Every person laid off is a life disrupted in some way. And the potential ramifications are vast. An unexpected loss of work can shake a person’s identity, sense of self-worth, and social support—in addition to the possible serious financial disruption and loss of healthcare.
Efficiency initiatives are all about doing the same (or more) with less.
And while sometimes that can be done purely through technology, humans often bear the brunt of efficiency initiatives.
In financial terms, there’s been a redistribution of wealth from frontline and middle management employees to shareholders and executives. The company (i.e., its owners) makes more money because each employee’s salary or wages accounts for more production of value.
It gets squeezed into those 900 hours. Each hour becomes a little more intense. The expectations get a little higher. Workers get tired, anxious, and emotionally drained.
Work intensification happens on two levels. First, there’s the amount and pace of work.
Second, there’s the type of work being done and its emotional or cognitive load.
When Zuckerberg says the organization is getting “flatter,” he means that more non-management workers will have to take on types of work—coordinating, synthesizing, communicating, and affective tasks—that managers used to do.
According to a review of studies in the journal Work & Stress, work intensification contributes to negative outcomes for both employees’ well-being and their performance on the job.
Work intensification is a problem that tends to creep slowly into problematic territory.
They experience these waves of intensification and normalization—and rarely receive an increase in pay commensurate with their increased productivity for the company.
We adapt even if it means sacrificing our safety to keep up production.
Pressed to work faster and produce more, Weil had the startling realization that the easiest way to speed up was to stop worrying so much about her own body.
And it’s stressful. It poses a real risk to your well-being and even your “job” performance.
More often, as I discuss in my book, becoming more efficient and productive seems to hold positive moral value.
But this moral quality of efficiency acts to turn us each into a certain kind of person.
the responsibilities we feel toward work—and I’ll add our responsibility specifically to efficiency and productivity—have “more to do with the socially mediating role of work than its strictly productive function.”
But what Zuckerberg doesn’t say is that layoffs serve to recalibrate the labor relation between the company and the employee.
We send ourselves the same message when we choose to focus on efficiency or productivity at the expense of our own humanity.
While I certainly won’t deny the satisfaction of learning how to do a task faster, I do think it’s worth interrogating the way efficiency comes to shape our lives.
Glasp is a social web highlighter that people can highlight and organize quotes and thoughts from the web, and access other like-minded people’s learning.