In the cutthroat world of business and breadwinning, there has been little room for spirituality or the soul.
Until now.That's not to say that you'll soon find a chapel in every office building, but it does signal a shift - one that marries some "Godly" qualities with sound business practices.
Charity, community, and the worth of the individual are some of the freshest concepts being integrated into the corporate mentality. And, according to some Utah businesses, this new approach to work - one that focuses on values, service and even a bit of "spirituality" - seems to be paying off for both workers and their employers.
"We've noticed in the literature that a lot of management gurus are mentioning the return of spirituality in the workplace. Or for those who thought it was never there, that it's creeping in," said Arlene Chemers, vice president of learning and development at OCM Inc., a local corporate outplacement company.
Chemers, who wrote an article on the subject for her company's newsletter, said in years past, many workers have felt that the "dog-eat-dog" corporate environment made it necessary to keep their home persona separate from their work persona.
"People were essentially leaving their souls at the door of their work," she said. "Who they were at home was different from who they were at work."
Being pulled in divergent directions was bound to take its toll on workers' lives and their job satisfaction, Chemers said. It left them looking for something different, something missing.
"I knew one man who replaced, for a time, his family, his religion and community with work," said Dave Hilbig, president and CEO of OCM. "Then he got laid off. And suddenly, it was like he said, `Whoops. What have I done?'
"There isn't the loyalty that once existed, from employers or their employees. So I think people are looking for an anchor. They're looking for anchors in their work, and they're looking for something more meaningful."
OCM tries to provide some of that for their clients, many of whom are workers in transition (people who have been displaced due to layoffs or downsizing). In addition to career counseling and job training, OCM includes an examination of their clients' personal goals and values as an integral part of their service.
"Sometimes, it means placing someone back into accounting where they came from," said Hilbig. "But other times, looking at a person's value system leads them in a completely different direction."
One of OCM's former clients, Tika Beard, went from her management job in women's health care to founding her own project, the Cancer Wellness House. Through their involvement in Beard's career counseling, three of OCM's employees became committed to her vision of providing a haven for cancer patients. They now serve on the board of directors.
OCM is just one of many Utah companies looking to integrate the soul back into the workplace, through employee input in formulating the company's mission statement and other policy decisions, participation in service projects and enhancing the employee's identity on the job and in the community.
Bonneville International Corp. is another.
"We have for many years listed as one of our core values, service. In order to do that, it needs to go beyond what the corporation can do" through formal BIC financial contributions and service projects, said Don Gale, vice president for news and public affairs.
"We need to walk our talk, and encourage our employees to get involved in their communities - to make service a part of their lives as well as BIC's corporate life."
Apparently, it's working.
Last year, BIC divisions and employees contributed community services worth more than $16 million, according to their annual "Values Report." Their employees tallied more than 19,000 hours of volunteer service with 475 community groups.
"That's down from last year," Gale said. "We went through some corporate restructuring, buying some stations and selling others. This year, we'll do better than that."
BIC has also added a policy allowing its employees 20 hours of paid leave to do volunteer work with the organization or cause of their choice, Gale said.
When you think about it, it just makes good business sense, Gale said.
"It's not only a good thing to do. In addition to being good for the community, it's wise. When people are happier, they are more productive. And, they see that their service benefits the communities in which we all live."
"If you feel like you're doing something beneficial, it's a lot better than putting together widgets on an assembly line."
Researchers also suggest other reasons for the move toward a "holistic" approach to work in America.
Some suggest that our increased life expectancy, combined with a more affluent lifestyle, has opened the door for examining issues like worker satisfaction.
When the country was young, and more people worked on the land, thoughts of job satisfaction were often pushed aside. Survival was the measure of satisfaction.
According to Kevin Cashman, founder of an international leadership and executive coaching firm, moving from the age of industry to the age of technology has opened up a whole new world for many Americans: the emergence of "wants" in people's lives, which can often be confused with their "needs."
In his book "Leadership From the Inside Out," Cashman quoted Will Rogers, who said, "Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't need, to impress the people they don't like."
Cashman goes on to say that the more people work, and the more they work to acquire things that don't satisfy their more fundamental goals - or work for people who demand that from them - the more dissatisfied they become.
He advocates returning to core values - seeking spiritual balance, renewing close relationships, and reprioritizing life choices to favor long-term growth.
All this is not an attempt to advocate religion on the job, said Hilbig.
And the employee feedback from BIC employees indicates it's not just New Age psychobabble, either, said Gale.
Instead, for many corporations it's a "win-win" situation.
"I don't know that people are going to find God at work," Hilbig said. "But, on the other hand, if the workplace is more consistent with a positive value system, and if an organization can help facilitate that through service projects or other activities, everybody wins. The company wins, the employee wins and society wins."