‘Spiritual Care Drive-Bys’
IN THE FIRST MONTH after joining the group of hospice chaplains in Minnesota, the Rev. Heather Thonvold was invited to five potlucks. To endure the constant sorrow of the work, the more than a dozen clergy members ministered to one another. Sometimes the cantor in the group played guitar for his mostly Protestant colleagues. There was comfort in regarding their work as a calling, several of them said.
In August 2020, the productivity revolution arrived for them in an email from their employer, a nonprofit called Allina Health.
“The timing is not ideal,” the message said, with the team already strained by the pandemic. But workloads varied too widely, and “the stark reality at this point is we cannot wait any longer.”
Allina was already keeping track of productivity, but now there would be stricter procedures with higher expectations. Every morning the chaplains would share on a spreadsheet the number of “productivity points” they anticipated earning. Every evening, software would calculate whether they had met their goals.
But dying defied planning. Patients broke down, canceled appointments, drew final breaths. This left the clergy scrambling and in a perpetual dilemma. “Do I see the patients who earn the points or do I see the patients who really need to be seen?” as Mx. Thonvold put it.
The Rise of the Worker Productivity Score
Across industries and incomes, more employees are being tracked, recorded and ranked. What is gained, companies say, is efficiency and accountability. What is lost?
By Jodi Kantor and Arya Sundaram
Produced by Aliza Aufrichtig and Rumsey Taylor