One of my first jobs as a teenager, like many of you, I’m sure, was at McDonald’s. It was hard work making sure those Big Macs and fries came out perfectly each time–and the manager was there to make sure they did–but I wouldn’t say that it was stressful.
Today, fast food is very different. Emily Guendelsberger, a journalist with Vox, did an in-depth analysis and examined burnout and job stress as seen through three working-class American jobs: fast food, call centers and Amazon warehouses, as reported in The Take Out.
Specific to fast food, she explores how productivity has become such a priority for chains that the health and stress levels of employees are as low on the totem pole as they’ve ever been. She notes in particular that “everything is timed and monitored digitally, second by second. If you’re not keeping up, the system will notify a manager, and you will hear about it.”
With everything from shift hours to work assignments now determined based on real-time data, restaurants such as McDonald’s (where Guendelsberger did her fast-food research) are run on statistics, which causes issues from unreasonable commutes to impossible demand on employees, as reported in The Take Out.
While its positive impact on efficiency is undeniable, it also normalizes a work culture in which movement is relentless, rest is nonexistent and employees are pushed to and beyond their limits on a regular basis. Combined with the pressures of customer interaction, it makes for an inhospitable workplace in general.
And all of this, I may add, for a minimum wage, also puts a lot of pressure on these workers.