The Journal of Employee Assistance

4th Quarter – October 2013 issue – Vol. 43, No. 4.

Spiritual Wellness in the Workplace

Although a chaplain may work with an EA professional to assist with an illness, death, or other periods of stress, as noted the services complement, but are not the same as, an EAP.

By Paul P. Jesep, JD, MPS, MA

Spiritual health and wellness – of which chaplains are a key component – complement the expertise that employee assistance professionals offer in terms of treatment for addiction, and behavioral and mental health.

 Spiritual services were originally Christian-based and many still are, depending on the country, region, and even the tone set by management. However, as EAP practitioners are well aware, the workplace is ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse ranging from Sikh to Humanist to Christian. Therefore, spiritual services must be sensitive to this diversity to strengthen the company, empower the employee, and spare the organization from needless litigation by demonstrating religious preference.

 However, business, corporate and industrial chaplains have evolved to become secular and multicultural due to the necessities of workplace diversity. In fact, regardless of whether the individual offering these services is called a “spiritual coach,” “spiritual adviser,” or “chaplain,” – and whether this person is used at an organizational level or retained by individual employees – there is a growing trend toward greater use of professional spiritual services (PSS).

As stated, chaplains offer services that support and complement the EAP. In substance abuse, for example, EAPs have training to deal with the mental and physical factors stemming from chemical dependence that chaplains typically do not. However, chaplains and other PSS broaden the equation to make it mind, body, and soul, underscoring a total approach to health.

The Changing Face of Chaplains

 Chaplains are typically certified after a brief period of study, but this is not adequate to serve growing workplace needs. The chaplain profession must evolve, similar to military chaplains who are responsive to a wide range of spiritual backgrounds, including atheists.

Although a chaplain may work with an EA professional to assist with an illness, death, or other periods of stress, as noted the services complement, but are not the same as, an EAP. Sometimes the mere presence of a chaplain can help in a unique way, such as during a downsizing.

Unless chaplains hold clinical degrees and licenses, their role is pastoral or spiritual, and not medical. A handful of psychiatry courses offered online or in a seminary does not make a person a social worker or mental health professional.

The extent of the employees’ education will also affect the chaplain’s role. A primarily degreed, educated workforce may not have the same spiritual needs as assembly line employees or factory workers. Race, gender, and culture can also play a role. A predominant Catholic workforce in Mexico may have an appreciation for Our Lady of Guadalupe. On the other hand, urban entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley may be wrestling with issues related to cosmology.

Moreover, a person who is indifferent to religion has a different spiritual need that not all chaplains are equipped to address. These individuals may require a spiritual coach and may not want to pray.

Chaplains in the Workplace

A chaplain typically works in tandem with EA and HR professionals. Chaplains serve on staff or work under contract. In addition, EAP practitioners could assume spiritual duties and consult with a chaplain. Depending on the company, chaplains often visit with staff for up to five minutes, no more than once a week, when not seeing employees during a break or after hours, and only if requested.

However, it’s still important for the chaplain to be visible in the workplace. Making “the rounds” lays a foundation that underscores the availability of spiritual support. During an orientation, the chaplain explains his/her service as being secular, voluntary, and confidential. A fee is assessed based on company size and the extent of the services, which could include 24/7 availability.

Because an increasing number of families and individuals do not have a formal faith community (church, mosque, temple, synagogue, etc.) they utilize a corporate chaplain for weddings, hospital visits, and other services.

The lack of a formal faith community underscores the growing interest in chaplains and PSS. While traditional worship is declining in many cases, people remain interested in spirituality. They have a desire for something that transcends the pressures of everyday life, and chaplains and PSS help address this need.

Considering PSS

EA professionals should listen to managers and workers to determine whether PSS are right for a specific corporate client. Consider an employee survey to assess the need and interest.

Regardless, the workplace at all times must be “spiritually safe” whether it’s for one atheist in an office of 45 believers, or two Wiccans in a small company of primarily Jews and Christians. Chaplains never show religious preference. (Editor’s note: Additional recommendations on whether the EAP should offer these types of services are presented in the accompanying story, “Should EAPs Offer Spiritual Support?”)


While there are legal and ethical issues that need to be considered before starting PSS in a given workplace, there are also clear benefits. Surveys and feedback show a correlation between corporate chaplains and a decline in areas such as absenteeism, tardiness, stress, and anxiety. Conversely, chaplains also help increase job safety, loyalty and satisfaction. Chaplains offer a calming outlet for employees to vent, enabling them to better focus on their job. This can also reduce the chances for destructive outlets such as bullying or substance abuse.

In addition, because chaplaincy is not limited to a single department, spiritual professionals can address collective concerns of employees without breaching confidentiality.

Who Uses Chaplains and PSS?

Although companies have used PSS for several decades, they may be popular in some parts of a country, but a novelty in other regions of the same nation. Each country has unique legal and cultural considerations. Local and national laws may determine how PSS is used, but custom and cultural attitudes may influence use of these services as well.

 In the United States, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits religious discrimination by employers, protects against mandatory religious participation, and requires reasonable workplace accommodations for faith – this is in addition to a plethora of state laws. Conversely, Australia has more of a patchwork of federal and local laws, while China respects religious diversity, but with limitations. These are just a few examples.

Chaplains serve businesses in Canada, Mexico, Australia, parts of Europe, and the United States. Austaco, Tyson Foods, Allied Holdings, Hobby Lobby, American LubeFast and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. are among the companies using chaplains.

Most use a traditional chaplain or prefer to discuss secular spiritual issues (such as, why success does not equal fulfillment). However, some high-level executives prefer a spiritual adviser, a kind of life coach, to a chaplain. Other executives use unconventional approaches such as psychics and tarot card readers.

This is not to suggest that chaplaincy should include these areas, but it underscores an unmet spiritual need that is affecting decisions, for better or worse, in the workplace. In my travels, I have met entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, senior bank executives, and other professionals who consult chaplains and spiritual advisers as often as they would a doctor or therapist.


Many corporate chaplains profess neutrality in the workplace while remaining grounded in a specific faith tradition. This is not problematic as long as there is a genuine respect and openness to other religions and individuals who are atheist, agnostic, Humanist, or otherwise non-religious although still spiritual.

The hallmarks of an ethical, professional chaplain are trust, respect, and developing personal relationships. With few exceptions, companies retaining chaplains must be mindful of chaplain-employee confidentiality. In the broadest sense, PSS complements mind and body wellness programs with a significant, documented benefit.

Paul Jesep works with entrepreneurs and business leaders on personal spirituality and he consults on spiritual health and wellness programs. He is the founder of and author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically.”


Jung, C.G. (1933).  Modern Man in Search of a Soul (pp. 196-244).  New York:  Harcourt, Brace& World, Inc.

Keillor, Garrison (1999).  Faith at the Speed of Light.  Time, 14 (June).  Retrieved from,9171,991211,00.html#ixzz2R7bhP9w7.

Oppenheimer, Mark (2012).  The Rise of the Corporate Chaplain.  Bloomberg Businessweek, 23 (August). Retrieved from

Corporate Chaplains – Praying for Gain (2007).  The Economist, 23 (August).


The Journal of Employee Assistance

4th Quarter – October 2013 issue – Vol. 43, No. 4.


 Should EAPs Offer Spiritual Support?

As noted in the main article, spiritual health and wellness complements the expertise offered by EAPs. However, while a natural relationship exists between the two, spirituality remains distinct – with its own “language,” and educational and administrative requirements – which can surpass the normal functions of EAPs.

Therefore, the considerations below are designed to help determine whether a specific EAP should offer professional spiritual services (PSS). The list is not complete, but it still presents some of the key distinctions between EAPs and PSS.

 * Should 24/7 spiritual counseling be available? This could include presiding at a marriage, offering a prayer on a sickbed, or being available to talk during a crisis at 2 a.m.

 * Does the EA professional have a background in world religions and different faith traditions? Today’s workplaces are diverse and include people who are Hindu, Shinto, Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, Mormon, Buddhist, Humanist, Christian, even atheists. In addition, depending on the country and region, the workforce may be overwhelmingly Christian, but may reflect different theologies (Catholic compared to Lutheran, Anglican, or Southern Baptist, for instance).

 * Can the EA professional be neutral when speaking with an employee on a personal spiritual level? It is common to wear religious jewelry in the workplace, but an EA professional may need to consider not displaying personal items such as crucifixes, etc. Moreover, sometimes individuals are very committed to their religion, but unconsciously uncomfortable with a different tradition. Could an EA professional who is a devout Christian speak neutrally about spiritually and offer support to a Sikh or an atheist?

* Can the EA professional comfortably engage with employees? Would the practitioner be willing to explore Sikhism to assist certain employees? Would the EA professional be willing to serve as a facilitator by locating local spiritual resources like a mullah? An EAP practitioner does not have to be an expert on spirituality or world religions, but he or she should have a basic understanding to help craft the right questions.

 * Is the EA professional pastoral and spiritual? Spirituality is not clinical or medical. The EAP practitioner must have a secular, universal, cosmological grounding. He or she should wrestle with larger transcendental questions, which will provide the professional with a varied spiritual perspective.


EAPs have long shown the ability to assist with the mind and body, and so bringing matters of the soul into the equation add a needed, but too often overlooked third dimension. However, whether the EAP should offer these services depends on factors such as personal views, workplace population, and whether outside support is available if needed.   EA professionals considering offering spiritual services may find two chapters in Carl Jung’s book Modern Man in Search of a Soul of particular interest, “Psychotherapists or the Clergy” and “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man.”

Paul Jesep works with entrepreneurs and business leaders on personal spirituality and he consults on spiritual health and wellness programs. He is the founder of and author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically.”