Public Square

Humanizing the Workplace

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Can work ever become dehumanizing? In an economic atmosphere where jobs are scarce and many firms and offices are known for cutthroat competitiveness, many people are asking themselves what a healthy work environment looks like.

A recent article by Bethany Jenkins at the Gospel Coalition addressed this issue, opening with a story about an investment banker who collapsed on the job due to overwork.

Jenkins said,

Overworking to the point of exhaustion is dehumanizing. It’s treating employees as cogs in a machine, not as fully human people who need rest and leisure. Yet overworking is not the only way our work environments can be dehumanized. How does your company, for example, promote continuing education? Does it offer proper job training for your role? Are all people treated with dignity? Is innovation encouraged at all levels?

Last week, Redeemer Presbyterian’s Center for Faith and Work hosted a conference entitled “Humanizing Work: Work as Expression, Not the Source of Identity,” in order to explore what makes a healthy workplace that upholds human dignity and creativity. It focused on four areas:

  • Training
  • Fairness
  • Innovation
  • Opportunity

Jenkins cited David H. Kim, executive director for the Center for Faith and Work, who explained why these four areas are so important to the workplace:

This is not about meeting the minimum standards, but about creating human flourishing for people to live out their calling as divine image-bearers in the world.

Unfortunately, due to the Fall, work can become not only difficult and frustrating, but dehumanizing. Instead of allowing us to use our God-given gifts and talents, a work atmosphere that is full of unclear expectations, overwork, unfairness, and the discouragement of innovation can actually prevent us acting as image-bearers of God.

As Christians, we recognize that work is a gift from God which we can use to cultivate and restore the earth. How do we distinguish between workplaces that uphold this truth and those that do not? What can we do to restore our own work to the way God intended it?

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