Isy­our BOSS Spy­ing Onyou?

Ever feel like you’re be­ing watched at work? You might be…

Look (UK) - - LOOK LIFE -

It’s 9.30pm and you’re wide awake, yet swap­ping the new se­ries of First Dates for an early night. You’re not ill or hun­gover – just ter­ri­fied of be­ing scolded by your boss for stay­ing up late. Wel­come to a new way of work­ing, where fit­ted ‘badges’ count each loo break, an­a­lyse ev­ery email and ruth­lessly scru­ti­nise our sleep and ex­er­cise rou­tines. Long gone are 4pm lulls spent de­vour­ing the lat­est celeb gos­sip on, coo­ing over videos of kit­tens or send­ing the oblig­a­tory ‘What shall we have for din­ner?’ mes­sage to your other half. In fact, you might be bet­ter off check­ing the lat­ter with your boss – she’ll prob­a­bly have a say on that too.

The wear­able de­vices, cre­ated by ‘peo­ple an­a­lyt­ics’ com­pany Hu­manyze, use sen­sors to col­lect stag­ger­ing amounts of data – from what time we hit the sack to as­sess­ing how well we get along with col­leagues. The prod­uct is just one in a wealth of track­ing de­vices aimed at yield­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity. Too shy or too loud, pas­sive in meet­ings or a se­rial in­ter­rupter, they have the abil­ity to, at best, en­cour­age a more pro­duc­tive ver­sion of our­selves or, at worst, show­case our flaws.

It’s easy to see why some em­ploy­ers want to keep tabs on their staff. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey, 89 per cent of em­ploy­ees ad­mit­ted to wast­ing time at work, with at least four per cent spend­ing half their day on un­re­lated tasks. Clare Gower, a free­lance copy­writer, was reg­u­larly mon­i­tored in a pre­vi­ous role.

‘My last client in­sisted I in­stalled a time-track­ing pro­gramme called Hub­staff,’ says Clare.‘it takes screen­shots of your com­puter ev­ery few min­utes, which are then up­loaded onto a server for the em­ployer to re­view – the em­ployee has no ac­cess. The soft­ware – which I dubbed “that f***ing tracker” – also mon­i­tors how many key­strokes you’ve made. I was only al­lowed to pause the tracker when I went to the bath­room or ate lunch.’

Clare adds: ‘If I for­got to turn it back on, I’d lose money. It’s also used to cal­cu­late pay, so even if I’d been work­ing for eight hours, I’d get paid for less. I can see why it ap­peals. The “if you’ve got noth­ing to hide it shouldn’t mat­ter” logic prevails and mega­lo­ma­niac man­agers love it. How­ever, I think an eight-hour work­ing day is

pred­i­cated on think­ing, do­ing, con­vers­ing and hav­ing breaks to re­cover from pe­ri­ods of high con­cen­tra­tion. This way of work­ing ef­fec­tively bills the em­ployee for the hu­man el­e­ment of work.’

A re­cent study by so­cial net­work­ing com­pany The Draugiem Group re­vealed that 17-minute breaks fol­lowed by 52 min­utes of work is the ‘op­ti­mum’ amount of down­time needed for max­i­mum pro­duc­tiv­ity. While this might be tricky in most places, it does go some way to ac­knowl­edg­ing the need for time out.

Rachael Beech* is a PR ac­count ex­ec­u­tive. Dur­ing her pre­vi­ous role, she not only felt pres­sured to main­tain un­in­ter­rupted pe­ri­ods of work but she was also tracked through emails.‘if I was email­ing jour­nal­ists I’d have to blind copy-in my man­ag­ing di­rec­tor,’ she says. ‘I felt like I was in school. They would also of­ten log into my ac­count and send emails on my be­half, us­ing my name.’

At least four UK com­pa­nies are be­lieved to be us­ing Hu­manyze’s badges, in­clud­ing parts of the NHS and a ma­jor high street bank. While it might sound daunt­ing – and in some cases il­le­gal – it’s not un­com­mon. ‘It may come as a sur­prise, but many kinds of mon­i­tor­ing are com­pletely le­gal, whether it’s a tracker on your com­pany car or vis­i­bil­ity of your email,’ says Ben Tay­lor, con­sul­tant and cy­ber se­cu­rity ex­pert at

With this in mind, it’s not sur­pris­ing that wear­ables at work are set to rapidly in­crease – and not only among of­fice­based jobs. Ac­cord­ing to mar­ket re­search com­pany Trac­tica, ship­ments of wear­ables to in­dus­trial cus­tomers and busi­nesses are pre­dicted to rise from 166,000 units in 2013, to 27.5m by 2020.

Craig Hall is an op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor at Glass Dig­i­tal, a mar­ket­ing agency in New­cas­tle, where mon­i­tor­ing em­ploy­ees is an ev­ery­day prac­tice. The com­pany uses Res­cue Time, which tracks ev­ery web­site vis­ited and knows when col­leagues are away from their desks.

‘We first im­ple­mented mon­i­tor­ing due to is­sues with peo­ple tak­ing their roles for granted,’ says Craig. ‘Since, it’s evolved into find­ing as­pects of the job that staff are strug­gling with and cre­at­ing a process to help them reach their po­ten­tial.’ Melissa Gan­n­away works for Craig as an out­reach ex­ec­u­tive and says she doesn’t have any is­sues with be­ing tracked. ‘I have noth­ing to hide. In fact, it’s good for your pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment as you can work out ar­eas you can be more pro­duc­tive in.’

Many peo­ple dis­like the idea of be­ing ‘watched’ at work – but should em­ploy­ees be more open-minded? Can this kind of mon­i­tor­ing lead to in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity? We asked the founder of SEVEN Ca­reer Coach­ing, Eve­lyn Cot­ter, for her ver­dict. She be­lieves we should fo­cus on how the in­for­ma­tion is be­ing used and re­minds us that we might not even re­alise we’re be­ing watched…

‘Al­though mon­i­tor­ing is prob­a­bly “right” for cer­tain busi­nesses, for ex­am­ple se­cu­rity firms, it can be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive for oth­ers,’ Eve­lyn says. ‘Data for busi­nesses is ob­vi­ously hugely valu­able – it’s just about how the in­for­ma­tion is be­ing used. I’m sure there are or­gan­i­sa­tions al­ready do­ing this with­out the em­ployee know­ing. But mon­i­tor­ing toi­let breaks, in­ter­ac­tions and email con­tent could cre­ate an un­happy work­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

‘More im­por­tantly, how peo­ple are man­aged will de­ter­mine how they be­have – peo­ple rise to our ex­pec­ta­tions and lower to them too. Com­pa­nies could con­sider their re­cruit­ment ap­proach. Hir­ing the right peo­ple could mean these prod­ucts are un­nec­es­sary.’ We agree. But it looks like they’re here to stay. You have been warned. The boss is watch­ing…

I had to pause the tracker when I went to the toi­let

Look out, she’s be­hind you!

Keep typ­ing: some de­vices can track how many key­strokes you’ve made

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