Witness and the workplace
By Tiffany Atkins
If there’s one skill I’ve honed since March 2020 it’s the ability to be flexible! Living in an ever-changing landscape of normality, we’ve all had to adjust to the different impacts of changing restrictions and freedoms. Six months down the line and once again we have been asked to work from home wherever possible.
According to the ONS in 2019 5.1% of people worked exclusively from home. That figure had risen to 38% by June of this year, with 49% working some of the time from home.
There have been many benefits cited for this shift in work practice. People have said they find it easier to concentrate at home, they have a better routine, they enjoy the flexibility of being able to spend more time with their families. Time spent commuting is saved, as well as money on petrol, public transport, parking, and eating out for lunch. People have got to know their neighbours better, and have been able to fit domestic jobs into their day.
With the reported increase in mental wellbeing from these benefits it is not surprising that one survey found 91% of office-workers have said they would like to work from home long-term.
But for some there are also challenges. A home environment with shared space or young children is not always conducive to being an effective worker. Some have reported they feel lonely and unmotivated working alone. The usual on hand advice or opportunity to discuss challenging matters needs to be scheduled in instead. Some have felt they need to be more proactive in building a sense of team with their co-workers, especially if team leadership is not strong. There can be different expectations from bosses and it can be harder to balance work and home-life. And then there’s the laptop pose back-ache!
Many of us see our work environment and our colleagues as the place which God has called us to, and the people God has put in our life to bear witness to. How do we do that without those ‘water-cooler moments’ and lunch-break chats? It has been said that we witness more by the life we lead than the words we say, but again how do we do this when we are living and working from the privacy of our own homes?
The Biscuit Trail is a great resource for helping us think through how we can be a witness at work. It looks at different doable steps of faith we can take with our colleagues such as:
1. Building trust and being able to speak to someone’s situation 2. Inviting people who are interested in exploring faith into a Christian community 3. Living a life that demands an explanation 4. Praying for people at work 5. Opening the Bible with colleagues 6. Sharing your story 7. Building a friendship 8. Finding out someone’s perception of Jesus 9. Telling them you’re a Christian 10. Finding out someone’s spiritual background 11. Explaining the gospel and 12. Making the gospel relevant to work and life.
From a brief informal ‘survey’ I carried out with a number of Christians currently working from home it would seem a lot of these things have been harder not being in the workplace. However, there are things that are still possible, in particular, building trust, living a life that demands an explanation, praying for colleagues, building friendships and making the gospel relevant. One software engineer commented that he had actually found it easier to mention his faith in a virtual talk than he did in face to face contact.
It is tempting to think this is a temporary state of affairs, we can put these things on hold until normality resumes. Yet as one NHS worker pointed out:
“I think we are a really long way off returning to our regular workplace so I think the challenge really is thinking about how to be able to explain the Gospel in conversations in the weeks ahead.”
How do we do this?
Pray: In Ephesians 6:18-20 Paul asks for the church to pray for him and the Lord’s people for words to fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel for which he is an ambassador. So, let’s pray, for each other, for those fearless words and to be ambassadors. Pray for our colleagues. Pray for opportunities to explain the gospel in your work community. Put this in your daily routine, the time you might have otherwise spent on your daily commute. Pray with thankfulness that you have a job when so many are out of work.
Work hard. Colossians 3:23 calls us to work with all our hearts as for the Lord. We have an audience of one. How much more should we be aware of this when not always under the scrutiny of our bosses. In doing this we honour God and act with integrity.
Walk the walk: In 2 Corinthians 2:14 we learn that we are the aroma of Jesus. It’s harder to bring that fragrance into a Zoom call but we can still bring an attitudinal aroma. Spread the scent of the fruit of the Spirit with humility and love.
Be intentional: it is harder to build those relationships when not sharing the downtimes at work or having the opportunity to pick up on overheard conversations. But how much more do we need that personal connection! Take the initiative to ask how a colleague is doing, be vulnerable, share some of your own struggles and hope. Encourage an environment of openness where others will feel valued and listened to. Create the space wherever possible to have those conversations. Then be prepared to give the reason for the hope you have.
Let us embrace the changes and trust that God is still sovereign and people need to know Him.
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