Eight of the 10 largest private U.S. employers track individual productivity. And the practice is spreading.

  

Category:  News & Politics

By:  john-russell  •  one month ago  •  28 comments

Eight of the 10 largest private U.S. employers track individual productivity. And the practice is spreading.
Workplace Productivity: Are You Being Tracked?


www.nytimes.com   /interactive/2022/08/14/business/worker-productivity-tracking.html

Workplace Productivity: Are You Being Tracked?


Jodi Kantor, Arya Sundaram, Aliza Aufrichtig, Rumsey Taylor 26-32 minutes   8/14/2022








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Eight of the 10 largest private U.S. employers track individual productivity. And the practice is spreading.


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Therapist

Accrued “idle time”




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Copywriter

Refused monitoring




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Hospice Chaplain

Chased “points”




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Shift Manager

Feared “going red”




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Software Executive

Makes monitoring tool




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Editor in Chief

Submits screenshots




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Product Manager

Devised “focus scores”




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Operations Associate

Craves more tracking




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Research Analyst

Took a bathroom break




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Marketing Executive

Rated on “intensity”





The Rise of the Worker Productivity Score


EXCERPT

Across industries and incomes, more employees are being tracked, recorded and ranked. What is gained, companies say, is efficiency and accountability. What is lost?


By  Jodi Kantor  and Arya Sundaram
Produced by  Aliza Aufrichtig  and  Rumsey Taylor
  Aug. 14, 2022


A few   years ago , Carol Kraemer, a longtime finance executive, took a new job. Her title, senior vice president, was impressive. The compensation was excellent: $200 an hour.

But her first paychecks seemed low. Her new employer, which used extensive monitoring software on its all-remote workers, paid them only for the minutes when the system detected active work. Worse, Ms. Kraemer noticed that the software did not come close to capturing her labor. Offline work — doing math problems on paper, reading printouts, thinking — didn’t register and required approval as “manual time.” In managing the organization’s finances, Ms. Kraemer oversaw more than a dozen people, but mentoring them didn’t always leave a digital impression. If she forgot to turn on her time tracker, she had to appeal to be paid at all.

“You’re supposed to be a trusted member of your team, but there was never any trust that you were working for the team,” she said.

Since the dawn of modern offices, workers have orchestrated their actions by watching the clock. Now, more and more, the clock is watching them.



In lower-paying jobs , the monitoring is already ubiquitous: not just at   Amazon , where the second-by-second measurements became notorious, but also for Kroger cashiers,   UPS drivers   and millions of others. Eight of the 10 largest private U.S. employers track the productivity metrics of individual workers, many in real time, according to an examination by The New York Times.

Now digital productivity monitoring is also spreading among white-collar jobs and roles that require graduate degrees. Many employees, whether working remotely or in person, are subject to trackers, scores, “idle” buttons, or just quiet, constantly accumulating records. Pauses can lead to penalties, from lost pay to lost jobs.

Some radiologists see scoreboards showing their “inactivity” time and how their productivity stacks up against their colleagues’. At companies including J.P. Morgan, tracking how employees spend their days, from making phone calls to composing emails, has become routine practice. In Britain, Barclays Bank scrapped prodding messages to workers, like “Not enough time in the Zone yesterday,” after they caused an uproar. At UnitedHealth Group, low keyboard activity can affect compensation and sap bonuses. Public servants are tracked, too: In June, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority told engineers and other employees they could work remotely one day a week if they agreed to full-time productivity monitoring.

Architects, academic administrators, doctors, nursing home workers and   lawyers   described growing electronic surveillance over every minute of their workday. They echoed complaints that employees in many lower-paid positions have voiced for years: that their jobs are relentless, that they don’t have control — and in some cases, that they don’t even have enough time to use the bathroom. In interviews and in hundreds of written submissions to The Times, white-collar workers described being tracked as “demoralizing,” “humiliating” and “toxic.” Micromanagement is becoming standard, they said.

But the most urgent complaint, spanning industries and incomes, is that the working world’s new clocks are just wrong: inept at capturing offline activity, unreliable at assessing hard-to-quantify tasks and prone to undermining the work itself.

UnitedHealth social workers were marked idle for lack of keyboard activity while counseling patients in drug treatment facilities, according to a former supervisor. Grocery cashiers said the pressure to quickly scan items degraded customer service, making it harder to be patient with elderly shoppers who move slowly. Ms. Kraemer, the executive, said she sometimes resorted to doing “busywork that is mindless” to accumulate clicks.

“We’re in this era of measurement but we don’t know what we should be measuring,” said Ryan Fuller, former vice president for workplace intelligence at Microsoft.







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JohnRussell
Professor Principal
1  author  JohnRussell    one month ago
In lower-paying jobs , the monitoring is already ubiquitous: not just at Amazon , where the second-by-second measurements became notorious, but also for Kroger cashiers, UPS drivers and millions of others. Eight of the 10 largest private U.S. employers track the productivity metrics of individual workers, many in real time, according to an examination by The New York Times.

Now digital productivity monitoring is also spreading among white-collar jobs and roles that require graduate degrees. Many employees, whether working remotely or in person, are subject to trackers, scores, “idle” buttons, or just quiet, constantly accumulating records. Pauses can lead to penalties, from lost pay to lost jobs.

Some radiologists see scoreboards showing their “inactivity” time and how their productivity stacks up against their colleagues’. At companies including J.P. Morgan, tracking how employees spend their days, from making phone calls to composing emails, has become routine practice.

The real Big Brother. 

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
2  evilgenius    one month ago

As the article says, this isn't new. It's just being applied in new ways. The only way to stop it is to refuse to work for corporations that do it. 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1  author  JohnRussell  replied to  evilgenius @2    one month ago

If 8 out of 10 of the largest corporations in America are doing it, one way or another they are going to have tens of thousands of employees each. 

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
2.1.1  evilgenius  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1    one month ago
If 8 out of 10 of the largest corporations in America are doing it, one way or another they are going to have tens of thousands of employees each. 

If they want to continue to work for a company that pays them by the key stroke that's fine by me. I refuse to do so. 

 
 
 
Hal A. Lujah
Professor Expert
3  Hal A. Lujah    one month ago

The company I remote work for would struggle to replace me, in a huge way.  Not that I’m tooting my own horn, it’s just that in this region there is way more demand for my skills than supply.  If they are monitoring me then they aren’t going to be very happy, and frankly I don’t give a fuck.  I’m in the driver’s seat for a change, and I could easily find a new employer if they want to complain.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
4  Ender    one month ago

A little torn on this...

So this woman gets a job for 200 an hour then complains when they want proof of productivity...

Even if she can only prove she worked two hours a day that is 400 bucks...

Don't really feel sorry for her.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
4.1  author  JohnRussell  replied to  Ender @4    one month ago

I dont feel sorry for her either. But hers is only one example. 

 
 
 
squiggy
Sophomore Quiet
5  squiggy    one month ago

It's only a problem now that it reaches up the ladder. Factory production jobs have been busting balls for a hundred years. They wanted accountability - they got it.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
5.1  Ender  replied to  squiggy @5    one month ago

I read where they do this for drive through fast food workers. Go by numbers and speed instead of service.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
6  TᵢG    one month ago

This level of monitoring is usually counterproductive.    It is impossible to create a mathematical model that accurately evaluates productivity for jobs involving creativity, human interaction, etc.    The most likely result (other than disgruntled employees) will be employees working the system to get the highest pay.   They will do what is required to get $ even if that takes away from the true value they would otherwise bring.

A classical example in my field is the abandoned, ill-conceived practice of evaluating ‘programmers’ by lines of code written.   What one wants is high functionality, easy maintainability, flexibility, and correctness … and fewer lines of code is generally better. 

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
6.1  Ender  replied to  TᵢG @6    one month ago

Hide a game into the code...Haha

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
6.2  evilgenius  replied to  TᵢG @6    one month ago
It is impossible to create a mathematical model that accurately evaluates productivity for jobs involving creativity, human interaction, etc.

They mentioned something about productivity counting towards annual reviews in one of my wife's meetings recently. The problem is no one can tell any of the people in her department (billing) what that means. Management gets something in their head (trying to maximize profits) but has no clue how to really implement systems. In the end they just piss everyone off and often lose good workers in the process. 

 
 
 
arkpdx
Professor Participates
6.2.1  arkpdx  replied to  evilgenius @6.2    one month ago
Management gets something in their head 

To err is human. To really screw things up you need management involvement

 
 
 
magicschoolbusdropout
Freshman Principal
7  magicschoolbusdropout    one month ago

But her first paychecks seemed low. Her new employer, which used extensive monitoring software on its all-remote workers, paid them only for the minutes when the system detected active work. Worse, Ms. Kraemer noticed that the software did not come close to capturing her labor. Offline work — doing math problems on paper, reading printouts, thinking — didn’t register and required approval as “manual time.” In managing the organization’s finances, Ms. Kraemer oversaw more than a dozen people, but mentoring them didn’t always leave a digital impression. If she forgot to turn on her time tracker, she had to appeal to be paid at all.

Good Going "Mr. I actually run a Business" !

Moral of "The Story":

Working Remote isn't as GREAT as one might think !

Get yourself back in  Going to the office mode !

Nothing like actually "Being Seen", and not just "Heard" when it comes to "Growing" yourself in "REAL LIFE" business !

The "Pajama Party" IS OVER !

 
 
 
squiggy
Sophomore Quiet
7.1  squiggy  replied to  magicschoolbusdropout @7    one month ago

Pajamascammer - is one word.I heard a woman complain how she was 'forced' to work from home. 

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
7.2  evilgenius  replied to  magicschoolbusdropout @7    one month ago
Working Remote isn't as GREAT as one might think !

It depends on the job. There are many reports of people (my wife is one of them) saying working from home removes office distractions and is more productive. In my case I don't have to listen to my wife complain about all the office drama every day now. I think that's one of the biggest reasons they haven't brought people back into the office where my wife works.

 
 
 
magicschoolbusdropout
Freshman Principal
7.2.1  magicschoolbusdropout  replied to  evilgenius @7.2    one month ago
There are many reports of people (my wife is one of them) saying working from home removes office distractions and is more productive

So says "The Employee" anyway !

Apparently, The "Business Owners" are finding it to be different (Based on the article)

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
7.2.2  TᵢG  replied to  evilgenius @7.2    one month ago

I worked remote for decades (well before it was popular).   To me, not wasting time getting to/from work and all the distractions when at work was a boost to my productivity.   At the time I was heavily involved leading the development of a new commercial software product as co-founder of a start-up.

Much of my team (my best software engineers) worked remotely too.   That gave us the option to tap talent limited only by time-zone.    My top engineer (amazingly talented and productive) lived 5 hours away from our office so I rarely saw him (but interacted with him daily).

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
8  author  JohnRussell    one month ago

Its a problem in large corporations because small businesses cant afford to have an employee whose only job is to spy on the other employees. 

 
 
 
arkpdx
Professor Participates
9  arkpdx    one month ago

Damn how terrible. Actually expecting someone to be productive at work. I mean most people spend at least eight hours a day five days a week at their jobs. How dare their employees expect them to work too 

 
 
 
charger 383
Professor Quiet
10  charger 383    one month ago

There is a productivity loss for the time people spend figuring out ways to beat the system and make it work to their advantage.  

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
11  Drinker of the Wry    one month ago

I'm in big trouble if the US Army ever institutes this.

 
 
 
squiggy
Sophomore Quiet
11.1  squiggy  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @11    one month ago

It started - DPMAP - you've been pitted against each other.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
11.1.1  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  squiggy @11.1    one month ago

DPMAP - The application tools sucks like a lot of government SW but I've done fine with my evals, bonuses my last 10 years or so.

 
 
 
squiggy
Sophomore Quiet
11.1.2  squiggy  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @11.1.1    one month ago

It's the RIF retention part that's galling. Objective criteria give way to subjective evaluation by some kid and the one point difference can negate a world of seniority and savvy. No matter how good you are, if the other guy is one point better, you're gone. At least that's how I took it before I rode the wave. They try so hard to keep the I in Team.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
11.1.3  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  squiggy @11.1.2    one month ago

I probably should have paid attention to that announcement but I've never really looked at it or worried about a RIF.  I have never so managed my career Army, Defense Contractor, DA Civilian as just showed up and did my job.  All in all, I've been very fortunate and have worked for and with some really good people.  I know that not always the case for everybody.

 
 
 
southparkrepublican
Freshman Silent
12  southparkrepublican    one month ago

This is why the metric should be tasks or projects completed. That's the whole benefit of being a salary employee. If you are good at your job it may take you less time to accomplish projects than your Co workers do or than your employer thought it would. If youre bad at your job you will have to spend more time just doing your job which could mean unpaid overtime. If you are not waiting excessively on your employees to finish tasks why put them under the microscope?

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
12.1  TᵢG  replied to  southparkrepublican @12    one month ago

You will tend to get what that for which you measure and reward.   It is often tough to come up with the right measurement criteria (and then to secure accurate data on those criteria).

While I agree with your sentiment, tasks completed is not sufficient either since it leaves out quality (which would have various measurements depending upon the task).    Even a fast food restaurant needs to measure more than the number of meals served per hour (for example).    When we get into more sophisticated jobs (e.g. legal briefs by an associate) the accuracy and completeness of the brief is important but it must also be succinct and to the point.   Then we have the client relationship aspect, timeliness of preparation, etc.

Ultimately the key is to produce representative performance metrics that encourage the right job down properly and represent factors that can actually be accurately and easily measured.

 
 

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