Arts & Humanities: Don't Leave College Without Them

While these top-down measures to reconnect with humanity might help with the issue of workplace disengagement, they serve only as the Band-Aid on a much deeper wound. It’s true that we tend to prefer work that feels meaningful in the commu- nity and facilitates tangible human interaction, but we’d be remiss to think these are the only two nec- essary components of workplace engagement and satisfaction. Think, for instance, of a supermarket cashier: though we might concede that her work has a clearly defined community meaning and ena - bles frequent human contact, such a profession, we’d likely agree, probably doesn’t challenge the cashier to the extent that other careers do. Indeed, we’re unlikely to consider this work “engaging” for its failure to cultivate the cashier’s most distinctly human passions and talents (it’s doubtful that the cashier’s previous education and life experiences have directed her to scan barcodes for 8 hours a day). The same, though less obviously so, can be said for certain jobs in the corporate workspace; even if Becky and Brad were reminded every day that their work is meaningful in the community, di- rectly appreciated by fellow humans, and impact- ful in the world outside of work, they still may face a sort of existential longing to further apply their intellect and their passions. Luckily, this intellectual longing comes at a perfect time; for the first time in human history, there is an additional incentive to pick a mentally stimulat- ing profession. Indeed, not only might Millennials, like Becky and Brad, desire to perform work that reflects their unique human capabilities, but they also might be required to choose such creativity-

sparking, intellectually-challenging, distinctly human vocations based on the risk that [cheaper and more reliable] automation technology will overtake their non-distinctly human tasks. As worded by prominent data scientist and Kaggle CEO Anthony Goldbloom: We have no chance at competing against ma- chines on frequent, high volume tasks. But there are things we can do far better than ma- chines, like handling novel tasks…. Humans have the ability to connect seemingly disparate threads to tackle problems we’ve never seen be- fore. Two Oxfords researchers, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, confirm this theory in their groundbreaking 2013 study “The Future of Em - ployment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Comput- erization”. While they estimate 86% of “highly creative professions” face “low to no risk of au- tomation”, the future is less optimistic across the board, where they estimate that 47% of current job categories, including typically high collar professions such as accountancy, legal work, and technical writing, are at high risk of automation. For more anecdotal proof, look no further than the disengaged supermarket cashier, whose work is already in the process of being replaced by self-checkout machines, the global count of which London-based research and consulting group estimates to exceed 335,000 by 2020.

Yahoo, Samsung have strategically designed their offices in order to minimize “cubicle”-induced sepa - ration and maximize communal spaces and “face-to- face” interaction, which they’ve deemed “the most important activity in an office, by far” (Waber and Magnolfi, et al). Freelancers, technologists, program - mers have recognized this benefit as well by actively seeking out “coworking spaces” in which they can work side-by-side in a common space rather than at home in isolation; a recent Deskmag survey suggested the overwhelming benefits of coworking, with 75% reporting increased productivity and 80% reporting an increased business network (“First Results”).

how unappreciated and unnoticed digital work can feel for a worker, many corporations have begun to actively build close relationships with their employ- ees and provide tangible feedback, a measure that’s had a significant positive effect on worker morale (Harrison and Ahmad, et al). Corporations have simi- larly taken note of Millennials’ altruistic tendencies, with the UN Global Compact engaging 8,000 com- panies in more than 145 countries on social issues ranging from preventing human rights to pushing environmentally-friendly practices, in response to demands for more corporate social responsibility and engagement with humanity (Kell).

Fortunately, the study of this distinctly human potential, and how to best cultivate it, has exist-

Employers are also looking inward to increase their workers’ engagement with humanity. In recognizing

Work as the Exercise of Intellectual Virtue


Arts & Humanities

Don’t Leave College Without Them


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