Improving Productivity through Intrusion?

The BBC has an interesting piece about the methods being used by companies to monitor employees and enhance productivity. These include the following:

  1. Logging keystrokes and using software to monitor the relationship between the help given to customers and whether they subsequently took loans or other offers.
  2. Tools to analyse e-mails, conversations, computer usage, and employee movements around the office
  3. Monitoring heart rates and sleep patterns to see how these affect performance
  4. Gathering “data exhaust” left by employees’ email and instant messaging apps, and uses name badges equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices and microphones
  5. Checking how much time employees spend talking, their volume and tone of voice, including whether or not they dominate conversations
  6. Embedded chips in their hands to open doors and use equipment
  7. Heat sensors at desks to monitor when employees are at their work stations

These are over and above the “routine” CCTV used by a lot of employers. The following video shows a live example.

Apparently there are benefits to employees, including providing evidence in disputes over harassment or discrimination claims; or where certain medical conditions have a serious impact on actual productivity. I would assume that the effective implementation of such approaches acts as a management substitute by reducing the need for direct line management in those organisations that employ such tools.

I’m personally interested to see which, if any, of these approaches will find their way into the pharmaceutical industry. I can see how they could easily be used in the manufacturing sector; but even within the retail sector there are already companies relying on electronic logging in and out of employees to monitor attendance.

There is a fine balance to be struck between protecting individual freedoms and ensuring that employees are productive. Employees at The Telegraph are said to have felt that the bar had been pushed too far in the intrusion direction. I guess time will tell where the pharmaceutical industry takes this going forward.

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