17 November 2016

Clergy & A Happy Workforce

After chatting about clergy work hours and unions, we wanted to explore the field more, and came across a lecture opportunity too good to turn up! On Monday, we attended a public lecture by Tanja Van Der Lippe, an internationally renowned researcher who specialises in sociology, workplaces, and the impact of workplace productivity.

For the past 5 years, she has been exploring what makes for a sustainable and happy workforce, including the option of working from home. The benefits of conducting such a large study is that her results prove very useful for the general public, enabling organisations to explore better ways to not only become more productive, but also to have satisfied and happy employees (more details on their website here).
This study explored how each organisation worked and what Work-Life Policies they had in place to look after their employees. These policies included the availability of Flexible Hours/Ability to Work from Home; Nutritional Menus/Healthy Catering; Sports Facilities; Health Promoting Ergonomic Facilities; Health Checks; Better or Longer Leave; Child-Care Assistance; Additional Leave/Extra Days Off; Lighter Workloads, and Semi-Retirement.

After hearing their early findings, we wanted to share with you some insights and the questions they raised for us about the clergy workplace:
  • They found that the MORE satisfied an employee was in their job, the BETTER their performance was likely to be, including being willing to put in some extra effort.
  • When Work-Life policies were in place for employees, their job satisfaction was higher, even if they didn't use them all. Why? They believe this is because the Work-Life Policies from management show a genuine care for their employees, so they feel more supported and more satisfied, which results in being willing to work harder.
  • Interestingly, even if every Work-Life policy was available, not everyone used them all - nor did they need to, to feel satisfied and supported in their job. The most popular policies used were Nutritional Menus/Healthy Catering; Sports Facilities & Health Promoting Ergonomic Facilities.
  • While there are many benefits from working at home (ie. increased ability to focus and more autonomy), they found some unexpected negatives. The top ones included a greater ability to avoid doing work (!), increased effort was needed to communicate with colleagues, and there was more isolation from others. In fact, the more people worked from home, the less productive their colleagues at work were!
While reflecting on this lecture, we found ourselves returning to the need for consistency in work policies and care of clergy workers. Tanja's findings raised some interesting questions for us about the clergy work environment:
  • What Work-Life Policies are consistently available for clergy workers?
  • Are these policies easily accessible and their use supported by church or denominational managers?
  • Are any of the most frequently used Work-Life Policies available at individual churches or regions? For example, do clergy have easy access to good nutritional catering, sports facilities, or ergonomic equipment to care for their overall health?
  • What is a good balance between working at home vs working at the office to ensure your ministry team is as productive as possible?
  • Are there ways to reduce the effort it takes to communicate with your team if you don't have a shared work space?
While each denomination has their own policies and needs, we continue to wonder whether formal, national workforce policies will not only better care for clergy workers, but also mean they are able to work more productively in the position God has placed them.
Tanja was kind enough to point us in the direction of a researcher exploring not-for-profit organisations. We hope we will be able to add to this research over the coming months, as well as our own denominational policies.

~ Rachel
A big thank you to Matt & Dave for their lecture notes and thoughts on this challenging topic!

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