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Introduction: In the Weeds

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Guendelsberger, E. (2019). Introduction: In the Weeds. In Guendelsberger, E. On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane. Little, Brown and Company, pp. 3-14

9

The other big advance that’s made life miserable for low-wage workers is algorithmic scheduling. Work schedules that used to be drawn up by managers now rely heavily on algorithms that analyze historical data to predict exactly how much business a store can expect in the upcoming week. As it’s most accurate with the most recent data, this means many workers’ schedules vary wildly week to week and are made and posted the day before they start—making it impossible to plan anything more than a week in advance.

Businesses also save a ton of money by scheduling the absolute minimum number of workers to handle the predicted business. And they save even more by scheduling slightly fewer people than can handle the predicted work at a reasonable pace. If workers can push themselves to cover the duties of a sick coworker, doesn’t that just mean they’re not giving it 100 percent the rest of the time? Why can’t they work that efficiently every shift?

The answer’s obvious if you’ve covered for a sick coworker at a fast-paced job—because you’re stuck in the weeds the entire day, and just because you can put up with a miserable day once in a while doesn’t mean that the weeds are a sustainable place to live.

From a boss’s point of view, though, the weeds are where workers should be—at maximum productivity, all day, every day.

—p.9 by Emily Guendelsberger 4 years, 4 months ago

The other big advance that’s made life miserable for low-wage workers is algorithmic scheduling. Work schedules that used to be drawn up by managers now rely heavily on algorithms that analyze historical data to predict exactly how much business a store can expect in the upcoming week. As it’s most accurate with the most recent data, this means many workers’ schedules vary wildly week to week and are made and posted the day before they start—making it impossible to plan anything more than a week in advance.

Businesses also save a ton of money by scheduling the absolute minimum number of workers to handle the predicted business. And they save even more by scheduling slightly fewer people than can handle the predicted work at a reasonable pace. If workers can push themselves to cover the duties of a sick coworker, doesn’t that just mean they’re not giving it 100 percent the rest of the time? Why can’t they work that efficiently every shift?

The answer’s obvious if you’ve covered for a sick coworker at a fast-paced job—because you’re stuck in the weeds the entire day, and just because you can put up with a miserable day once in a while doesn’t mean that the weeds are a sustainable place to live.

From a boss’s point of view, though, the weeds are where workers should be—at maximum productivity, all day, every day.

—p.9 by Emily Guendelsberger 4 years, 4 months ago