray for them later.
When someone tells you about their struggles, quietly pray for them right then.
One of my favorite anecdotes from the 2012 election cycle was about then-candidates Rick Santorum and Rick Perry. During a televised debate, both candidates were seated at a table, going back and forth with others about policies they would support as president. During debates, candidates will make handwritten notes of points they want to come back to later.
Santorum turned the discussion to health care, telling about the health challenges his daughter Bella faced. At the end of the debate, the candidates shook hands and parted. But as Santorum walked past Perry’s spot at the table, he looked down and noticed Perry had written down “pray for Bella.”
Prayer is not only effective at changing the lives of others, but it also draws you closer to your peers and even your enemies. It’s difficult to despise people you spend time praying for daily or weekly. The more you pray for them, the better you’re able to truly care for them.
4. Don’t leave before you leave.
The phrase “don’t leave before you leave” was used by Sheryl Sandberg in her popular 2013 book, Lean In, in which she encouraged women to fully invest in their current workplace no matter their future goals.
This same principle can be applied to Christian men and women at work. When an employee is on the way out, he or she may start falling behind on productivity, expecting others to pick up the slack. If you’re a Christian engaging in this behavior, it indicates to your coworkers and bosses that you were only there for what the workplace was offering you, rather than what you were contributing to it.
This is counter to the sacrificial way God’s Word instructs us to live (Phil. 2:3–4). Even after a decision has been made to leave a workplace, the Christian worker should continue to give 100 percent until the last day on the job, to help transition new staff, and/or to leave behind clear transition documents for those who might arrive after you’re gone. The way you leave a workplace is almost as critical as the way you’ve conducted yourself while working there.
By staying fully invested until the last day, you can demonstrate the kind of servant’s heart that is uniquely Christian.