Christian Principles for a Post COVID Workplace

Coronavirus workplace

Andrew Laird from City Bible Forum recently read that lockdown has caused “the biggest shakeup of the Australian workplace since World War II”. It sounds sensational, but on the whole, Vision listeners agree. In a poll on our Facebook, we asked “do you think your workplace after the COVID-19 crisis will look the same as before”? More than 70 per cent said no.

Andrew’s Interview on 20Twenty

And it seems business as usual is off the table for the foreseeable future. Governments have tried to minimise the impact of economic shockwaves through various measures like the Job Keeper program, but if that ends as planned later this year, many more employees could lose their jobs, forcing businesses to fight over even fewer customers.

So how can we as Christians respond to these times? Laird has developed a set of five principles to help guide us through the days ahead, as we gradually return to workplaces that will inevitably be somewhat different to the ones we left a couple of months ago. “” I think those principles relate to whether you’re a CEO or a junior employee,” he said.

Be Patient

Before his interview with 20Twenty’s Neil Johnson, Laird took a 7:30 teleconference via Zoom, then had breakfast with his family and helped his kids get ready for school before returning to work. He’s enjoying not having to endure commutes during Melbourne’s brutal winter. These are just a couple of ways lockdown has offered benefits to some workers, which may be about to disappear.

“What we’re going to be going through has already been and will continue to be disruptive,” Laird said. And there’s going to be some colleagues who’ve loved the working from home, and loved the balance of work and family that they’ve been able to have in this season.”

“Then there’s going to be other colleagues of ours who just can’t wait to get back into the office, or wherever it is they work, and be around their colleagues. And I think we need to have patience as we’re all moving back into this new, post-COVID workplace.”

Some missionaries, when they return to their home countries, feel as out of place as they did when they arrived in the field. “Coming home is almost harder than the original culture shock that they experienced. And I think to some degree we’re all going to experience a degree of reverse culture shock, as we go back into our workplaces. And that’s going to be harder for some people than others.”

Coworkers shaking elbows

Be Humble

Along with patience, Laird says we need to show humility in understanding what our colleagues are going through. “That is being quick to listen to what others have enjoyed, or what others have found difficult, about the last two to three months, and being slow to thinking our way of going back is the best way of going back.”

“But for many, it might also be our customers or our clients as well. They’ve been experiencing business from us in a different form, and in a different fashion in the last few months. And so we need to be listening to them as well.”

Laird gave two examples of customer interactions he’d experienced the previous weekend. Throughout lockdown he’s been supporting his local cafe as much as possible, financially and through prayer. When he realised a takeaway coffee hadn’t been paid for, he went back to fix the error.

“You need to charge me for this,” he said. “Now’s not the time to be giving away a free coffee. And he refused. He said ‘no no, you’ve been a loyal customer during this season. I made the mistake. Have the coffee on me’.”

In the second example, some friends tried to book lunch at a cafe, but were refused because they intended to bring a child. “We understand that the cafe, they’ve been doing it tough for so many months, and they recognise that an adult customer’s going to obviously spend a lot more than a child customer. But you end up being left with a sour taste, and you end up taking your business elsewhere.”

Be Creative

Creativity has already been a make or break necessity for many businesses of late. Andrew’s local cafe, for example, had to introduce a range of new takeaway options to stay open. And COVID-19 has inspired unprecedented adoption of digital technologies, which he says have at times had a really positive impact on communication, especially within national organisations.

But we’ll now need to find creative ways to return to workplaces while keeping our employees safe. “How do we move them around the office with the social distancing restrictions? How do we move people around lifts and office kitchens? Many say that this will be the end of hot-desking, for those offices that have done that previously.”

Creative home office

Be Strategic but Flexible

“Sometimes we might think we should just sit back and let God lead us where he leads us by his spirit. But you do see, certainly the Apostles in the New Testament, Jesus himself, being very strategic in the Ministry that they do, and the work that they do.”

“Paul makes plans, devises strategies. And so God has given us wisdom to try and think about how best we use what we’ve got, in this instance to serve and care for our customers and clients and our employees.”

Though strategy is a God-honouring thing, this crisis has helped Andrew realise that the expression ‘God willing’ should always be on his lips. “We don’t know, as James says, what tomorrow holds. And so we need to be flexible, both to how the Holy Spirit might guide us in a different direction than we might have planned, but also just sitting loosely with our strategy.”

Be Prayerful

Laird believes we would see radical positive change if we were more prayerful about our work. “And that is a principle that is true in all seasons of life, but perhaps especially now as we have been so starkly reminded of how out of control we really are of the future. That has perhaps driven us to our knees, literally or metaphorically, more so in this season.”

“One of the things that I used to do when I commuted to work, which I haven’t done for a while now, was to try and start the day with prayer about my work for the day, and just bring before God the different meetings that I had ahead, the things that were troubling or concerning me, the things I was excited about doing that day, and just offering each one of them up to Him.”

“I confess that so often I would spend far more time worrying about them, or thinking about them, or scheming about them in my own mind, without also adding in what should have been the first point, which is prayerfulness.”

Many Christians worry that running your business according to Biblical values might make it tough to compete with others that aren’t behaving ethically. But Laird says if we pray for wisdom, God has promised to grant it. And God has also promised to reward our acts of Christlike selflessness, by saying to us “well done, good and faithful servant”. (Philippians’ 2 NKJV)

“And I’m persuaded that when we bring that attitude to our workplaces, that will be unmistakable. I saw it in my cafe owner on the weekend, just in a very small way. And as we do that in small and in big ways through this season, our colleagues, our clients, our customers, they are going to notice.”

“And my prayer and hope is that as they notice our heart of service, that that might actually prompt them to say what drives you to put your interests aside for the sake of others? And it may give us opportunities in this season to speak of the tremendous way that God has served us.”

Andrew Laird offers more great tips and advice in his recent conversation with Neil Johnson on Vision’s 20Twenty. Listen to the podcast for more great insights on why running a biblically sound business might bring Earthly success, as well as what businesses can teach Churches about the challenges of leaving lockdown.

Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.

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