back to article UK union pens letter to data watchdog on icky workplace monitoring systems like Microsoft's Productivity Score

UK trade union Prospect has chimed in with the chorus of disapproval at technologies such as Microsoft's Productivity Score being used on the nation's workers. The letter [PDF], sent to data watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), makes clear the disquiet felt at the potential level of employee monitoring …

  1. Hollerithevo

    Of course it is going to be used only for good

    I expect HR, when it was briefly activated in my company, were seeking to remove the burden of pointless meetings from my shoulders, and were hoping I would reduce my email traffic to allow me to do my work in an uninterrupted way.

    Hahahahahahahaha nope

    Thank goodness my contract ends soon, because although it 'seems' to have been turned off, it either hasn't been, or won't be for long.

  2. TRT Silver badge


    Provided that it extends in all directions through the company... boardroom to cleaning cupboard... AND tracking ALL the emails sent and phone calls made in the banking sector... THAT could have been VERY helpful a little while back and stuff which is still probably going on...

    Now, how many meetings has my director got scheduled this week and who with, of course, because you can't just stuff your calendar with fake meetings, can you? And in the interests of efficiency, how many rooms did they book when they took their PA on that trip last year? Privacy? At work? You think it's unreasonable have some form of expectation for that? OK then... I can work with that.

    PFY... how much lime do we have in stock?

  3. Eponymous Bastard

    Doing a deal with the devil, or maybe Jesus?

    I have no doubt that the Redmond retards sold the whole MS clusterfuck of apps, namely Sharepoint, Teams, O365 and OneDrive to cunts like my employer on the basis of insidious monitoring tools being available. I used to get productivity bollocks emails from some centralised shit spammer which told me how much time I had available for collaboration or some other bullshit until I unsubscribed. That was all the time I wasn't sitting at my fucking desk interacting with shit like Teams because I don't sit at my fucking desk all the time staring at Teams you fucktards! The dorks who get paid 6 figure salaries at my workplace probably don't even know how to do a fucking sum in Excel or make a table in Word - although to be fair that is still challenging for those with an IQ of less than 120 and I do work in higher education. They like using Excel with pretty colours though, mainly pastels, nice.

    1. davef1010101010
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Doing a deal with the devil, or maybe Jesus?

      This is the same Teams that marks you "away" after 5 mins whilst you have it in the background whilst you're replying to your 50th email that day and in your 7th Zoom meeting of the morning.

      So it's accurarate then...

      Paris...because she's always active in the backround.

      And come on El Reg, isn't it about time we had someone more relevant like a Trump or a Kardashian icon?

      1. OssianScotland

        Re: Doing a deal with the devil, or maybe Jesus?

        Are you saying Paris sucks?

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Doing a deal with the devil, or maybe Jesus?

          It's a nice place in the spring...

          1. EnviableOne Silver badge

            Re: Doing a deal with the devil, or maybe Jesus?

            wheras in st.Petersburg, we're frezzing our arses off ....

            and no i'm not showing you the rose

      2. needmorehare

        Re: Doing a deal with the devil, or maybe Jesus?

        Can’t we have a Lennart icon instead for some equal opportunities feature creep? :D

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doing a deal with the devil, or maybe Jesus?

      @Epomymous Bastard

      You just summed up my experience of working at Bradford and Bingley circa early 2000"s.

      Cheer… Ishy

    3. DiViDeD

      Re: how to do a fucking sum in Excel

      I kid you not, when I worked for <Major US Bank>, we had a senior sales director who kept a desk calculator on her desk for that very purpose.

      She would type in her column of numbers, do the old border total thing on the bottom cell, then reach for the calculator, add up the numbers in her column, and type that into the total cell.

      Her expression of cynical disbelief when I showed her "=SUM()" was faintly disturbing, coming from a woman responsible for billions of dollars of product sales!

      1. Loyal Commenter

        Re: how to do a fucking sum in Excel

        The Dunning Kruger effect in full play there. I get the feeling that the higher up the pay-scale you go in most organisations, the more it applies.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > To be fair, tracking that kind of information (if properly anonymised) makes a lot of sense. Meeting overload is a notable productivity killer, for example.

    It's ludicrous to have such disempowered employees that they can't pick their level of meeting attendance, and think that an IT snoop can fix that.

    1. Rich 11

      Oh, shitsticks!

      It's ludicrous to...

      Welcome to middle management.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've already pushed back against my employer wanting to deploy this sort of monitoring in the workplace. There are significant gaps in work flows and duties which cannot be captured by it for starters, which makes the metrics useless to use across the entire organisation, it's an indicate of some work done but nothing else.

      I raised at the start of the year that working from home requires 4 things:

      1. Internal infrastructure or resourcing to enable it.

      2. Suitable equipment and workplace at home with an employee who wishes to work remotely.

      3. An employee who can be effectively managed remotely - not everyone can.

      4. Managers who are trained in how to remotely manage staff - this is a new skill for all of our management.

      So far 1 and 2 have been addressed, 3 and 4 remain untouched. Fact is some people should NOT be permitted to work from home and some managers should be removed from their role or given training as they are unable to properly manage staff remotely.

      These are not IT issues, this is meatbag issues (staff/manager), require training and potentially going back to office worth with appropriate social distancing measures in place. Which should be possible given so many can work remotely. I have not worked remotely at all, I have always been in the office despite enabling 12000 staff to work remotely.

      1. Loyal Commenter

        Requiring Training

        From my experience, and observations, training occurs when the manager does not have the skills to properly manage the employee.

        The training consists of sending the employee on a "communication skills" course or similar.

        Rinse and repeat until the employee finds another job. Then repeat some more, just with a different employee. La plus ça change...

    3. hoola Silver badge

      It is also unclear where the snooping stops and starts. I would expect that as with all these things, the majority of the real culprits for taking liberties "working from home" are often in managerial positions, the very people who are paranoid that their staff are not working whilst at home.

  5. Emir Al Weeq


    Anyone else get an ad for TimeDoctor in the middle of this article?

    I wonder how many leads that will generate.

  6. big_D Silver badge


    The problem is, different jobs have different loads.

    When I was working as a developer, I'd probably have half a dozen emails a day, would go to meetings maybe a couple of times a month and spent most of my time actually working.

    As a consultant, I was on the phone a lot or in meetings and was producing documentation and sending out dozens of emails.

    As a tool to see whether a cloud service makes economic sense, it might work, but to give an overview of how productive an employee is, it isn't refined enough. You might as well go back to keystroke counters or analysis tools that count the number of lines of code written in a day - that doesn't take into account testing and debugging, for example. Any automated system is going to come up short and only shows how much value you are getting from that system, in terms of time spent using it, but absolutely no information about how productive people are.

    1. Robert Grant Silver badge

      Re: Templates...

      Yeah. It conflates "using Microsoft products" and productivity. This is not accidental.

    2. Loyal Commenter

      Re: Templates...

      When I was working as a developer, I'd probably have half a dozen emails a day, would go to meetings maybe a couple of times a month and spent most of my time actually working.

      Hahaha, I wish. With working from home, managers are ever keener to prove that they have value, so the number of meetings to "touch base" has proliferated. As a dev, I'm lucky if I get to spend 50% of my time actually doing productive work. If recent history is anything to go by, the other 50% is largely spent analysing why the work is late and rescheduling it. Now if only I could have the time to actually get the work done...

  7. Brad16800

    It's pointless. People will just do the things that give them the best score, at the expense of the other jobs.

    Back on helldesk, years ago we had to do at least 20 tickets a day. I'd pick the oldest one as per the rules where as a colleague picked all the 5 minute jobs and took the afternoon off. Just doesn't work and definitely doesn't show actual productivity. Oh and that guy ended up being the SD manager....

    1. Persona Silver badge

      and that guy ended up being the SD manager

      That's because he was smart enough to realize that by breaking the rules he made himself look good and in the process made a material impact on the helpdesk queue statistics which in turn made his manager look good. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties.

  8. Robert D Bank

    makes me can spend 40% or more of your day these days doing soul destroying admin to maybe, possibly, if you're really lucky, actually do some productive work. Another 20% with pointless meetings, 10% listening to some corporate tosh being droned out or doing regulatory reading. So you have maybe 30% to be productive, if you're not having network issues or whatever other shit is thrown at you for the day. And then you have the next 'transformation' and related rearranging of the management deck chairs which happens with monotonous regularity, and destroys continuity and means lots of time wasted on reinventing to wheels and re-educating the uneducatable.

    1. hoola Silver badge

      Exactly, we regularly have an admin overhead that can exceed that of the technical work by many times. But, it keeps people upstairs happy because they can see work is being done. The fact that we are mindbogglingly unproductive does not appear to cause any concerns at all.

    2. Loyal Commenter

      I wonder if you work where I work. That sounds alarmingly familiar. The sad thing is, though, that there are probably many organisations that are that badly run.

  9. 0laf
    Thumb Down

    any complex system can be gamed

    I think we saw enough in the MS patent or product specs that we could all see ways to game the score, mostly by buying more MS 365 products.

    I'm sure a talented dev could use power shell to automate vacuous comment entry in enough products to generate a near perfect score without actually doing anything productive.

    Under the GDPR there is also a section which refers to automatic decision making by algorithm which would seem to imply to this if any business was going to use it to measure staff performance. Given MS not exactly being open about how any of the AI in 365 does anything it would seem unlikely that using this would be compliant with the legislation; ever.

    How lucky we're moving away from all those shitty rules that protect us from being treated like chattle by the managers.

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