On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane

On the Clock is a study of modern service work as told through the author's experience working in an Amazon fulfillment center, a Convergys call center and a busy McDonald's. In a voice that is as down-to-earth as it is scholarly, journalist Emily Guendelsberger combines her experience at these service jobs with citations from primary and secondary sources to form a narrative that is both educational and entertaining.

Guendelsberger explores the science and consequences of repetitive physical and emotional stress, delving into increasing worker productivity demands, beginning in the late 1800s and continuing through Ford's assembly lines all the way to today's timed bathroom breaks, call time targets and required greeting of every customer within four seconds.

Rather than serving as an indictment of these three companies, On the Clock uses their practices as examples of the service industry at large. Workers across the sector are dehumanized to the point of being expected not to have bodily functions, emotions or any of the things that make us human.

Guendelsberger begins the book with a tale of two worlds, as defined by their understanding of the phrase "in the weeds." Service workers recognize this as when they are swamped with work, demand outpacing their capacity to meet it. In white-collar jobs, it's defined as being bogged down in the details. Guendelsberger's book seeks to ensure that the workers themselves aren't seen as the details. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels

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