When reporters and commentators talk about the economy, they focus on unemployment. More sophisticated experts discuss falling wages and the loss of consumer buying power. Those are both very important topics. But there is another economic measure that impacts how we work and live: Productivity.
Whenever productivity is discussed, it is taken as a measure of the economy. It’s easy to assume that more productivity is a good thing. However, we also need to ask who benefits from productivity and who loses. As I said, salaries are flat, many benefits have been cut. Fewer people are doing more work. Who wins that game? Investors and company owners who get bonuses for productivity. Who loses? The people who are doing more work for the same or less compensation.
Every week clients tell me new stories about how they have been being asked to do more, to work late into the evening, to take work home. Across industries, workers feel stress and overburdened. At the same time, they are afraid to confront their managers because they need their job and the income it provides. We can measure an unemployment rate and productivity. It’s much harder to measure what people are feeling and how their jobs affect their lives. The next time you hear an economist gushing about increased productivity, remember that workers are paying the price, working more, leading less productive personal lives. They are not the winners in the productivity game.