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Ministry of Social Development – Providing employees with a space to reflect

multifaith room msd
Multi-faith room at the Ministry of Social Development

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) cares about its employees’ spiritual wellbeing, the spiritual essence of an employees life force – their mauri.

In March 2022, MSD received a request from their Muslim employees asking for a prayer space during Ramadan. Together with their pan-Asian employee-led network and diversity and inclusion steering group, MSD has designed a dedicated space that is available to all employees.

Ambika Malik, Senior Advisor – People Experience, MSD, explained: “As an organisation it was important for us to provide our employees with a space for their spiritual wellbeing.”

Consultation for this project was vital. MSD sought feedback from their Muslim employees throughout the country to hear what they needed in a prayer space. The Workplace Services team, who look after their sites, used this feedback to help determine the space requirements.

Through this process, MSD found that they had an urgent need for a space in Wellington. They found and removed a suitable meeting room from their booking system.

In April 2022 MSD created a peaceful space with meditation cushions, a smaller table with chairs for group prayer, a cupboard for storage and a shoe rack. The room is intentionally minimal so that it is inclusive of all employees enabling them to feel comfortable and respected.

Feedback on the prayer room has been very positive. One MSD employee said: “This may be a small gesture yet it goes a long way, and I am very touched by this. Knowing that I have a space to practise my faith at work is very meaningful to me, as I am sure it would be for my Muslim brothers and sisters too. It is not always easy to explain to non-Muslim colleagues about Ramadan and my religious practice. This small gesture is just awesome and a good talking point.”

Ambika explained: “While the space had initially been set aside as a prayer room, it is now available to all employees who need some time away from their desk. For example, they may be returning from bereavement leave, have brain fog from COVID-19, or just need quiet reflection – A space to reflect inwardly.”

Baolin Liu, Senior Workplace Specialist at MSD, discussed how the project came with some flexibility. They regularly check in with employees that use the space on what they can improve. Like many agencies, MSD is working within an existing office space. “For example, some cultures require washing facilities, but the meeting room was never designed to come with a hand basin,”

Baolin said. “The team worked together and resolved the issue by utilising the existing washing facilities on the floor.” In addition, the team has recently added room dividers in this space, enabling the users of different groups to share the room simultaneously, without compromising their privacy.

The prayer room is well used and currently self-managed by employees, either through a Teams messenger group or on a list attached to the door. MSD are monitoring the capacity needs and are looking to see how they can support their employees in their other workplaces around the country.