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4 Steps to Accommodating All Religions, Spiritualities, and Beliefs in the Workplace

Diversity & Inclusion

Soft Skills

4 Steps to Accommodating All Religions, Spiritualities, and Beliefs in the Workplace

Employees around the globe find meaning in religion. Religion can be a major part of personal identity for employees, but it can also be a large part of cultural and interpersonal conflict. In many places, religion is considered a protected characteristic, meaning that employees are protected from harassment and discrimination based on religion. But what do these terms really mean? Let’s talk about what religions, spiritualities, and beliefs truly are, and how they can be accommodated for employees in a diverse and inclusive workplace.

What Does Religion or Spirituality Mean to You?

Terms like religion and spirituality can be hard to define because they mean different things to different people. When talking about religion and spirituality, it’s important to have an understanding of the concepts of belief and practice, as well as how belief and practice intertwine. In this situation, a belief might be something like “there is one god,” or “there are many gods living in the natural world.”

A practice, on the other hand, is something that you do. Some examples of religious practices include prayer or meditation, reading religious texts, and festivals and holidays, like Obon in Japan, the Hindu festival of Diwali, the Christian observance of Christmas, or the Islamic observance of Eid al-Adha. In many cases, it can be difficult to separate religion from culture at large, because their practices are often intertwined in everyday life.

Benefits of Integrating Religion, Spirituality, and Beliefs in the Workplace

In order to promote a more positive work environment, it is important to explore the topics of Religion, Spirituality, and Beliefs and their relationships among coworkers. Integrating these conversations into your company can better educate learners on their right to a discrimination-free workplace, and can help create a more inclusive environment where employees feel supported and free to be their authentic selves. It will also teach supervisors how to recognize reasonable requests for religious accommodations, preventing discrimination.

Recent studies show that organizations with above-average diversity were better able to respond to customer needs, reported as better places to work, and 19% more profitable, and that millennials are 83% more likely to be engaged in their work when their company provides an inclusive culture. With those statistics in mind, let’s talk about the best ways to accommodate religions, spiritualities, and beliefs in your diverse workplace.

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1. Establish organizational policies

Around the world, several laws protect employees from discrimination based on religion. A few examples are Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in the U.S., the Canadian Human Rights Act, the United Kingdom Equality Act of 2010, or the Labor Standards Law, and the Constitution of Japan. One common thread among these laws is the need to establish organizational policies or a Code of Conduct.

Features of these policies related to religious practice or spiritual expression may include the respectful use of language among colleagues, as well as guidelines for a dress code. For example, workplace dress codes that ban all head coverings disadvantage people whose religious practices include regularly wearing head coverings. Protected religious accommodations as outlined in your company policies can allow for employees to ask for a change or exception, such as grooming or dress code policies.

2. Educate and engage employees

Another step toward accommodating different beliefs in the workplace is hosting a diversity awareness training. Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DEI) courses can help an organization flourish by helping employees understand why it’s important to embrace the skills and abilities of people from different cultures, religions, and ethnicities. For example, bystander intervention training can help equip employees to address, intervene, and halt inappropriate behavior before it rises to the level of harassment, as well as how to provide support to a victim of microaggressions or discrimination in the workplace.

Education about diversity can also incorporate tools like cultural humility that employees can practice in the workplace. Cultural humility is the practice of being open-minded and respectful toward cultures you are not a part of and teaches us to listen to others without expressing judgment of their beliefs and practices. Being culturally humble means committing to a lifetime of listening and learning, and never assuming we know everything there is to know about another’s culture. It means owning up when we make mistakes and working to make them right. Practicing cultural humility can help create workplaces that are inclusive of people no matter their religious or spiritual background or practices — or lack thereof.

3. Offer floating holidays

When it comes to providing paid time off, it can be beneficial to offer floating holidays which allow employees to take a paid day off to correlate with a religious/spiritual celebration, or at the time of their choosing. For some employees, this may even mean taking a floating holiday to celebrate their birthday with time off from work. When you offer an equal amount of time off for all team members, which should include an appropriate number to cover holiday celebrations, you are showing respect for the different practices of each person’s religion or spiritual practice. This floating holiday or flexible scheduling can also extend to inclusive team celebrations — use a shared calendar to choose office party dates together, which will prevent them from falling on any religious holidays.

4. Be respectful

Ultimately, accommodating religious beliefs in the workplace is about being respectful to your employees and coworkers. Different cultural beliefs and ethical principles can cause conflict among co-workers or even lead to religious discrimination, which happens when someone is treated differently because of their religion — or lack of spirituality or beliefs. Teaching a culture of respect takes a large amount of cultural humility, which is an attitude that often comes from the top down. Respecting each other’s beliefs also does not mean avoiding conversations about them. Cultural humility is all about learning and listening, and requires us to recognize that respect is not about memorizing stereotypes and rules but about genuine human understanding, empathy, and acceptance of others for who they are.

Workplace training on religion, spirituality, and beliefs can help create an inclusive, positive workplace environment. EasyLlama’s Religion, Spirituality, and Beliefs course educates employees on their rights and responsibilities when it comes to religion and beliefs in the workplace, providing tools that employees can use to create an inclusive workplace. Ready to learn more about our suite of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity courses for your company? Access your free course preview today to learn more.

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