Accueil » 25-2 ( 1970) » Rythmes de travail… et cadences infernales

Rythmes de travail… et cadences infernales

Pierrette Sartin


Dans l'industrie, le problème des rythmes de travail se pose avec acuité. Il est l'un des plus difficiles à résoudre et le chronométrage ne donne que des résultats imparfaits. La nocivité des allures élevées est encore mal connue, mais leur incidence sur la fatigue nerveuse est incontestable. Chacun a un rythme qui lui est propre. Mais ce rythme personnel est«  corrigé » par les normes du groupe et par les motivations personnelles. Il faut essayer de se dégager de la notion de rythme maximal pour aller vers celle de rythme optimal qui ménagera à la fois la santé de l'homme, son efficacité, la bonne marche de l'entreprise et l'économie générale.


Work pace setting and control

The work pace problem at the origin of the time study difficulties is one of the most controversial issues today. Working speeds, which workers often consider exaggerated, constitute with higher salaries the main points of union demands, and are the object of managements constant attention, since they determine the firm's profits in terms of production and efficiency.

A man's output potential and work pace cannot be determined and set precisely as it is done for a machine. Efforts are being made to measure scientifically time and movements, but it is very difficult practically to measure work as such: the study of tasks is complicated by their diversity, by the fact that there are no two operations which are exactly identical; by the fact also that a simple gesture is not only a physical act but implies at the same time a merging of mental and psychological processes linked specifically to each man's personality. Not only is the best speed for each operation difficult to measure materially; so are the psychological effects of the different speeds maintained, since the danger potential of high speeds on the individual is hardly known. Finally, that capability of measuring the time of a task's execution wouldn't in any case be sufficient to determine the physiological, psychological or mental charge implied in any one man's fulfillment of that particular task.

Each individual has in fact a particular work pace, a natural and spontaneous rhythm which is his alone. But in practice, this natural rhythm is corrected by a certain number of internal and external factors (group pressures, bonus enticement, etc.) which determine the final voluntary speed. This is the pace generally found at the work place. The margin between this voluntary speed and interindividual speed variations spreads from 30% to 40%. Most often work paces are set high but it is not a rare thing to observe workers stepping up the pace themselves, driven by the desire for higher bonuses or by other reasons. Workers generally do not know what their long term working potential can be without self-inflicted damage.

We also witness today the paradox that the improvement of machinery and of the working environment, and even the reduction of working hours, have in-creased the nervous fatigue of the labor force: in fact heavier requirements have been placed on the work pace and the speed of work execution. The fast work pace risk is increased by the actual inability of scientifically determining criteria to measure its point of harmful speeds ... The most obvious ones are a decrease in the work's quality (and not in its quantity, since a tired worker tends to be more nervous and to work faster) and a general and repeated irregularity in the work pace among the workers.

The solutions to the work pace problems consist, first, in an information effort at all firm levels. Then research should be done to discover the adaptation capacity of each individual to a requested work pace and deepen our knowledge of the physiological and psychological effects connected with accelerated work paces. Industrial policy should include measures placing a ceiling on bonuses to avoid having workers voluntarily setting harmful working speeds, and measures insuring a specific medical supervision on individuals designated for jobs involving high speeds or heavy stress conditions.