ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The New York Times on Worker Productivity Scores

Over at The New York Times, you can test your worker productivity score in a piece written by Jodi Kantor and Arya Sundaram and produced by Aliza Aufrichtig and Rumsey Taylor.  It is pretty disturbing.  

The page tracks you as you read an article about being tracked at work.  It's fun, because it's not the real deal, but apparently, many workers are now being tracked all the time, and for some, pay, promotion, and even keeping one's job depends on how well one does working while being tracked.  Holy panopticon, Batman!

How it started: 

Screen Shot 2022-08-15 at 3.16.07 PMYesterday, I blogged about unionization efforts at Starbucks, and that topic seems relevant here.  Workers hate being tracked, not only because none of us operate at peak efficiency but also because some of the things we do are productive in ways that cannot be tracked.  According to The Times, Amazon pulled back on some of its worker productivity measures in response to unionization.  Workers who are unionized can fight back against the crapification of work.  They don't focus exclusively on pay and benefits.

Efficiency is now a value in many work spaces where efficiency should not be a primary value.  The article spends a lot of time on pastors working in hospice settings being tracked for their efficiency.  That's sick, and not in a good way. 

Lots of workers complain that they are being penalized for "idling" when they are in fact thinking, working out problems with pen and paper, consulting with colleagues, or pausing to reflect on things.  Workers are having to explain dips in their productivity by telling their managers that sometimes they have to use the toilet.  

How it's going:

Screen Shot 2022-08-15 at 3.15.44 PM

I am so grateful to be an academic!  So much of what I do is not productive in any way that can be measured.  I clear my head by walking around my building, talking to colleagues or students.  I work through my ideas by talking to them.  I socialize with my co-workers because I like to get to know the people I work with.  I blog.  I surf the Internet looking for images to put in my PowerPoint presentations.  In the interest of full disclosure, once I'm surfing, I get curious about things and read stuff on the Internet.  Some of it may be relevant to teaching or scholarship; some of it isn't.  I often don't know until I've finished reading something whether it will be relevant to my work.  What would tracking technology know of that? 

While I was reading the Times article and hyper-conscious of being tracked, a student poked his head in to say hello.  It was a student who had me for contracts last year but who will not be taking classes with me this year.  The efficient thing to do would be to tell him I was in the midst of reading an article and I couldn't spare the time to chat.  I didn't do the efficient thing and I hope I never have to.

Commentary, Current Affairs, In the News, Labor Contracts | Permalink