back to article Japanese quadcopter makes overworked employees clock out

A Japanese company is using a quadcopter drone to help its employees know when to pack it in for the day. Taisei, a Tokyo-based office management company, says that its T-Frend bot will start buzzing around offices next spring. The drone service, operated in partnership with NTT East and Blue Innovation, will fly around …

  1. bombastic bob Silver badge

    when you like what you do...

    well, when you LIKE what you do, spending long hours doing it comes naturally.

    Just thought I'd add that perspective. I think LOTS of people who think this way end up owning their own businesses.

    hard work and dedication does deserve a reward... and being told to LEAVE may be counter-productive in more ways than one.

    /me points out that a long commute home might be a good way of getting the extra work in, if you can do it while riding on a train, on a notebook computer, with somewhat unreliable intarwebs access.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: when you like what you do...

      Ah, but you have not seen the British civil service answer to this. They sent it for cost benefit analysis to HMRC, who allocated £1Bn for the discovery and implementation phase which requires a new department to be set up. After careful consideration of the word 'drone' it was decided that a drone that flies inside the office and can tell staff when to go home would breach Health and Safety guidelines. Therefore the drone must fly over or around the offices.

      Meet the new drone

    2. Tim Seventh

      Re: when you like what you do...

      "well, when you LIKE what you do, spending long hours doing it comes naturally."

      This.Is.Japan, not the UK or other western countries. They have the old company culture where you work in the same company from day to night (6?am - 12am) until you retire (they call them salary-man).

      It is the cultural norm for them to work long-hours as a representation of company loyalty, and hardworking for the family. Except that's really F*** up when you literally don't have any time for anything, including the family part. Heck, if they even have a family or any kid at all. There's a reason why Japan's population growth is dropping as one of the fastest. Their spending of long hours in office is not nature. Their employees are not happy, their productivity isn't any better for their company, it should be stopped.

      Also there is no "owning their own businesses" when they culturally have to be loyal to their company.

      "hard work and dedication does deserve a reward" but this is Japan, they would be lucky to even be able to ask their boss for "a reward" when everyone else likely did it without a reward.

      1. Puuru

        Re: when you like what you do...

        All true, but there actually is a reward of sorts - or more to the point, an inducement. Most Japanese companies pay a "bonus" twice a year. Bonus? Well, each payment is typically worth 2 months' salary! That's the standard. However, the bosses can pay out a "plus alpha", and that is determined to a large extent by how long the victim, er, employee, has spent hanging around the workplace over and above the usual "diligent" hours.

        There's another question about the drone thing. People feel they can't go home until the manager does - and the manager won't go until they do. (Positive feedback anyone?) So, will the drone dispatch the manager too?

        I'd love this to succeed. "Karoushi" (death by overwork) is far too common in Japan, and of course social disruption is, as pointed out, even more common. Those are two birds that really need to be dispatched by one stone, or drone.

    3. Field Commander A9

      Re: when you like what you do...

      and when you hate your wife so much.

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: when you like what you do...

      I used to have a job I loved, I often spent long hours doing it. It being IT related I used IT to work out how efficient I was being. I found out I could work the odd week of more than 60 hours and productivity would improve a bit. After a couple of weeks of 60hours or more productivity would plummet below the 37.5 hr normal week and take a week or two of normal work to recover. This was largely due to the error rate increasing.

      After some visits to the US where 7am-7pm and at least some hours over the weekend was 'compulsory' and I realised no work was being done because there was no urgency I stopped doing long hours unless absolutely necessary. Pissed a lot of people off but no-one could get the work done as fast as me.

      I've since worked for several bosses who worked long hours and got fuck all done.

      I've since found out some German states fine companies who make their employees work too long and they have higher productivity.

      All the science points to working longer gets less done as the errors accumulate. It looks like 30-40 hrs is pretty much optimal.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: when you like what you do...

        "I've since found out some German states fine companies who make their employees work too long and they have higher productivity.

        All the science points to working longer gets less done as the errors accumulate. It looks like 30-40 hrs is pretty much optimal."

        This why the Working Time Directive was introduced. The one we all sign a disclaimer for when starting a new job.

  2. vir

    Time to Leave...

    Just need to pick up all the paper and debris scattered around the office first.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How many points...

    ...for manufacturing the situation where a disintegrating disk platter shoots down the flying dev botherer, with the individual concerned insisting their focus was so intense neither flying disks nor falling drones were noticed?

    (Oh, I can hardly wait for Simon's take on all the opportunities here. Especially the BOFH's solution to mangemen deploying paired drones...)

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: How many points...

      "I can hardly wait for Simon's take on all the opportunities here"

      Simon would be at the local pub, when he leaves at 30 minutes before beer-o-clock. However, a cardboard cutout of him (mysteriously connected to an automatic timer device) will conveniently be in his chair, to be spotted by the drone between the hours of beer-o-clock and "time to go home".

  4. gerdesj Silver badge

    I can save them $4,500 per month

    Managers. If they can't manage properly, then a little education followed by performance related HR procedures should get the job done. Drones in the office sounds a bit dangerous, no matter how well meaning. Besides, who is ensuring the operator (there is a human responsible for these things, I assume 8) is getting enough "life"?

    I am, of course, attacking the problem from the perspective of a UK business owner. If renting drones to get people out the door at huge expense is a viable solution, then I think there is a bit of a culture difference.

    Strangely enough I rarely have to boot someone out. It's not that my staff are lazy or not committed - they do go above and beyond as required and that is the key point - as required and not routinely. We are an IT firm and we've all had to pull all nighters or whatever to get someone out of the shit. We also strive to avoid the shit in the first place. We even have ISO 9000 etc to demonstrate as such. Sometimes reality matches our policies and processes ...

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: I can save them $4,500 per month

      Managers. If they can't manage properly, then a little education followed by performance related HR procedures should get the job done.

      Another method: Just have a timed announcement at closing to the effect that: "The office is closing in half an hour. Anyone still on premises after that will be escorted out by security."

      Then enforce it.

      1. gerdesj Silver badge

        Re: I can save them $4,500 per month

        It isn't rocket science. However I suspect that Japanese culture is a little different to ours (?)

        Reading between the lines and some crazy 2+2 style reasoning leads me to conclude that someone is willing to blow $4,500 per month on an "innovative" solution to a non-problem (where I'm from - UK). However, I can imagine that I might come up with some pretty crazy sounding schemes if I had to attempt to break cultural norms. It would appear that in Japan that throwing technology - the brasher the better - is a good start to doing something pretty radical (breaking cultural norms). I've seen dafter from HR in the past 8)

        This (Japan) is a land where it is apparently good form to fall asleep in a meeting, provided it is obvious that you have been burning the candle at both ends (for the firm). If that happens here, then the more humiliating the wake up, the better, is sometimes the rule. I'm not sure who is dafter ...

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Tom Paine Silver badge

        Re: I can save them $4,500 per month

        Managers. If they can't manage properly, then a little education followed by performance related HR procedures should get the job done.

        Another method: Just have a timed announcement at closing to the effect that: "The office is closing in half an hour. Anyone still on premises after that will be escorted out by security."

        Then enforce it.

        Another method.


        * T Paine does not advocate arson as a means of requesting time off

        1. Def Silver badge

          Re: I can save them $4,500 per month

          I think investing in office chairs with a huge retractable spike in the seat that *slowly* rises up when it's time to leave should also be considered.

          And any employees still seated with large smiles on their faces should be politely escorted to the nearest singles bar.

    2. kain preacher

      Re: I can save them $4,500 per month

      Problem is over working is a cult rue issue in Japan. It's like how do you know when you are over cheering for you favorite football team. To outsiders it would be well when you feel the urge to smack people, but to you and your friends it's not .

    3. DropBear

      Re: I can save them $4,500 per month

      "Drones in the office sounds a bit dangerous"

      Not necessarily. There are a bunch of "ducted drones", and more prosaically, drones encased in a "wire ball".

  5. Ken Y-N
    Black Helicopters

    Working as I do in a large company in Japan, unless they equip the thing with tranquilliser darts and a skyhook to eject the offenders, I expect little effect.

    Alternatively, deduct the overtime pay from the manager's salary, and they'd soon be booting them out the door by 5 pm.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If what you say is the norm, there will be an effect. Workers getting close to wrapping up a brutal job may suddenly have to deal with an annoying pest hovering over them, that won't go away. This will not end well.

      1. Mr Sceptical

        Japan - home of the Samurai sword, kendo stick, etc.

        Unless the drones are programmed for military-grade avoidance tactics, they won't stand a chance.

        Would make a pretty entertaining YouTube channel - bagsy 5% of the gross! ;-)

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      "Working as I do in a large company in Japan"

      I would assume that SALARY employees don't get overtime pay in Japan, either?

      in which case, the boss's paycheck won't be affected if you deduct overtime pay from his pay [because there won't be an overtime bonus for the employees staying late to finish up or whatever].

      Also, is it that competitive for well-paying jobs in Japan, that people are COMPELLED to look like they're working harder/better/faster than everyone else? Just curious.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The game is called Karoshi: Suicide Salaryman... the situation (from some random stuff I read forever ago) is that they'll do insane hours with no commensurate pay just to be doubly sure they keep their job. And then die.

        1. Chris King
  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The "correct" time to leave the office is driven from the top down. The top guy has a word in his immediate inferior's shell-like and gets him (always "him") to pass it along. Nobody wants to work less than their boss, so this top-down culture of overwork is obviously reversed by the same top-down mentality.

    I can only assume that the half million yen a month cost of this service is being sold on the strength that if employees don't react positively then the bot can be reprogrammed for spying or search and destroy missions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: idiotic

      Actually I suspect these drones are really just glorified security cameras. If they can also be touted as worker wranglers too (at no extra cost), that enhances the saleability of the item.

      The current article focuses on that aspect of the device because it generates more interest than a drone endlessly following programmed rounds within a darkened office building.

      Altho, I suppose the 'high-tech heist' movie genre might need some updating soon...

  7. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Hovering targets

    Time to introduce the Japanese to Silicon Valley's Nerf gun culture. The Jolt wins for concealability and accuracy but there are massive drum and chain-feed guns if you're of Storm Trooper lineage.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Hovering targets

      or use the opportunity to test that binder clip trebuchet you hacked up using pencils, rubber bands, old batteries, and tape

      1. Mr Sceptical

        Re: Hovering targets

        Japan - also home to the Ninja star.

        Minus points if you impale a fellow employee though.

        Need a Ninja icon >

        1. Captain DaFt

          Re: Hovering targets

          Need a Ninja icon >

          But El Reg has had a ninja icon for ages!

          (But like a true ninja, you can't see it until it's too late) ☺

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time to go?


    Clock says X

    X minus start time = Y

    Y = pay rate


  9. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

    It is there to improve your health

    Just ignore the camera and SD card plus facial recognition which makes it a full time spy on all your activities.

    I wonder if it is there to cover the blind spots in the static security cameras?

  10. albaleo

    Taisei, more than an office management company

    Taisei is a large construction company. I'm guessing this is either a division or subsidiary.

    I have one fond memory of teaching English to structural engineers at this company in the early 80s. Their head office is one of the large skyscrapers in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo. When it was built in the 70s, there was much fanfare about how it was made earthquake proof. But these guy told me that one of the engineers had redone the calculations, and although they thought the main structure was still safe, there were doubts whether the cladding (window panels) would stay attached during a severe earthquake. So they very kindly offered the very nice window-side office space to the HR staff and other suited types. Meanwhile, they moved as far from the windows as they could.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Desk occupancy monitoring

    The Register covered OccupEye back in 2016...

    I came across one of these devices when I was working for a customer location recently and crawled under the desk to secure a Kensington lock. Was not in the least surprised to see it there as the place was so full of control freakery in all the internal communications and directives being plastered across the place in noticeboards, come 4 and 5 PM, there were mass exits to the doors.

    Posting as AC as I may well have to visit them again, but hopefully not.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cruel and unusual

    Playing Auld Lang Syne at helpless employees, merely for staying late to furkle a Powerpoint presentation that nobody will really give a shit about? I've no problem with torture and the death penalty for selected people (MoD Procurement, if you're interested), but that is so cruel, so excessive to the crime that even I cannot support it.

    Sadly I have to put up with a family who think that it is acceptable, nay necessary to sing the damned song on New Year's Eve. WTF is wrong with them? Hideous tune, words no fucker understands, and if they understood them they wouldn't mean them. Apparently I'm the Grinch that Stole New Year. And there's another thing, New Year's Fucking, don't get me started.

    Auld Lang Syne, MoD Procurement, Uber, Michael Gove.....all of them should be cleansed with fire. Lots of it. And I'd give Scotland independence to pay the bastards back for the cursed tune.

    1. albaleo

      Re: Cruel and unusual

      They don't really play the song Auld Lang Syne, only the tune. Robert Burns may have had a similar reaction to your own, most certainly about Michael Gove.

      This is thought to be the tune when Burns was around:

  13. DropBear

    One of the reasons why, in spite of its apparent tentacle fetish, I would NEVER agree to live in Japan. Hey, people are people too! Stop overworking them!

  14. ThatOne Silver badge

    What can this $10000 drone do what a $2 alarm clock can't? (Except of course send all papers on everyone's desk flying, and be a general hazard for people (hard hats required?).)

    Surveillance? They've already got cameras for that. And I don't think it would take any effort to eliminate a drone if you're really up to no good. Just throw a net when it's looking away and watch it crash.

    IMHO it's all about trying to use buzzword tech. I'm surprised the drone doesn't have an AI too...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > "Surveillance? They've already got cameras for that."

      Not quite. The usual sort of cameras are at fixed points that can, at most, swivel around. To achieve full coverage requires many cameras.

      Conversely a drone camera may move about, locating all available spaces and surfaces, and imaging them from all angles. And this may be done with far fewer cameras, achieving the higher security levels of human guards in the process.

      Reasonable cost, no big human component to be paid or get tired or just phuck-off, and comparable or better security. I'd say this is the future, except for the fact that a hack attack might disable the entire system. Human guards are resistant to that sort of thing.

  15. lglethal Silver badge

    Ahh Japan, where a simple solution of a boss ordering everyone to go home or a server lockout is never the correct answer. You must have something high tech, something robotic, preferrably flying and with just a slight hint of crazy (playing auld lang sang?! WTF! ) for your solution.

    For those wondering, the culture in Japan is very much you dont work less than your boss. So you cant leave until at least an hour after your boss and you should be there at least an hour before your boss. If that means your working an 18 hour day because your boss cant be seen to be working less than his boss and his boss cant be seen working less than his boss (etc etc), then you put up with it. Absolutely insane, but that is the japanese way. At least they are trying to tackle this culture now, and though this is something of a crazy solution, if it shines a spotlight on it, all for the better!

    1. B83


      Yeah the work culture across in Japan is totally different from us in blighty, but that does not make us slackers.

      Employees in some Japanese firms are given inceptives/bonuses for taking holidays. I'm sure that is one of the car manufacturers.

      However I bet the office culture is exactly the same but with different hours! "Look at that lazy b*star*d, walks in here at 7 am and I bet he leaves at 7 pm", "how does he get away with it". "What he has taken all his holidays", "where is the dedication to the job".

  16. Oengus Silver badge


    El Reg offices use a similar tactic, though it involves waving an open beer outside the front door at the end of the day.

    If you tried that tactic here you would be killed in the rush (especially if it is Friday afternoon).

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: Rush

      Wouldn't waving an open beer make it go everywhere, El Reg for the love of god point to the tinnie instead of splashing it everywhere!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Rush

        "Wouldn't waving an open beer make it go everywhere, El Reg for the love of god point to the tinnie instead of splashing it everywhere!"

        I was going to say they need the smell of the beer to get them going and then I realised the cans are decorated in a similar way to pub name signs, ie designed for those who can't read. These are Journos after all :-)

  17. d3vy Silver badge

    For £3000 a month I'll pop round to local offices and tell people when it's time to go home...

    Wonder if I can sell that as a service.

  18. d3vy Silver badge

    Finally a use for those USB missile launchers!

  19. FozzyBear

    No such problems in our office. You could blindly drive a mack truck through the office at 5.10pm and only hit furniture

  20. Nimby

    Clearly in the wrong.

    That's just brilliantly horrible! I'm sure these drones also come with a warranty and maintenance program that does not cover damage from flying chairs. The manufacturer will no doubt be raking it in every time that sucker gets downed.

    Which is perfect as it gives me time to bring to market a land-bound alternative, based on a telepresence robot skinned to look like a cute girl. She rolls up once every minute or so to kindly remind the workaholic to please go home (in an adorable voice) bow, and roll away to safety in an adorable hit-and-run. She'll be too cute to shoot. The cost savings of my version will be a tremendous selling point after a few months of Auld Lang Syne induced Whack-a-Drone.

    And as a land-bound version, she can pack more firepower for when she roams the empty halls at night, another significant selling point. As Apple can attest to, being innovative is overrated. Don't be the first to market. Let others find the flaws first, and then don't make their mistakes.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Clearly in the wrong.

      "She'll be too cute to shoot. "

      I take it that you've never seen a Manga comic.

  21. ToadOfToadHall

    Working late?

    There was a nice story circulating at a previous place I worked (medium-sized American multinational).

    It concerned a young German woman who came for a job interview. Naturally, her interviewers mentioned unpaid overtime sometimes being required, showing "commitment", etc. etc. How did she feel about this?

    Her reply? : "In my experience, if a company is properly run then this is not necessary".

    BTW, the lack of correlation between long hours and productivity has been officially known about since at least the First World War, when studies were done on munitions workers. But yet the myth persists...

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