On a Spring 2019 walk in Beijing I saw two street sweepers at a sunny corner. They were beat-up looking and grizzled but probably younger than me. They’d paused work to smoke and talk. One told a story; the other’s eyes widened and then he laughed so hard he had to bend over, leaning on his broom. I suspect their jobs and pay were lousy and their lives constrained in ways I can’t imagine. But they had time to smoke a cigarette and crack a joke. You know what that’s called? Waste, inefficiency, a suboptimal outcome. Some of the brightest minds in our economy are earnestly engaged in stamping it out. They’re winning, but everyone’s losing.

I’ve felt this for years, and there’s plenty of evidence:
Item: Every successful little store with a personality morphs into a chain because that’s more efficient. The personality becomes part of the brand and thus rote.
Item: I go to a deli fifteen minutes away to buy bacon, rashers cut from the slab while I wait, because they’re better. Except when I can’t, in which case I buy a waterlogged plastic-encased product at the supermarket; no standing or waiting! It’s obvious which is more efficient.
Item: I’ve learned, when I have a problem with a tech vendor, to seek out the online-chat help service; there’s annoying latency between question and answers as the service rep multiplexes me in with lots of other people’s problems, but at least the dialog starts without endless minutes on hold; a really super-efficient process.
Item: Speaking of which, it seems that when you have a problem with a business, the process for solving it each year becomes more and more complex and opaque and irritating and (for the business) efficient.
Item, item, item; as the world grows more efficient it grows less flavorful and less human. Because the more efficient you are, the less humans you need.

The end-game · Efficiency, taken to the max, can get very dark.

I suggest investing a few minutes in reading Behind the Smiles by Will Evans. Summary: Certain (not all) Amazon warehouses seem to have per-employee injury rates that are significantly higher than the industry average, as in twice as high or more. Apparent reason: It’s not they’re actually dangerous places to work, it’s just that they’ve maximized efficiency and reduced waste to the point where people are picking and packing and shipping every minute they’re working, never stopping. And a certain proportion of human bodies simply can’t manage that. They break down under pressure.

Robots matter, but not in the way you might think. The idea was that robotized warehouses should reduce stress and strain because they bring the pick-and-pack to the employees, rather than the people having to walk around to where the items are. But apparently robots correlate with higher injury rates. Behind the Smiles quotes employee Jonathan Meador: “‘Before robots, it was still tough, but it was manageable,’ he said. Afterward, ‘we were in a fight that we just can’t win.’”

It’s important to realize that Amazon isn’t violating any rules, nor even (on the surface) societal norms. Waste is bad, efficiency is good, right? They’re doing what’s taught in every business school; maximizing efficiency is one of the greatest gifts of the free market. Amazon is really extremely good at it.

And it’s good, until it isn’t any more.

Efficiency and weakness · Let’s hand the mike over to Bruce Schneier. In The Security Value of Inefficiency he makes one of those points that isn’t obvious until you hear it. Quoting briefly:

“All of the overcapacity that has been squeezed out of our healthcare system; we now wish we had it. All of the redundancy in our food production that has been consolidated away; we want that, too. We need our old, local supply chains — not the single global ones that are so fragile in this crisis. And we want our local restaurants and businesses to survive, not just the national chains.”

Bruce is pointing out that overoptimizing efficiency doesn’t just burn people out, it also too often requires cutting into what you later realize were prudent safety margins.

How hard should people work? · Today, we assume the forty-hour week without thanking the generations of socialists and unionists in the Eight-hour-day movement, whose struggle started around 1817 and didn’t bear global fruit until the middle of the twentieth century.

But there’s nothing axiomatic about forty hours. Twenty years ago, France introduced a 35-hour workweek. Their economy still functions. And John Maynard Keynes, approximately the most influential economist in the history of the world, predicted his grandchildren would enjoy a 15-hour workweek. It seems he was wrong. But maybe only partly.

And of course Keynes himself worked like a madman. As did I, for most of my career. Because some jobs are just jobs, but others are vocations; people doing what they love, and who’d really rather be working than not. Nothing wrong with that.

Some ideologists of Capitalism think that every business should try to make every job a vocation, that people should be delighted with their work, with the benefit (for the capitalist) that you don’t have to hire that many. One famous example of this thinking is at UPS, the delivery company, whose leaders wanted the delivery people to “bleed brown”. Here’s an interesting take on the UPS story, in which the “bleeding brown” notion didn’t catch on.

And while there’s nothing wrong with vocations — I’m lucky and blessed to have found one — most jobs are just jobs. Whether it be a job or a vocation, work should at least leave time for a smoke break in the sun at the corner (or its 21st-century equivalent). And it’s perfectly possible that Keynes’ prediction could come true, in certain future economic configurations.

But, wealth! · If we all work less, we’ll be poorer, right? Because the total cash output of the economy is a (weird, nonlinear) function of the amount of work that gets put in.

That sounds like it should be important, until you ask basic questions like “how much money is there, and who has it?” The answers, pretty clearly, are “Too much” and “An inefficiently small number of very wealthy people.” Business Insider has a nice take on the problem, highlighting the evidence for and consequences of there being just too much money around.

In practice, interest rates stay low, governments can borrow more or less for free, and all sorts of crazily doomed shit is getting investment funding. There is really no evidence anywhere of a global shortage of money, and plenty for the existence of a surplus.

Stop and think · Specifically, do it when something is annoying you; at work, or in your personal interaction with a big organization. Could this be explained by someone, somewhere, trying to be more efficient? In my life, the answer is almost always “yes”.

Cracks · “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” sang Leonard Cohen. And there need to be cracks in the surface of work, in the broader organizational fabric that operates the world. Because that’s where the humanity happens. You can be like the people who optimize warehouses and call the gaps “waste”. But that path, followed far enough, leads to a world that we really don’t want to be living in.

It’s hard to think of a position more radical than being “against efficiency”. And I’m not. Efficiency is a good, and like most good things, has to be bought somehow, and paid for. There is a point where the price is too high, and we’ve passed it.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Andrew (Jul 12 2020, at 00:16)

I think that anyone who's studied control theory can recognize, indeed feel, the closed-loop control that has been optimizing the world for the last thirty or forty years.

Remember the modern management theory from the Japanese car expansion? "If you can't measure it you can't control it." Ever since then _everything_ has been about metrics, and (for a time) the ever increasing burden of administration, as those metrics for everything were used as inputs to the control systems.

At first it was just efficiency experts and analysts, and like all humans, they leave some wriggle-room. Now the digital systems and "AI"s are getting involved. Not much room any more.

The profit margins in markets are the result of information inefficiencies. As those are controlled-away, so are profits (where there are still functioning markets: your previous post about the many monopolies and duopolies are a way for business to engineer some inefficiency that can be profited-from.)

I don't know what the end-game is. I don't think that it's market capitalism. Could be the excess of communist utopia or the penury of feudalism.

I like and frequent the artisanal merchants, especially where food is concerned, too. I'm glad that they exist, but I suspect that it's mostly because of the uneven wealth distribution that you mentioned. Real food is the ultimate luxury good, perhaps.

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From: All is love love (Jul 12 2020, at 00:23)

It reminds me of this https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/14/business/automated-planes.html

efficiency with plane controls leads to more accidents, e.i. naive automation leads to more accidents.

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From: FeepingCreature (Jul 12 2020, at 01:23)

Once there's UBI, all those undesired kinds of efficiency should flip right over into desired efficiency in the sense of freeing up more time for us to have human value related interactions with other humans. Istm this kind of inefficiency is only a problem if you hold human value from paid labor as a fixed requirement.

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From: TK (Jul 12 2020, at 02:55)

There was an interesting article written on the type of incremental social erosion you're observing.

http://editions-hache.com/essais/pdf/kaczynski2.pdf

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From: andydj (Jul 12 2020, at 03:48)

This sounds like the Dockyard Inefficiency problem. In the eighties in the UK, there was a big push to root out inefficiencies in the main Royal Navy dockyards - I lived in Plymouth, where Devonport Dockyard is based, and it was a major employer in the city. But the inefficiency was not only legendary - it was *institutional*. I knew several yardies, and they all used to tell tales of slacking off, doing "rabbits" (private work on company time, using company materials), hours long Euchre sessions and an expectation to use all your sick quota (they treated it like extra holiday).

Obviously, this sounds awfully wasteful, so the government put on the squeeze - reducing head-count and funding; imposing targets and efficiency quotas. The work-force was decimated, and costs went down; there was much trumpeting of record turn-arounds on ship refurbs. Everything was better, though it took about 10 years.

Then, in the nineties, there were ships coming back from action in the Gulf needing urgent repairs... and the yard couldn't cope, because it didn't have any slack to cope with a sudden unannounced upsurge in business.

It's the same in any business where the amount of work can vary immensely in emergencies - you need teams which are well integrated, and know each-others capabilities, and are confident in them. Most of the integration occurs during slack-time, when people are swapping yarns about past trials and victories, or idly discussing the merits of various techniques and equipment. Team bonding doesn't happen without this "slacking off", but when "it" hits the fan, you need that cohesion. Good teams take time to slack off "officially" - team meetings are a good way. Relentless efficiency would try to remove this and would result in dis-coordinated teams that don't trust each-other.

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From: Jason Lamb (Jul 12 2020, at 04:30)

You've done a few posts now which are pro-left. That's fine. The problem is that you're now mid-sixties, probably retired, and you spent much of your life profiting from working at some of the biggest market participants in the history of capitalism. Do you realise people will therefore think "hypocrite"?

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From: David Magda (Jul 12 2020, at 04:36)

The efficiency argument for more redistribution of wealth:

"""

If we suppose that the goal of society is to produce the greatest utility, and that the utility wealth provides an individual is sub-linear (i.e. twice as much money makes you less than twice as happy), then inequality is inefficient resource allocation.

However, we also suppose that some level of inequality can lead to greater productivity, and thus greater utility overall. The question is then what level produces the best outcome?

"""

* https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14505342

Thomas Piketty has written extensively on this topic:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Piketty

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From: Ivo (Jul 12 2020, at 04:48)

There is an important thing you are not mentioning: things are efficient *by certain metrics*. Those metrics are (necessarily) limited in how much of the total process, and the actual total efficiency, they capture. For one thing, they can only be used to capture things that are /measurable/. How do you measure the PR cost of employees grumbling about their working conditions? You don’t, so that doesn’t get taken into account.

The insights from “Seeing like a state” by James C. Scott are relevant here: by reducing what is considered important to things that are, or can be made, *legible*, a lot of value is lost, because it is not seen/recognized and thus not considered important.

This is why startups can compete with Fortune 500 companies: the large companies are actually wildly inefficient. Partly due to them becoming a moral maze (https://thezvi.wordpress.com/2019/12/28/moloch-hasnt-won/), but that is in a large part related to them becoming inefficient due to not rewarding illegible value.

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From: Rob (Jul 12 2020, at 06:50)

What we have a lot of today is financial/capital efficiency, and we end up with parasitic private equity and sub-prime mortgage pyramids as a result. The relationship between financial and productive efficiency is unclear at best.

What is clear is that classical economics is deeply broken-- there seem to be oceans of excess capital slopping around the world, with the predicted consequent inflation. The only fallout seems to be a lot of immiserating rent-seeking (both intellectual and real property), and highly destructive parasitism.

Both of which are "efficient" I suppose.

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From: John Cowan (Jul 12 2020, at 08:21)

Tim: Perhaps we should put the IT security people, or just the security people period, in charge of the corporation instead of the sales folks. *They* know the value of redundancy, which is just inefficiency by another name.

FeepingCreature: If you want to fight the good fight for UBI (and I'm with you), fight the better fight for public collection of economic rents and using them for the community's benefit (google "LVT"). Labor and capital are not enemies! The true enemies of both are the robbers who take all the rest.

Jason Lamb: “The personal strengths and weaknesses of a leader are no true indication of the merits of his cause.” —Roger Zelazny

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From: Tom Welsh (Jul 12 2020, at 09:05)

“‘Before robots, it was still tough, but it was manageable,’ he said. Afterward, ‘we were in a fight that we just can’t win.’”

Why does that remind me of that old song?

"John Henry, he drove his fourteen feet

That steam drill, it only made nine, Lord, Lord

That steam drill, it only made nine

"John Henry told his woman “Polly fix my bed.

I want to lie down and get some rest.

For I’ve got an awful roaring in my head, Lord, Lord

I’ve got an awful roaring in my head”

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From: Dave Kosiur (Jul 12 2020, at 10:13)

A related issue that I've frequently thought about is what I call "the power of convenience". How many processes and things are we willing to put up with in order to make life "easier" for us? and what's the cost?

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From: Sam Penrose (Jul 12 2020, at 10:35)

Highest recommendation for David Wootton's magisterial history of how European culture came to be defined by unbounded maximization of "Power, Pleasure, and Profit": http://www.davidwootton.com/power-pleasure-and-profit/

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From: Federico Rampazzo (Jul 12 2020, at 10:35)

It's an interesting point of view and I share with you the hate for this hyper-centralised world. More in particular, I would say, the bigger the organisation (whether that's a company, a non-profit or a government), the greater the chance for it to contain useless bureaucracy and behaviour which is negative for society.

I don't think capitalism is to blame for it though. I think the market would push for smaller companies and save us from this situation if only we would get rid of governments.

Governments are the single point of failure in our society and they're made of corruptible people.

A company in a purely free market will grow if it provides more value than competitors for its customers.

In our world, regulations and laws can favour one company over the others, creating an imbalance.

Companies with enough money can spend some money to corrupt / make the right candidate reach the oval office - which in turn will grant even more money to that company.

Money is also not linked to anything physical anymore, which means governments can just create it out of thin air, again favouring some companies over others.

And governments are corporations as well; they're just massive (the USA government is the largest corporation in the world officially, even though there are claims about China being bigger) and are the only corporations who can use violence or order people to hurt other people. If the cost of war wasn't socialised and coming out of this giant pot of tax contributions, nobody in their right mind would spend that much money to kill someone on the other side of the world.

All of this contributes to the massive inequality we see now, it contributes to middle class people paying half of their pay-checks to the government (under threat of violence and imprisonment) while big companies avoid taxes in offshore locations.

If we didn't have taxes, if we didn't have a government and organised privately much needed services (like law making and citizen protection) I believe companies would end up being smaller and more local.

Given the situation we're in now (eg: billionaires got richer during covid, while the lower class lost jobs), even if we were to try this, it will take some time to get there and there is a chance that billionaires would just push for good old government to come back.

The richer you are, the more you can use tax loopholes, the more you can control information and the more you need governments to solidify your monopolies.

I don't think the problem is a search for efficiency, the problem is that big companies can unfairly kill the competition and keep growing thanks to their government ties and regulations. If we didn't have bureaucracy to make more efficient, big companies wouldn't have as much to optimise. If big companies are more efficient dealing with their taxes and useless regulations, the end product can be cheaper and be exactly the same.

Sure they could still optimise by getting cheaper materials, but then the supermarket wouldn't be able to replace your deli shop because the quality is different and different customers would just get what they want (cheaper and meh, more expensive and good).

The EU created a law (VATMOSS) to "punish" Amazon by forcing everyone to track customer location (with 2 proofs) in order to accurately report in which country a customer should pay VAT. The end result was that small businesses stopped selling independently not

to have the technological overhead and - shockingly - moved en-masse to Amazon and other big players.

GDPR was another regulation which forces small businesses without the money to adapt to cut off part of their customers and pushed companies towards other platforms.

I don't have the presumption of changing anyone's mind, I'm just a comment on the web, but I hope I presented an alternative point of view.

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From: Bob Wyman (Jul 12 2020, at 13:30)

The problem isn't that people strive to make systems more efficient, rather it is that they don't know how to properly measure efficiency. "Spare capacity" and "efficiency" are often orthogonal concepts.

Consider an electric grid which is designed to provide sufficient transmission and distribution capacity to safely and reliably serve the peak demand that occurs during only one hour of the 8,760 hours of each year. That grid will usually be running at only 50% utilization since peak demand is often twice average demand. An idiot, when looking at that grid might try to resize it to serve something closer to average demand and eliminate the "excess capacity." That same idiot will claim that a lower capacity grid would be more efficient when, in fact, a lower capacity design would simply ensure that the grid would fail during periods of peak demand. A grid that doesn't work 8760 hours/year isn't "efficient" unless failing efficiently is your goal.

It is entirely possible that an asset with very low utilization is actually being used as efficiently as possible. A good system designer knows this.

Grids must be designed for peak demand. Workers must have time for breaks or they become less capable of doing their jobs. etc. Replacing all humans with robots would leave many manufacturers without a market for their products. etc...

bob wyman

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From: Forthrighter (Jul 13 2020, at 05:47)

Thanks for this. I read your post several times, and was inspired to write a bit about how this same phenomenon crops up in non-businesses.

tl;dr profit & efficiency are important to optimize for, but yes they can clearly be taken too far. The trick to not going too far is to identify what your actual hierarchy of values is and what your org is trying to deliver. This allows leadership to see that financial outputs are actually (hopefully) in the end SUBORDINATE to the vision/mission of the organization.

"Too much efficiency" is the kind of blindness caused when people lose the plot on mission/vision, leaving them to hyper-optimize what they can see.

https://forthright.space/2020/07/13/masonic-efficiency/

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From: Doug K (Jul 13 2020, at 08:01)

I see two aspects to this.

One as Ivo and Bob mention, is that perceived efficiency depends on what is measured. This is the KPI disease (Key performance indicator). Using KPIs as a measure of efficiency always and everywhere invokes Goodhart's Law "Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes."

That is, once a metric is used as a measure, it stops being a good measure. Joel Spolsky has a fine essay on this, see Joel on Software 2002/07/15.

A twitter thread from Not_shax made the point concisely - a beehive is taken over by wasps with MBAs, and efficiency controls introduced.

"We've discovered some bees are carrying pollen between flowers and not just nectar. Our KPIs are purely focussed on nectar. Pollen does not help with our quarterly targets and is slowing workers down. Any bees found carrying pollen in future will be fired."

In the Amazon warehouse context this means that the shipping rate is up but so are injury rates, while employee turnover and satisfaction plummet. This can only work as long as there are enough desperate workers to fill up the dark satanic warehouses. It would be inefficient in a humane economy, which in our case we do not have.

Andrew mentions the Japanese car industry. This was mostly built on Edward Deming's TQM principles, which are utterly opposed to KPIs and MBOs and the rest of the efficiency acronym salad. Principle 11 says, "Eliminate numerical quotas for the workforce and numerical goals for management." Principle 12 is, "remove barriers that rob people of their right to pride of of ownership. This means inter alia abolishment of MBO."

It's pretty clear this has worked better than the US car industry, which is purely focussed on short-term profit. Even in a climate crisis, Ford has stopped making sedans, as pickups and SUVs are more profitable. Worse for the planet in every way, worse for consumers, but Profit !

The second aspect is Taylorism. Prof Taylor in 1911 introduced time-and-motion studies, in Principles of Scientific Management. Walmart built an empire of efficiency on these principles. Amazon explicitly modeled its business practices on Walmart's. This yields the view of employees as fungible machines, from which maximum efficiency can be extracted until the machine stops (see EM Forster's story of that name).

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From: Trenton (Jul 13 2020, at 10:39)

I liked this book on the topic of being "too efficient." https://smile.amazon.com/Slack-Getting-Burnout-Busywork-Efficiency/dp/0767907698

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From: len (Jul 13 2020, at 10:57)

Decades of construction to be followed by years of deconstruction. Sometimes Tim I believe you have a low tolerance for boredom but a great lust for comfort.

Eat a peach.

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From: Christian Mogensen (Jul 13 2020, at 14:25)

Tom DeMarco's book Slack is worth taking a look at. A totally efficient org is inflexible. It has no spare capacity to deal with change.

https://www.amazon.com/Slack-Getting-Burnout-Busywork-Efficiency/dp/0767907698

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From: Dan (Jul 14 2020, at 07:59)

Hiya,

This definitely resonates. I've often had an image of the economy as a net, tightening bit by bit over time. And in conversation with friends, we've agreed that unfettered capitalism is great for consumers, but pretty bad for producers. That's why you see producers seeking moats or natural monopolies.

But the deeper question is, what is the purpose of life? This is something we've been struggling with for thousands, maybe tens of thousands of years. Is it to acquire more and live more comfortably? In which case, efficiency is a viable means to a worthy end.

Or are there things which can't be measured in dollars which have value? If the latter, how do we make space for them in today's world. No answers here, and I know this has been rehashed over and over, probably because each person has to come up with their own answer.

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From: noah (Jul 15 2020, at 13:04)

Very well written article, and your posts truly always inspire me to do my own philosophizing.

I was thinking about the concept of a middle ground the other day, and it seems like you're grappling with a similar concept. What is the middle ground of efficiency? At what point is there too much efficiency? When the cons outweigh the pros, but where does that come, that is the question.

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From: macro (Jul 18 2020, at 11:35)

As long as we have an NHS, all work should be employee-centred, no?

Nevertheless, I am somewhat dismayed that you do not mention our environment - our actual wealth, I would suggest.

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From: Paul (Jul 19 2020, at 02:51)

Very interesting. There appear to be a number of aspects to this problem, amongst them:

-the definition of efficiency (output/input);

-the worship of market forces;

-the growth of management consultancy.

Might the following help:

-including worker health and happiness in the outputs?

-seeing markets as the sum total of actions/decisions taken by human beings (and not as entities in their own right)?

-understanding that management consultancies are self-interested?

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From: Alex Cruise (Jul 20 2020, at 08:12)

My favourite dystopia* story provides one view of an end state for this phase of late capitalism, in which labour is completely commoditized through automation... Not _replaced_ by robots, because that would be more expensive, but intensively micromanaged to maximize efficiency and customer experience, etc. And as efficient automation of human management gets better, a lot of jobs that used to be knowledge work wind up getting squeezed down to the skill/wage floor, and the middle class disintegrates. Why pay a great surgeon to do fifty different highly skilled behaviours over the course of a complex operation, when you can pay a dozen

hyperspecialists to take spend 2-10 minutes on each behaviour, and have one good surgeon remotely supervising multiple operations?

http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm

One of the less realistic parts of this story is that it suggests the poor would be housed and fed. :/

* the whole thing flips over into a utopia story halfway through... Stick it out, it's worth the read!

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From: Torquil (Jul 21 2020, at 00:55)

Efficiency seems to be part of the male ego , whereas humanity , the female . One is accumalative the other nurturing. Ying Yang. Oddly, greed is a derivative of insecurity, a very human trait. Perhaps the greedy, wealth soaked few need help. And as humans became dominant in nature due to their ability to work together the majority will always be sucker punched by the few to be "a colleague" , " a team member" etc etc.

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From: Inappropriate Boner (Jul 26 2020, at 14:41)

Hello Mr. Bray,

I just want to point something out...

"Some ideologists of Capitalism think that every business should try to make every job a vocation, that people should be delighted with their work, with the benefit (for the capitalist) that you don’t have to hire that many. One famous example of this thinking is at UPS, the delivery company, whose leaders wanted the delivery people to “bleed brown”. Here’s an interesting take on the UPS story, in which the “bleeding brown” notion didn’t catch on."

As someone who worked for a DSP delivering Amazon packages, we looked up to UPS drivers. For those who don't know, DSP's are third party companies that have employees suing the Amazon Flex app, wearing Amazon shirts and often driving Amazon branded vans. While we didn't have to lift packages over 50 lbs, we didn't have assigned routs that we would get to know. We would get $15 hourly with occasional seasonal bonuses. We would often use pee bottles to complete our routs on time and sometimes drive in a questionable manner to not fall behind. We would hear that UPS drivers clear over $80,000 per year.

We suspected that Amazon created the DSP system for three reasons, to avoid paying benefits, to decline responsibility when accidents happened and thirdly, to make unionizing close to impossible. I have heard many things about unions, one being that they were linked to organized crime and another being that if you weren't a full blooded white person, you would not be allowed to join. Still, looking at UPS from the outside, it looks like they came from privilege, not us...

Just wanted to share another opinion...

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From: Fazal Majid (Aug 02 2020, at 10:17)

Sadly France's experiment with the 35 hour work-week lad to a massive deindustrialization of the country. Industrial production had declined from 1980 to 1994, hit a plateau, then resumed its decline in 2000, see page 6 in the French government report:

https://www.tresor.economie.gouv.fr/Articles/40bd46a0-80ec-45ca-a6eb-8188b4511e54/files/607b4417-04f7-4095-a295-4dfab49fc167

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From: Denis (Aug 10 2020, at 04:27)

An example from the realm of social work in the Uk: In the 1990's social workers had their own desk space but around 3 other colleagues on the same large desk. We each knew each others case, and could deal with clients of our other 3 colleagues if they phoned up (yes: this is before the internet!). We were also able to share our concerns about our clients with the others, often gaining good suggestions about how best to help them.

Then along came reorganisation and hot-desking. We no longer had the support group around us, so were left with only our own ideas. If clients phoned and you were not available there was no one else to help, just a message left for you to try and contact them when you could (and some of them were not on the phone). The quality of service suffered a major decline.

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From: Gavin B (Sep 01 2020, at 04:38)

Amazon is famous for its extreme efficiency yet behind the curtain is a crippling culture of surveillance and stress, according to a study by the Open Markets Institute

https://www.theregister.com/2020/09/01/amazon_staff_spying/

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