You'd be perfectly OK with your boss installing a monitoring device called "OccupEye" that can tell them when you're at your desk and when you're not, right? The fact that it has a creepy name doesn't really help me feel comfortable about such a device.

Barclays just installed these sensors to keep track of when their bankers are sitting at their desks. Now, these monitors only track heat and motion so it's not like they are tracking your actual performance or who is sitting and who is standing. Since they do a lot of hot-desking (that is, anyone can plug in anywhere), it doesn't even monitor who it is that sits all day.

They say, according to an article on Bloomberg, the purpose is to see what spaces employees use. This information can then be used to lower space and energy costs--people can know what is truly being used.

So, on that note, it's not technically creepy. But it sure feels creepy, and some other businesses that have tried these monitoring systems have removed them after employees complained.

I'm a bit torn on the whole concept. I'm a huge fan of data and a huge fan of telecommuting. If everyone isn't sitting at the same desk everyday, it makes sense to know what room is actually needed. Likewise, things like conference rooms can be monitored to see if people keep booking the 12 person conference room for meetings with three people, or if there are conference rooms that serve as a desk for one person who needs privacy. That's good information to know and it isn't really easy to gain an accurate picture by casual observation.

However, when you install a monitoring system and don't fully explain to your people the purpose behind it and what the data will be used for, you can expect people to think it's a bit Big Brother-ish.

If you are interested in using these devices or similar ones to evaluate your office space and energy needs, consider the following:

  • Make their usage temporary. If you just want to know how desks are being used, you don't need to keep them installed permanently. If your business is cyclical, make sure you use them during both busy and slow seasons to see what is necessary. If you only monitor during slow season, you might find you don't have enough seats during the busy season.
  • Be clear and open with the data. If you hide the data, people will wonder what you are really monitoring. Share what you are learning.
  • Don't ignore the data. Companies do this all the time with things like employee satisfaction surveys. They send out a survey, answers come back that senior management doesn't like, and instead of making changes, they simply ignore it. The same could happen here--if the data show that the conference rooms are frequently used by single people, then it indicates that people desire offices. If there are desks that are never used, figure out what's wrong with them.

Think long and hard about what you expect to gain and what damage you could do to employee morale before implementing a piece of tech designed to track and monitor.

Published on: Aug 18, 2017
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