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Workplace Surveillance Becoming More Common 195

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-see-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes For better or worse, surveillance technology is becoming more common in the workplace. These tools are being used to measure and monitor employees, with the promise changing how people work. "Through these new means, companies have found, for example, that workers are more productive if they have more social interaction. So a bank's call center introduced a shared 15-minute coffee break, and a pharmaceutical company replaced coffee makers used by a few marketing workers with a larger cafe area. The result? Increased sales and less turnover." Of course, this kind of monitoring raises privacy concerns. "Whether this kind of monitoring is effective or not, it's a concern," said Lee Tien, a senior staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.
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Workplace Surveillance Becoming More Common

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  • by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @06:45PM (#47295101)
    Surveillance is only the tool. How it is used (abused) is the key. For example, a camera in the break-room kills good will. Pointedly saying we will be monitoring, but not the break-room increases good will.
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      The camera in the break room wasn't good for the employee stealing. But the employee who found her wallet missing from her purse was certainly happy for the camera.
      • A friend of mine once said "There are two types of people in the world; Those who keep important things with them, and those who lose things." Leave your stuff lying around, expect to lose it. It's been that way since the concept of property was defined.
        • by ruir (2709173)
          It depends in the culture, and how much people you have around. For instance, off the wee hours of the morning, where we have outsourced crews cleaning your office, I dont trust you, but during the rest of the day, I can pretty much forget my smartphone in my desk, that I am pretty sure it wont "walk away". We also can and are very at ease to put our phones and wallets on the table pretty anywhere we are having a meal, restaurants and coffee shops. I also worked 5 years in Africa, and there it is better to
          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            It's like that in America too, if you have any housekeepers. We tried having some Hispanic housekeepers come over every week or two back when we lived in Arizona, and later found that a bunch of stuff (the rarely-used stuff you refer to) had "walked away". They even stole toothbrushes, of all things (unused ones bought in a 10-pack, not used ones of course). Another one kept asking us, over and over and over and over, when we were going on vacation. Hmm.... Another one broke a lot of stuff and never to

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          Sounds like you blame the victim. Is it her fault for being raped too? She should have been wearing a chastity belt...
          • I think that if a lady is able to leave her genitals on the bar while she goes for a pee, she has more to worry about than rape.
      • by jez9999 (618189)

        But the employee who found her wallet missing from her purse was certainly happy for the camera.

        Women have wallets inside their purses??

    • Pointedly saying we will be monitoring, but not the break-room increases good will.

      Huh? Since when?

      I don't care if it's the cubes or the break room. Pointedly saying "we will be monitoring" kills good will every time.

      • by Cryacin (657549)
        Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not watching you. Oh wait, they ARE watching you!
  • ObComment: the technology ain't evil, the law not prohibiting using it in evil ways is evil. We know someone will always try to get away with anything permitted by the letter of the law, and then some.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Oh look. Another statist who alleges, completely without irony, that what we need to protect us is more government. As if the government is the entity which will protect us from excessive or illegal surveillance.

      Seriously now, have you been under a rock for the past... ~13 years now? Did you miss the headline on Slashdot this very weekend about how the government is perjuring itself and encouraging state and local government entities to engage in massive surveillance?

      I'll take my chances regarding employer

      • by Travis Mansbridge (830557) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:22PM (#47295261)
        Poor laws don't make all laws poor.
      • by AHuxley (892839)
        AC you seem to be missing the news that results from "chances regarding employer surveillance policies" are now shared at a nation level.
        The results of been watched do not stop when you exit a workplace or seek new work.
        "Thousands of workers 'blacklisted' over political views" (07 August 2012)
        http://www.independent.co.uk/n... [independent.co.uk]
        "construction workers punished by employers for raising health and safety issues" (10 September 2013)
        http://www.theguardian.com/pol... [theguardian.com]
        Construction workers' blacklist (Nov 18, 20
      • by TarPitt (217247) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @08:49PM (#47295555)

        Because private detective agencies hired by private employers to snoop on workers and ruin them is OK AND is FREEDOM.

        Laws to prevent this are bad because GOVERNMENT EVIL.

        For a real example of private company goon squads, try the Ford "Service Department" [wikipedia.org]

      • by sjames (1099)

        Would I trust the state to legislate against the state monitoring and prying? Absolutely not.

        Would I trust the state to ensure that it has a monopoly on the monitoring and prying? Sure.

  • social interaction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2014 @06:52PM (#47295141)

    Wait what, social interaction makes people more productive? You mean they don't feel like their existence is validated by the calm fuzzy warmth of fabric covered cubicle walls? They need to talk to each other too? But what if they criticize management? Managers' fragile egos can't handle even the possibility of criticism of any kind! You there! Stop talking! Eyes back on the computer screen!

  • by swamp_ig (466489) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @06:58PM (#47295163)

    Seriously - they needed surveillance to figure out that workers were happier and more productive when they had some shared sense of purpose?

    What next - needing surveillance to figure out people are bothered by random loud buzzing noises?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:25PM (#47295273)

      Seriously - they needed surveillance to figure out that workers were happier and more productive when they had some shared sense of purpose?

      You fool! The workers must never know that the work they do has no purpose. Don't let them interact or they'll figure out the big secret. Our entire business plan depends on worker ignorance!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Seriously - they needed surveillance to figure out that workers were happier and more productive when they had some shared sense of purpose?

      Most likely those companies are simply re-discovering the Hawthorne Effect http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hawthorne_effect [wikipedia.org] and exhibiting more irony than a Portland hipster considering its classic industrial psychology.

    • by antdude (79039)

      Yes, especially where I work. Loud people, noises, etc. Ugh!

    • by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Monday June 23, 2014 @11:27AM (#47298561)

      Seriously - they needed surveillance to figure out that workers were happier and more productive when they had some shared sense of purpose?

      What next - needing surveillance to figure out people are bothered by random loud buzzing noises?

      No, they just used that as their excuse. They are surveilling the employees to keep them in line. If every word you speak in the break room is recorded, it can help them weed out the undesirables. So eventually, people will just quit talking. Or maybe confine it to talking about th weather.

      Another way of putting it is "We tried these shock collars on the employees, and they just loved them. The pretty collars made the employees so happy, they all worked harder."

      A bit strained of a comparison perhaps, but the hypothetical shock collars, just like the surveillance cameras have a completely different purpose than the one being touted.

  • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @06:59PM (#47295169)

    One day, I was puttering away on some project when the phone rang. "It was totally an accident!" "What was an accident." "I didn't mean to go to that website." "What website." "The porn site." Then it dawned on me that this woman actually thought I sat around all day watching what people were doing on their computers.

    • Then it dawned on me that this woman actually thought I sat around all day watching what people were doing on their computers.

      Well... do you?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      When I worked in a call center doing outsourced Comcast internet support years ago they actually did this to employees they suspected were "misusing" their computer access. It wasn't really effective, since the cursor would slow to a crawl when they were viewing your screen, making it very obvious.

    • by jonwil (467024)

      At the last place I worked, they didn't watch what people were doing but they did have a proxy server that blocked certain things (Facebook, YouTube, others) and they did log every site people went to online.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:50PM (#47295367)

      At one school I frequent there is a strict policy on inappropriate content. One professor accidentally visited a pornographic website. It was immediately logged and reported via automated email. Within a short time he was called to schedule a meeting. The logs reported that the session that connected to the website was open for four seconds. I know this because the log was printed and hung up for all to see as a warning. Under the zero-tolerance rules he got the boot. Some places actually are that totalitarian and the woman that called you immediately apologizing probably thought she was under such a system.

      • by arth1 (260657)

        At one school I frequent there is a strict policy on inappropriate content. One professor accidentally visited a pornographic website. It was immediately logged and reported via automated email. Within a short time he was called to schedule a meeting. The logs reported that the session that connected to the website was open for four seconds. I know this because the log was printed and hung up for all to see as a warning. Under the zero-tolerance rules he got the boot.

        That seems exploitable. Say someone sen

      • Inappropriate content, including pornography, should be blocked in schools, if not for the fact that it's inappropriate then because it's also likely that the site hosts malware (You don't think they make their money from those advertisements, do you?). Yes, you can get around the blocks if you are so able and willing to put in the effort, but that would also show intent.

        Still, we all know zero-tolerance is moronic. I just hope the teacher was incompetent; He's likely now unemployable within his chosen car
  • More common? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:05PM (#47295203)
    I worked for a tech support line in the mid '90s. All breaks were recorded, timed, and provided to managers on a daily basis. At a fortune 100 company in the late '90s, they had static IPS and a proxy with lots of reports. They knew who was on what how many times and when. Daily, weekly, and monthly reports.

    I had a written order to install a keylogger on an employee's computer in 1999. He was suspected of using company property to commit crimes. I recorded a crime, and passed it back to the management who ordered the tap. He was fired. No charges were laid.

    There is no "new" surveilance. Though it may be becoming more common, it certainly isn't new. At all.
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Just think what software products people work at home with and then infect their private computers with :)
      Be very careful around any laptop, software package, system or network that is offered for home use.
      "School-Webcam Spy Scandal Resurfaces" (06.08.11)
      http://www.wired.com/2011/06/w... [wired.com]
      Use a wired network and only a direct wired network, no routers, wifi, other computers or home networked devices running, expect any webcam or mic to be on at all times.
      When done with a free work 'laptop' or network
    • Re:More common? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ShaunC (203807) on Monday June 23, 2014 @12:16AM (#47296129)

      At my last workplace, we officially got two 15-minute breaks per day, one before lunch and one after lunch. Now this was at a non-regulated, non-union, private company and we were salaried employees who routinely showed up early, occasionally stayed late, and many of us were still checking (and responding to) emails and tickets, fixing things, etc. from home at all hours of the day and night. This was not a scenario where we had time cards or where everyone worked exactly 480 minutes per day or where being away from your desk for a few minutes had any negative impact on productivity.

      Over the course of some years, a group of smokers had aligned our patterns so that we'd break for a quick smoke at 9:30, 11, 2:30, and 4. We kept it legit, it doesn't take 7 1/2 minutes to walk outside, smoke a cigarette while chatting, and walk back in. No one was taking four 15-minute breaks. Eventually HR sent out a warning to everyone who was "abusing" the break policy by taking two quick breaks during every 4 work hours instead of one 15-minute break.

      So we shifted to taking our allotted break once before lunch and once after. And we used every last second of those 15 minutes, every time. We'd wave at the cameras on the way into and out of the building and one of us would always keep track of our remaining time on their watch or their phone. Guess which folks stopped showing up at work 20 minutes early, staying late to finish things up, leaving our email clients open and monitoring work emails 24/7, and handling shit outside of business hours? Guess which folks stopped bringing their lunches and eating in 10 minutes at their desk, and started taking their full lunch hours offsite every day?

      Somehow there are still plenty of employers who just don't understand that if you treat your employees like a bunch of kindergarteners, you're not going to get things like "loyalty" and "amazing work ethic" and "110%" in return. No, you're going to drive away good talent, and with that talent will go many years of your institutional memory. And you deserve to lose it.

      By the time I was out of there, we had a running joke that they were probably keeping records of anyone who took more than 2 minutes to take a shit. I suppose it's a function of HR feeling a need to justify their own existence from time to time. That company is currently advertising for an HR director, a little bit of schadenfreude to end my night on a pleasant thought...

      • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

        Somehow there are still plenty of employers who just don't understand that if you treat your employees like a bunch of kindergarteners, you're not going to get things like "loyalty" and "amazing work ethic" and "110%" in return. No, you're going to drive away good talent, and with that talent will go many years of your institutional memory. And you deserve to lose it.

        I one time had someone complain about me because they couldn't find me at 9:00 in the morning. As it turned out, it was on a day when I had spent the entire night there, wen't howm to catch a couple hours sleep at 6 a.m., and came back in at 10 a.m.

        My boss knew my work ethic, but he had to reply to the complaint.

        We met with the complainant, and I informed them that from then on I would be the perfect employee as far as time went. Only took a week of me showing up at 0800 on the dot, walking out for a br

      • by GuB-42 (2483988)

        It may not be a bad thing you know.
        Strict timing rules provide a clear separation between work time and personal time and it can be beneficial to both the employer and the employee. Basically trading reactivity for consistency.
        Not all companies want "110%" and "amazing work ethic". Many prefer a good "100%" and "do what I pay you for" instead.

        Of course, a company closely monitoring things such as break time shouldn't expect (or even allow) their employees to work overtime. It means that what you did is norm

  • by MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:09PM (#47295223)

    When cops freak out because they are being recorded, people go all ballistic. Yes I agree that you should be able to record cops doing their job, but until they get used to it, I don't blame them for being upset.

    When it's you being recorded, then that is a whole different case.

    • by jeIlomizer (3670951) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @08:25PM (#47295469)

      Indeed, recording people with legal authority who have the ability to easily ruin people's lives is a whole different case. Especially when the recording is happening in public.

    • When cops freak out because they are being recorded, people go all ballistic.

      When cops (with guns) freak out because they are being recorded, (pardon the following pun), but they're the ones who go all ballistic.

      I don't blame them for being upset.

      I don't blame them for being upset either, but I hope you realize there is a difference between an unarmed taxi driver freaking out because he's being recorded and an armed cop freaking out because he's being recorded.

    • by sjames (1099)

      I do support the cops being recorded when on duty. I also support those recordings only being viewed when there is a citizen complaint or when facts surrounding an arrest are contested in court, and then only for the time period involved.

      They should not be actively monitored by big brother.

  • Obligatory reference to Manna [marshallbrain.com]

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:24PM (#47295269)

    unions are needed before the bathroom break timer system goes into place.

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:46PM (#47295349)

      shorten that to:

      unions are needed.

      again.

      sweatshops (for computer guys) are on the return. if you and I are not careful, we will be so close to the old ways, we will have to fight that old war back again. we already lost our weekends and we lost time and a half for overtime (my grandfather used to get 1.5x, 2x and 3x time for time past normal work hours). we don't get that - we're now the evil thing called 'exempt' and we get cheated out of our own time and extra pay.

      add to insult the fact that all corp firewalls have a MitM proxy in them, corp windows boxes are handed out preloaded with certs installed (for the mitm firewall entry) and at some places (like where I work) its been known that spyware and remote mic/camera stuff can be activated and logged/reviewed by your boss. how do I know: because in .de they have to disclose this and my work has offices in .de ; in the US they don't disclose what they do when spying but over in .de they do).

      if we dont fight back, things will continue to get worse.

      oh right, we don't have unions so we are all afraid of speaking out, for sake of our jobs.

      well, so we have 2 problems to solve, then.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Of course any attempt to discuss Unions in the work place will result in instant dismissal for the employee initiating the pro-Union conversation. So mind you conversations at the work place, say nothing in any way critical of management. Say nothing about politics. Say nothing about religion. Of course if you want to get ahead, do the opposite and just make sure it aligns with the managements personal preferences.

        • Being fired for union talk is a no no and the logs will prove that.

          • Nobody will be fired for talking about unions. They will be performance managed out of the position over a period of months.

            The only place where you can't easily be fired is the public sector, and that's why they pay so badly.
      • Yeah . . . no thanks. I don't need anyone negotiating my salary on my behalf. I don't need some deadweight lazy incompetent being promoted ahead of me just because they've been at the company forever. And as a manager, I sure don't need to lose the important ability to fire a worker who just isn't working out. If I don't like my job or my employer, I will simply leave and find a new one. This is technology, not bureaucracy . . . please don't try to ruin it for the rest of us.
        • by BVis (267028)

          And as a manager, I sure don't need to lose the important ability to fire a worker who just isn't working out.

          Gosh, you might have to *gasp* TRAIN them to be better workers! Can't have that! Much better to toss them out like used toilet paper.

        • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

          Yeah . . . no thanks. I don't need anyone negotiating my salary on my behalf. I don't need some deadweight lazy incompetent being promoted ahead of me just because they've been at the company forever. And as a manager, I sure don't need to lose the important ability to fire a worker who just isn't working out. If I don't like my job or my employer, I will simply leave and find a new one. This is technology, not bureaucracy . . . please don't try to ruin it for the rest of us.

          Oh yes, teh evilz of the unions.

          Tell you what. Go back to a 12 hour six day work week, give back your sick leave, healthcare and vacation.

          You won't though will ya? Because while you hate the unionz, and the lazy commies and n'er do wells that they are, you don't have the fortitude to give back anything they've ever done for you? Any union hater of any ethics at all would never ever take advantage of tainted acquisitions.

          Hypocrite.

    • Unions are a double edged sword on the positive they do tend to protect against some of this stuff. On the negative they are expensive to maintain and that money comes out of the employee's check every week. Also they tend to rob you of flexibility.

      My brother is a union member and because of that union contract there are some things he simply doesn't have to put up with. On the other hand because of that union contract he can't have alternative work schedules, he can't negotiate different duties with his b

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:33PM (#47295309)

    I was the VP of IT for a twenty-plus year old SaaS firm with about 200 employees. I was there for three weeks when one of the interns came in and told me they forgot to install "a security update" for my new company issued laptop. He said it would force my laptop to reboot. I was in the middle of going getting acclimated to the IT budget so I said I'd install it myself later. He agreed. Later that day I inserted the flash drive and saw one binary. I right-clicked and saw the digital signature belonged to Spector 360. Red flags! Red flags!

    I spoke to the VP of IS and his jaw hit the floor. We ran Wireshark on his PC and sure enough, it was constantly communicating massive amounts of encrypted data to an internal server that had no hostname. We looked through the employee handbook and there was no mention of monitoring of employee internet use. For a moment, we thought our intern was working with a competitor. But, before we went crazy with that, our next step would be to talk with my predecessor who had stayed with the company to head up a new division. He immediately clammed up and told us we needed to talk to the CEO about it. He refused to talk any further.

    We went to the CEO and calmly asked about the program and what was being collected. Apparently, he had the previous VP of IT and the intern installing this software on every PC and laptop and that it was configured to capture everything: keystrokes, screen wipes, browsing history, IM history, etc. I was appalled and I knew my counterpart from IS was as well. Nevertheless, we warned him that controls needed to be in place to determine who has access to this information, under what circumstances the access is granted, etc. We emphasized the risk he was putting the company in. We were very professional and didn't even touch the creepy aspect. He said we'd all have a meeting about it in the morning. He scheduled it for 8am with me, the IS guy, the COO, company counsel, and the company president.

    At 4:45PM, about an hour after we received the meeting invite, both me and the VP of IS were rounded up, taken to the CEO's office, and promptly terminated.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Did you reach out to the general counsel after your termination?

    • by alexo (9335)

      And the name of that company is...?

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      You should report this company's behavior on Glassdoor.com, so that prospective employees can know what they're up to. Glassdoor.com allows you to make anonymous reviews of companies, as an employee (or ex-employee), so you don't have to leave your name there.

      A few months ago, I backed out of a job interview based on many reviews I read on Glassdoor.com. The company was Extron Electronics (they have two locations, one in the Bay Area and one in NJ near Princeton). I was lined up for an interview with the

  • by cat_jesus (525334) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:41PM (#47295333)
    I was fired because I would write to my wife about the absolutely stupid things my boss and "peers" would say and do. It turns out my boss, who was completely non technical but running an IT department, was reading our email. My former boss has surrounded himself with idiotic sycophants and apparently they've had to hire 3 consultants to do the job I was doing.

    He actually did me a favor. I hated working in that department, one of my peers was the owner's son and my boss was constantly sucking up to junior even though junior was my "peer". Junior is non technical too. That particular clique of management has managed to drive all the technical managers out and now they have a bunch of incompetent posers who have earned the distrust and loathing of all the people under them. They can't even make decisions on their own, they have to consult Gartner or other consultants.

    I'd name names but they paid me a shit ton of money to never out them. It ended up working out well for me though. I'm making much more money and working with very smart and competent people. Sometimes more surveillance just speeds up the dysfunction that is already present in an organization.
    • I was fired because I would write to my wife about the absolutely stupid things my boss and "peers" would say and do. {...} He actually did me a favor.

      Yep. You don't want to work for someone who does this.

      Your employees want to stay in touch with the outside world, and they don'r want their every move watched. Keeping them happy is crucial to your success. Don't be penny-wise but pound-foolish.

  • its a lie (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:41PM (#47295335)

    "Through these new means, companies have found, for example, that workers are more productive if they have more social interaction."

    lie, lie, lie. this is referring to the so-called open-office scheme, where they remove your privacy and sound barriers, sometimes even remove your personal desk and you are now 'fully interchangable cogs' to the company.

    this has been proven to be wrong, but it keeps getting trotted out, as if repeating it over and over again will make us believe it.

    CEO and bean-counter bullshit. see it for what it is.

    • by dj245 (732906)

      "Through these new means, companies have found, for example, that workers are more productive if they have more social interaction."

      lie, lie, lie. this is referring to the so-called open-office scheme, where they remove your privacy and sound barriers, sometimes even remove your personal desk and you are now 'fully interchangable cogs' to the company.

      this has been proven to be wrong, but it keeps getting trotted out, as if repeating it over and over again will make us believe it.

      CEO and bean-counter bullshit. see it for what it is.

      Its not a lie, just a bad manager. The problem for management is that what works awesome at some companies fail completely at others. Company/Department A may be doing great with an open-office scheme, all the employees are happy and productivity goes up 50%. The problem is that a a manager at Company/Department B will try it out without considering in what, if any, ways which A is different from B. if B is the same as A in all the ways which matter, then the manager is a hero. But if B is different th

      • That.

        At work, we've found a simple solution: Let each group figure out what seating arrangements work for it. There are software development groups here that really like open plans; my own group hates it, so we have tall cubes. It's up to the engineers in the group to figure out what works.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      I prefer open plan, as long as the office isn't too large. Easier to co-ordinate with people and hear about stuff that is happening. Of course people need to be sensible and take meetings to a meeting room, stuff like that, but it works well here.

  • by UrsaMajor987 (3604759) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @08:22PM (#47295459)
    Most programmers and people in IT in general are classified as exempt. Given the level of monitoring and control; the idea that IT people are exempt is a joke. Shift the classification to non-exempt and start paying overtime.
  • by siemmer (3709637) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @08:57PM (#47295579)
    I actually work for a company that sells a SIEM tool that lends itself very nicely to monitoring of insiders. (read: employee surveillance) While most usecases are around PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and that sort of thing, invariably there are "four eyes" usecases as well. These usecases tend to bridge into the way an employee compares to their fellow employees, particularly those in the same business unit / group / job function. This tends to uncover things like people in x group come into work at 9:01a, Bill, a member of x group, comes in at 9:33a most days. Bill also tends to browse the internet on y-type sites whereas people in x group are usually active on z-type sites. Bill spends b-time with the average customer call, and takes c calls per day. Whereas x-group employees typically take 10minutes less than b-time for the average customer call, and take c+5 calls per day. SIEM tools are built to bring in most any type of data, and lots of it. Built-in correlation is normally security-centric, but is easily adapted for most anything. For example, Bill is marked as being on a business trip to Birmingham, AL but his VPN connection is coming from the FL keys *flag*. Or, more ominous, Bill said he was out at lunch with clients for an hour, but the geolocation-software installed into his phone says he was located around a car dealership, and was there for 3 hours.
  • by epyT-R (613989) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @09:10PM (#47295615)

    You don't need to surveil employees to figure out they work better with a little down time, and then force a 15 minute break on them. Let them socialize naturally and judge them on their performance. No Orwellian panopticon needed. How about not treating human beings as robots? Did that thought ever occur to management? I doubt it.

    Fidgeting with people's coffee makers isn't necessary either.

  • covered all this sort of thing.

    It seems that a copy of Peopleware would cost a lot less than some Orwellian surveillance system.

  • by Scot Seese (137975) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @10:10PM (#47295805)

    Dear Corporate America,

    Your employees will begin to resent your "15 minute department coffee breaks" as soon as they learn they were born from spying on work habits, or pulled out of the latest fad HR / Management best seller. This ranks up there with silly morale boosters like "crazy Hawaiian shirt Fridays" for a developer team that is crushing 60 hour weeks and just wants to go home.

    Please accept a few thoughts on true lasting employee and corporate culture improvements:

    1, end the "Corporate Daycare" mentality. Arriving at 8:05 isn't the end of the world, particularly if that employee is conscientious about staying until 5:10 to compensate. Actually, have you heard of "Flex Time" , at all? Adult professionals shouldn't be shamed for making coffee at 3:30 requiring they leave their desk for 20 minutes.

    2, Realize that company-provided smartphones are essentially the same as taking your manager home with you, and stop fucking sending emails after 5pm unless it's an emergency. Stop sending meeting invites at 9pm for 9 AM meetings with the expectation that employees will see it, reply immediately and be present the next morning. Let's just tie this back to "treat people like adult professionals, the way you would like to be treated."

    3, Your company suffers failure of imagination and naked greed. Make your employees participants in your companies' success. Ask them for product improvements, new product ideas, and give them more than a plaque or a parking space for coming through with groundbreaking ideas. Give them bonuses. Uncomfortably large bonuses. Watch in amazement as suddenly your employees are transformed from the cave-dwelling Morlocks from HG Wells "The Time Machine" to highly motivated people who will make the company significantly more money.

    4, Value for Value. Pay people what they are worth. Treat them with respect. They will work hard for you.

    5, There are artists - people who can start with a blank canvas and create a photorealistic painting from their minds' eye. There are people who can't do that, but can take a blank canvas, pencil a grid on it, and methodically reproduce the photorealistic painting with 95% accuracy. This is the difference between Richard Branson and every asshole with an MBA. Far more often than not, the largest source of employees' discontent stems from bad management. Leading and motivating people is a preternatural talent, and the people with that gift are worth sourcing and retaining at all costs. All star leadership will cut your employee churn, boost your productivity, and earn your company more money.

    6, Stack Ranking, Six Sigma, when will you people realize that human beings are psychologically complicated animals and applying scientific optimization models originally designed to optimize efficiency in industrial manufacturing environments has little or no value when applied to the talking meat populating your cubicles.

    Six Sigma is spectacularly effective at destroying true innovation, creativity and blue-sky thinking, and has no place outside of the factory. I'm glad everyone who attended a training seminar at the airport Hilton immediately ads "Six Sigma Level 3 Grand Wizard" in their Outlook signature to quickly identify those persons I never, ever wish to have a meaningful conversation about new product with, as part of the Six Sigma training is to destroy the part of the brain responsible for creative thinking by way of directed electrical current applied using a special helmet. Other electrodes in the helmet stimulate the part of the brain making you feel incredibly enthusiastic about applying Six Sigma to everything you imagine to be possible.

    Stack Ranking is essentially the same cruel process used by 10 year olds choosing teams for kickball at recess, and often with the same level of consideration. The guy answering his company Outlook emails until 10:30 every night, who also pipes up frequently in meetings - albeit absent any meaningful contributions in either - color me surprised if that guy doesn't do well in the soul crushing quarterly Stack Rank.

    Corporate America is soulless.

  • Recording of a voice in Florida is often illegal. I doubt that it matters whose property it is on or whether it is an employer or not. It is a felony and the civil suit might be a real stunner.
  • Listen up, Japanese. (Score:4, Informative)

    by ichthus (72442) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @10:39PM (#47295899) Homepage
    I'm an embedded systems engineer for a company in the US, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of a large Japanese company. We enjoy comforts like alternate work schedules, telecommuting, etc. Our Japanese counterparts, however, arrive at work promptly at 8 am, spend much of each day in meetings, and then begin actual work well after noon. They work late into the night (~8:30P or later), have dinner at 10, go to bed and wake up the next day for more of the same. And, they work on Saturday. Additionally, they all wear uniforms -- it's like watching prisoners march to the mess hall when it's time for their collective department lunch break, given at 45 minute intervals.

    Not only are they not as productive, their creativity is obviously stifled. Aside from the cultural norm of not wanting to rock the boat or "think outside the box", they are simply unable to innovate and create the same way we are. Indeed, when they need some creative problem solving, they come here to the US for brainstorming sessions. And, the frustrating thing is, I get the impression that they feel their way is superior. Not so. They live to work, while we work to live.
    • by jrumney (197329) on Monday June 23, 2014 @12:13AM (#47296121) Homepage
      A lot of Japanese companies are fighting back against the overwork culture these days. It is usual to see all the lights turned out in the office over the lunch hour to discourage working through lunch, and many companies have no-overtime days where the office is closed at 6pm (I even met one guy a couple of weeks ago who said his company has started doing this every day of the week).
      • by ichthus (72442)
        I've heard of this, but I was under the impression that it was mostly motivated by power saving -- that it was solely during the hot summer months. If this is, in fact, an effort toward making things more comfortable and more conducive to creativity (and consequently, more sane), more power to them.
  • by seven of five (578993) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @10:44PM (#47295913) Homepage
    1. It is fun to spy on others. It is not fun to be spied upon.
    2. You exert power and authority by spying on others, and by forcing them to accept surveillance.
    3. People, if they know someone's spying on them, will find ways to thwart or subvert surveillance. Spying then becomes an arms race between those who want to observe and those who resist being observed.
  • The unknown effect involves the mysterious overlords.

    Seriously, they need to spy on employees to figure out that attention spans are finite, fatigue limits effectiveness and water cooler chat revitalizes the mind? Perhaps espionage will also help directors discover that sick leave reduces illness. It may be bloody obvious to even those of us who are borderline human, but apparently it will take hidden cameras and infrared imaging for senior management to figure it out.

    • Well, that's the result of BA education that pretty much ignores the whole "human factor" of corporate culture. On paper, people are fungible. And in theory that's correct. Even though it may not be so that you can replace everyone by anyone, there's enough carpenters, programmers, accountants and whatever else that you can replace the one you have with another one of the same kind.

      What that thinking absolutely ignores is that Bob likes Alice and will do his job in such a way that it is easier for her to do

    • by synapse7 (1075571)

      We have to use vacation time for sick leave, so people are often at work while sick.. Its great. Also, the building I'm in is scheduled to get a surveillance system I imagine for the president to figure out where to be a larger pain in the ass.

  • It's simple. It's easy. It's absolutely impossible for 99% of the companies out there to implement it.

    Your most sensitive, most accurate and by some margin absolutely cheapest (because it comes with zero additional cost) surveillance and monitoring system you have is your staff. This of course has a few requirements. First and foremost, it would require you to trust your staff more than you trust your 1000-bucks-an-hour consultant who will tell you that this won't fly (mostly because you wouldn't need him a

  • There's a reason that mechanical engineers don't try to make things fit together "perfectly". Everything needs slack, wiggle room, tolerance. Or it breaks down.
    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      Nope. Bad analogy.

      Mechanical engineers don't try to make things fit together perfectly because manufacturing processes aren't that accurate (or, making them more accurate drives up cost greatly). As manufacturing tolerances have gotten more precise with better technology, things do fit together more closely, and extra labor to account for this has been rendered less necessary. Cars used to need extra labor for body panels to fit together properly; now they don't because manufacturing tolerances are so pr

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Of course, this kind of monitoring raises privacy concerns."

    What privacy concerns would those be? You have no expectation of privacy at work except when on the phone or emailing with your spouse, doctor, lawyer, or other professional where there is a statutory privilege (which may or may not be permitted anyway, depending on employer policy regarding personal use of company resources).

    The company has every right to monitor how its resources are being used. Employees who misuse company resources are committ

  • By Ford, without monitoring, however else will you sort the Betas from the Deltas?
    Question, though: In the 15 minute forced socialization breaks, do they pass a Loving Cup?

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