Workplace Surveillance is Absolutely a Thing

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You have every right to be spooked.

Spacious and tidy open-plan officeEver have the feeling you’re being watched? If you work in a high-performing company, your suspicions might be well founded.

A new trend towards keeping tabs on your employees – some without them knowing – is becoming more prevalent than you might think, with 15 of the businesses that made Fortune 500’s list employing subtle surveillance on their workforce. In 2012, technology research firm the Aberdeen Group, reported that 62% of companies that have “field employees” tracked staff using GPS, almost double the percentage from just four years earlier. Just last year, employees at the UK publication The Daily Telegraph, turned up to work one Monday with employee trackers from sensor spruiking company OccupEye.

“Most people, when they walk into buildings, don’t even notice them,” says Joe Costello, chief executive officer of Enlighted, a company that implants sensors into every piece of office accoutrement from lights to ID badges, for up to 350 top companies. The sensors themselves can track everything from conference room usage and employee whereabouts, and are installed under the guise of energy efficiency, as they detect whether to leave lights on or off, depending on the amount of staff members who are present at the time. And while Enlighted’s sensors provide anonymous data, as opposed to personally linked information, there are still some sceptics (us included) who recognise the potential problems with this kind of monitoring, despite it being legal.

“This wouldn’t be the first employment technology that was introduced for efficiency but became a disciplinary tool,” Lewis Maltby of the National Workrights Institute has previously said of workplace tracking. “What’s going to happen when the traffic pattern shows that one employee is away more than another?”

Maybe just take a quick look under your desk tomorrow – you never know what you might find.

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