The meeting drags on. You've run out of things to doodle. You can't stop thinking about all the things you could be doing if only you weren't stuck in this pointless meeting.

We've all sat through endlessly unproductive meetings that have wasted of everyone's time. What if there were an easy way to escape? Turns out, there is. There's just one catch. You have to agree to let your employer track your emails, chat logs and meetings.

Why some employees don't mind being tracked

This may sound like a massive invasion of privacy. But many employees at companies like Microsoft, Boston Consulting Group and others are more than game. Because ultimately, it's helping employers design better work environments to save their employees time.

News of these emerging employee tracking systems was covered in the Wall Street Journal. "The goal, managers said, is to cut down on time-consuming meetings, vague emails and useless training sessions," WSJ explains.

These companies aren't actually tracking the content of the chats, emails and meetings. Instead, they look at which employees talk to each other and how long they spend in communication. For example, they might collect the sender and recipient of an email, but not the subject or body of the email itself. Everything from impromptu water cooler chats to meetings is tracked. The goal it to better understand how employees move throughout their offices, share information and get work done.

In defense of the open office

In an experiment of sorts, BCG tried tracking 100 employees they divided into two groups. Both groups were given ID badges with trackers. One group worked in a modern, open office environment. The other group worked in a more traditional, cubicle-style office. Can you guess which group spent less time in meetings?

Over the course of six weeks, BCG found the open office employees spent on average five fewer hours in meetings. By tracking the employees, BCG could see people in this group often engaged their colleagues in short, impromptu and casual conversations. This led to more collaboration and information-sharing between team members, requiring fewer formal meetings. They were ultimately more productive.

BCG used this insight to inform the design of its new office. They added a lounge with free food and snacks, enticing people to get up and leave their desks -- and strike up a conversation with someone else who had the same idea.

All 100 employees who were tracked had to consent to participating. Wall Street Journal spoke to Diana Li, an associate at BCG who participated. At first, she was self conscious Li told WSJ. Then she kinda forgot about it. Now she frequently visits the office's new salad bar.

Would you let your employer track your communication throughout the workday if it could lead to better productivity?

Published on: Apr 13, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.