I work in an office where everyone is busy with pressing matters—there isn’t a lot of down time to chat or build robust relationships. In that context, what are concrete ways I can love my neighbor at work?
It seems that COVID has made most offices incredibly busy, sometimes from afar. Whether your neighbor is drowning in work just down the hall or across town in their own home, loving them has become far more difficult during this season.
So, this excellent question leads us to answer what God says about loving our neighbors well, as well as how we might practically do so in the chaos and potential stress of a busy office.
First, Love God
Jesus told his followers to love their neighbors as themselves (Mark 12:31), but not before reminding them of the greatest commandment––that they should love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).
We must first love God with all of us, including our work, before we can love our neighbor well.
From the greatest commandment flows the second. We must first love God before we can love our neighbor well. So, are you loving God and working as unto him? Are you lightening the load of your coworkers by carrying your own with excellence, intentionality, and joy?
Doing our work well brings glory to the Creator of both the work and the worker. In this, even the most menial task becomes important and even the most chaotic workplace an arena where we can feel God’s presence and his peace.
Next, Love Others
Practically, when seeking to love our neighbors as ourselves, we should ask how we tend to love ourselves. What makes you feel most loved at work? What do you wish your coworkers would do to support you?
As I’ve asked this question over the years, I’ve often heard colleagues say they want to know they are appreciated; they want an adequate amount of help and collaboration with a team; they want to be celebrated when they do good work.
Here are five ways to do just that.
Often, we view prayer as something that isn’t noticed. Although we’d never say it aloud, our actions sometimes reveal our belief that prayer isn’t really doing anything. Yet, advocating for our neighbors before our holy Father is the most powerful action we can take on their behalf. Listen for prayer requests as coworkers mention their challenges, and spend time praying for them while commuting each day.
Getting to know others in the small margins of the day is an excellent way to love your neighbor as yourself.
2. Be intentional.
When you have a few minutes between meetings or while grabbing a cup of coffee, don’t stay glued to your phone, refreshing your email. Ask about your coworker’s family. Discuss their child’s weekend soccer game. Intentionally get to know them, taking interest in their lives outside of work and following up on what they tell you in future conversations. Getting to know others in the small margins of the day is an excellent way to love your neighbor as yourself.
3. Speak encouragement.
I’ve had a couple of bosses in my time in the professional world who would write notes to tell me of the potential they saw in me. Many also intentionally spoke encouraging words to me in meetings or in passing, especially if they knew I had a particularly chaotic week of work. This requires intentionality and thinking of others before yourself. It is an excellent example of the selflessness of Christ and the kindness of his heart to those around you. This doesn’t just have to come from a boss––you can encourage those under, above, and around you on the organizational chart. Jesus had a way of seeing and knowing people and speaking to their need, and we can imitate him in this discipline.
An offer like, ‘I have an extra hour today. How can I spend it helping you?’ almost always results in an opportunity to really serve someone.
4. Seek to help.
It seems so simple, but when coworkers genuinely ask, “What can I do to help?” I feel incredibly loved. The most effective offer I’ve received is one with a specific time frame, since it validated the offer and disarmed my quick “Oh no, I’m fine. You are busy, too” answer. An offer like, “I have an extra hour today. How can I spend it helping you?” almost always results in an opportunity to really serve someone—and you may get them home to their family an hour earlier if that project was going to keep them at the office late!
5. Ask God to open your eyes to opportunities to serve.
Your coworker may be facing a challenge hidden from your sight. Maybe they have a sick spouse or a parent with a disheartening diagnosis. Maybe your coworker could benefit from a meal brought to their home, a gift card to a restaurant, or an offer to take on a bit more responsibility so they can handle a crisis. Ask God to help you really see your neighbor and their needs, being attentive to how you might be a light in the darkness for them.
Even the busiest offices can convey an astounding amount of God’s peace as his people love their neighbors well. In chaos or what feels like darkness, he can provide both order and light through you.
As we carry Christ’s presence into our places of work, may we reveal our Creator who has kindly given us work to do, and may we love those he’s intentionally placed in our orbit.