back to article Wells Fargo fires employees accused of faking keyboard activity to pretend to work

Wells Fargo fired a bunch of employees accused of pretending to work, by using some tech to fake their keyboard typing, instead of doing their actual jobs, it emerged today. The California-based enormo-bank disclosed the terminations to the US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority on May 6, saying the employees were " …

  1. Champ

    Whatever happened to measuring output?

    This is a really depressing story. Surely these employees were employed to actually produce something, which no amount of fake mouse jiggling is going to replicate. Can Wells Fargo really not tell when staff aren't producing the output that they're employed for?

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

      No, evidently they measure productivity by who is most often 'online' on Teams ...

      1. Dimmer Silver badge

        Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

        I was asked “Is there a way we can determine if a remote employee is working?”

        Yep, the work gets done.

        1. ColinPa

          Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

          Please review this document and highlight any problems. How do you measure this?

          1. Kurgan Silver badge

            Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

            You don't measure this ONCE, but in the long run it's evident if you are actually doing something useful or not.

            1. cyberdemon Silver badge
              Terminator

              Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

              TBH, "review this document and highlight any problems" is the sort of job that will get taken over by AI. It might not spot every problem and it might imagine some that don't exist, and it might exfiltrate your confidential document to third parties, but at least it's fast and doesn't plug in the mouse jiggler and take the dog for a walk while not actually reading it..

              1. Rosie Davies

                Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                AI is unlikely to be useful for reviewing the sort of documents I review on a regular basis. It'll be OK as a turbo spell and grammar checking doodad but that's only a tiny part of a proper review. I don't see how it's going to cross reference half a dozen or so documents, handwritten notes in a day book, conversations had away from the computer, memories of an what happened years ago and all the other plethora of nonsense that I need to use when reviewing a document.

                Rosie

                1. cyberdemon Silver badge
                  Devil

                  Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                  Of course. But that doesn't mean that your pointy-haired boss won't try to use AI to replace you, and suffer all of the consequences that I mentioned.

                  I didn't actually say that AI is useful, only that it will start doing jobs quickly, cheaply and badly. Probably not even better than a job not done at all..

                  1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                    Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                    I didn't actually say that AI is useful, only that it will start doing jobs quickly, cheaply and badly.

                    To be fair, "doing jobs quickly, cheaply, and badly" is useful to some organizations, since currently they do jobs badly but at great cost.

                2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                  Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                  Counterpoint: So-called "grammar checking" (which is mostly checking usage, mechanics, and a sophomoric conception of style against a bunch of dubious heuristics) is never useful. At best, it makes a poor writer of one sort into a poor writer of another sort.

                  1. plrndl

                    Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                    Bad grammar can alter meaning or render it ambiguous. As in the famous "let's eat grandma".

                3. big_D Silver badge

                  Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                  For me, it is checking the small print in legal documents. There you really need to read and understand every word, otherwise it can work out very expensive.

                  I've had to return contracts for alteration many times, because the terms were unacceptable. I doubt an AI, at least using current LLM technology, would be able to work out the negative consequences of some lawyer speak. My biggest problem was, I did this for some US contracts we got (I work for a German company in Germany) and I did it so well, they gave me all the German contracts that came in as well, I'd have loved an AI that could get around German lawyer speak! But even a translation AI manages to get every 3rd sentence wrong! I had to really improve my legal German in order to be able to evaluate the documents.

                  In fact, translation is one of the worst areas I've seen for AI. My German isn't bad and I had to translate some documentation from English to German and the elementary mistakes it made, made the tool absolutely useless. It was quicker and easier to manually translate it - my translations were accurate, but a long way from being professional (I know, I did an internship at a translation service a few years later). Even today, running text through services like Google Translate are laughable at best, downright dangerous at worst.

              2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                Alas, this is probably true for many documents, because they'll be prepared by LLMs and processed by LLMs, and no human will ever actually write or read them.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

            I used to work in tech support. I was 2nd line. For a while, they talked about measuring our output. Of course, they didn't phrase it that way. The Ticketing system we used had the option of gving out Xbox or PSN style "Achievements" for number of tickets responded to. They wanted this turned on. I was part of a large group who obected. Partly because we were teenagers, and partly because if they turned this system on, it would have favoured first line, because they do deal with most of the tickets, leaving us to deal with the harder stuff that almost by definition, will take longer.

            Even now, part of my work is in development. I can be working for hours on a given problem not appearing to produce much because I am actually running through solutions in my head.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

              A former employer introduced a "reward" system where the people who closed the most tickets got public praise and a reward - I think a bottle of champagne and chocolates or something similar (it was 20 years ago). First month was fine, then in the second month they realised that people were reopening then closing tickets that colleagues had resolved to improve their stats. The reward system was quietly dropped...

              1. martinusher Silver badge

                Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                Wells Fargo is way behind the curve here.

                Recommended reading -- "Wasting Police Time" by "David Copperfield" (I'd guess a pen name judging by the content). Its now a bit dated but details the problem of data driven management and how applied in a service industry where output is abstract causes a lot of activity and no actual product. Its a fun read and will explain why when you got you house/car/whatever broken into and something nicked you don't stand a chance of the police investigating it.

                The same will apply for anyone else in a service industry. The workforce adapts to simulate working. Ultimately it never works, though, because like Homer Simpson's pecking bird there does come a time when some actual steps need to be taken( or the nuclear power plant blows up!)

              2. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Silver badge

                Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                Ah, the so-called perverse incentive, or the "cobra effect". TL/DR: Cobra snake population was too high, so people were given a bounty for each one killed. People bred them to claim many bounties. Result: cobra population increased.

                https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perverse_incentive

                Wikipedia describes this as an example of unintended consequences of economic simulation. But I prefer to see it as the majestic inventiveness of human beings to get round a system, sometimes expending more effort than it would have taken to do the thing in the first place.

                1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                  Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                  Ah, the so-called perverse incentive

                  cf the "Cash for ash" fiasco.

                2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

                  Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                  A friend of mine started paying her ten year old daughter a penny for every grey hair she found and pulled out. After a week of expensive grooming, she added a term; less 10p for every non-grey hair pulled out.

                3. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                  "Wikipedia describes this as an example of unintended consequences of economic simulation."

                  A company the firm I worked for used to get non-conforming product at the end of the month/quarter as production would get a bonus based on units shipped. We'd have to send them back, but the warranty department is the cost center for that so production doesn't get dinged and the bonuses continue.

              3. Persona

                Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                A relative of mine worked out that at his firm tickets for easy problems "scored" equally as hard ones. He then specialized in picking up the subset of tickets that were easy fixes and automated the hell out of them with Python scripts. He generally worked for five minutes every hour on the hour and consistently ranked as the highest performing operator. The remaining 55 minutes were spent watching films and playing games. His biggest worry was that they would notice how quickly he closed tickets. They never did and he was still doing it over 10 years later when the firm eventually folded.

                The icing on the cake was that the employer was in the US and he was a Brit living in Asia (WFH) so he paid no income tax.

              4. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                In a former life I worked on a hell desk and manglement decided they needed feedback on our performance. Rather than use someone else to do it, it was "I've fixed your problem, now would you like to give feedback". The answer tended to be biblical... "go forth and multiply, for verily I've been twiddling my thumbs for a couple of hours and need to get work done", so we were obviously reluctant

                Luckily we had a 'tame' customer who relied on us to do his fault-finding, and he basically said to fill the form in as we saw fit and he would back us up if necessary... we filled in dozens, to the point we got an award (a framed certificate, worse luck!)

                Nobody seems to have noticed that 99.9% were for the same customer, so they were just box-ticking... which is why I try to never fill in surveys

            2. Stevie

              Re: "Achievements"

              Counting tickets as a measure of productivity. Yep, had this one, with EXACTLY the same issue. Meeting called. Example of "golden employee" was helldesk quick fix ticket history. Others pointed out that one ticket assigned usually encompassed 15 minutes of effort (assuming requestor had all ducks in a row, and was contactable if not) and could often take one or more days of effort (switch work, provision new server etc).

              Water off a duck's back.

              1. PB90210 Bronze badge

                Re: "Achievements"

                We had a new manglement team complain we were completing few jobs and taking longer to complete them compared with other pre-build workshops in the company.

                We pointed out that we were generally working on higher end kit AND had a higher satisfaction rating with less problems (missing parts, wrong cables, etc) as we believed in 'Right First Time' rather than 'poke and hope' (supplying exactly what was requested rather than what was needed)

                (the company did push the 'Right First Time' mantra a few times but then a few years later a new broom would sweep it all away with "Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width")

            3. Nedly

              Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

              'Gamifying' is what they called it, apparently it was a selling point for the system our management decided upon.

              It was turned on but I don't believe anyone ever took it seriously because realistically, how can you as adults.

            4. Helcat

              Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

              Here's a trick with development tickets: Write down your musings on the ticket.

              Now, if something happens and someone else takes over the ticket then they can see what you'd looked at, considered, and results.

              AND middle manglement can look and see that yes, you were doing something (typing notes in the ticket) and it sure looks like work, even if that ticket took hours to complete.

              Mostly it's so others can pick up on where you were with that issue, though - something I've found helpful and it's helped my colleagues, too, hence it's a good idea regardless.

          3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

            "Please review this document and highlight any problems"

            Does the document have any intrinsic value or does it just exist to be passed round for comment and to give management something to do reading it (or to give its original author something to do writing it).

            1. Persona

              Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

              I once was unfortunate to work on a high security system that mandated a very high level of formal documentation and review as part of the evaluation criteria. It was interesting to note that that vast bulk of the review comments were raised concerning the first 5-10 non boilerplate pages and also the last few pages. It was pretty clear to me the the only a token random page or two in the middle ever got read.

          4. Helcat

            Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

            You'd measure the review by when was the review submitted and were there any mistakes highlighted/questions raised?

            If you put in a few deliberate mistakes (mine are all deliberate for this exact reason. Honest!) then you know there will be highlights/corrections.

            That's how you'd measure a review of a single document. However, you'd use targets/performance measures to see if the work is being done or not.

            Looking at key presses and mouse movement is just a bum on seat check: Doesn't mean work is actually being done.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

              "Looking at key presses and mouse movement is just a bum on seat check: Doesn't mean work is actually being done."

              Not only that, but Wells Fargo claimed the employees were being "unethical" and this would not be tolerated. I wonder how ethical it is to micromanage employees at this level?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

                Wells Fargo, the company fined $3 billion for opening accounts for customers without authorization, knows anything about ethics?

                https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/wells-fargo-agrees-pay-3-billion-resolve-criminal-and-civil-investigations-sales-practices

          5. This post has been deleted by its author

          6. plrndl

            Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

            Unless there is a written report that the manager can review, this is not work, it's time wasting, or buck passing.

        2. Stevie

          Re: work gets done

          Back before remote work, before PCs in the workplace, I had a manager who was convinced I was not working to my contracted effort level.

          I suggested he "ghost" me (pre-social media meaning) so he would have eyes-on while I was in the office.

          He would come into the office and find me working already. He had to stay past his end-of-day too - I preferred to blitz problems and had a policy of "If I broke it, I fix it" that superseded my contracted work day (ie I was working for free, but that wasn't a problem since there was absolutely nothing to do of a weeknight in that benighted town. They closed the swimming pool at 7pm FFS I digress).

          Manager lasted exactly four days, and never questioned my timesheet again.

          Covid-era had me facing a similar issue over remote-maybe-he's-not working and I used the same tactic. This time the fish didn't bite, but did stop with the nonsense.

          After all, stuff was demonstrably getting done.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: work gets done

            Managers, by coincidence this just happened this morning. Friday.

            Some managers contacted me and told me that they needed me to help with a very urgent serious problem.

            I explained I was working on a very urgent other matter and I would be free to help them at 2PM or 2:30 ish.

            They said, no that's OK it'll wait until Monday.

            Every Friday PM I struggle to find any manager who will respond to a ping.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

      Measuring output was never a thing.

      Let me tell you about a little experience I had way back in the early 1990s. I had finished my licence in accounting at that point, and was looking to a future of bookkeeping (thank God that didn't work out). My future wife (at the time) had a friend who managed a gym. He was interested in putting his accounting on a computer (yes, in those days it was a question). He asked me if I would agree to go with him to evaluate some accounting products. I agreed readily.

      We ended up in a (for the time) savvy business shop, waiting for a demo of a certain accounting product that shall remain nameless lest I get a lawsuit. There were six people there, representing at least three prospective customers. Reminder : these were the days where a 486DX was the height of technology, and Windows was version 3.11.

      We got a demo all right. About 15 minutes of showing how to enter invoices and other fascinating accounting stuff (yes, that is satirical). Then we got about 95 minutes of how you could configure the software to record and document how often the users hit the keyboard, how often they made mistakes, how quickly they completed the entry of a record.

      In the early 90s. When computers had, at most, 1MB of RAM and 33Mhz of CPU power.

      I leave it to the reader to guess just what todays' accounting packages can do - as far as going full Big Brother on the employees is concerned. From that experience I learned that actually doing the accounting is a secondary, if not tertiary, objective as far as accounting software is concerned. The primary objective is clearly detecting who the slackers are.

      YMMV, but I'm glad I ended up as a programmer.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

      "Can Wells Fargo really not tell when staff aren't producing the output that they're employed for?"

      Obviously not. It calls into question the value of whatever's been produced by those who were doing whatever they were employed for.

    4. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Silver badge

      Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

      That was my first thought too. But there isn't much detail of actual events in this report or other news outlets covering this story either. It could be that the staff were already under investigation for being rubbish, which then uncovered the activity faking systems. That's more newsworthy than a long drawn out and very dull application of a corporate performance management process.

      That's what happened where I worked once. A staff member was being rubbish and just not getting stuff done. As part of the eventual investigation, IT produced their laptop logs (basically just the windows event logs) and we saw that their laptop just wasn't turned on for long enough for them to meet their mandatory hours. That was just one piece of evidence that supported their dismissal and as I retell it now, it's the most newsworthy one.

      Another time, I got a message from IT about someone's laptop being used at stage times of the night. They had spotted the network activity and just wanted to check that it hasn't been stolen.

    5. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

      Wells Fargo probably had their own keyloggers installed on their employees' computers, and measured "work" by the metric, "keystrokes per hour".

    6. This post has been deleted by its author

    7. Persona

      Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

      In some instances it's hard to tell if a lack of output is due to the problem being harder, the staff being dumb or the hours being worked low.

      I know one chap who is currently employed full time by two firms. As he only has to go into the office one day a week for one firm and the other is 100% WFH with the other he manages to get away with it. He "works" short hours at home too: 9:30 to 4:30 with a least an hour for lunch and gardening. For him WFH is the gift that keeps giving.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

        Good for him, provided both employers know about the arrangement.

        If not, of course, he's a lying weasel who deserves two sackings back to back.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

        If you are WFH and super efficient, it's an awesome arrangement. One would think that the company has done the meetings and memos to determine what needs to be done and how much getting it done should cost. Put that work in terms of man-hours and parcel it out. If that work isn't getting done, time to suss the problem.

        If a company has no way to measure real work being done, sucks to be them. I can expand the things that make it look like I'm working when I'm really only keeping the seat warm. Somehow I doubt that being super efficient will be rewarded with higher pay. If I WFH and I agree to do X work for X pay, I'm way ahead if I'm organized enough to get it done in half the time and the company should feel they are getting value for money since the pay on offer is what they came up with. They could always come back to me and offer more X for more X if I think I can take it on.

    8. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Whatever happened to measuring output?

      Yes, exactly. Thankfully such spying on employees is illegal here and my employer looks only on the results, not what you are doing every minute.

      A few colleagues did try mouse jigglers (software and hardware) as a way to get around the GPO to lock the desktop after 5 minutes of inactivity, not to show they were working, but so that they didn't have to keep unlocking their PCs. But they were banned, for security reasons, not for trying to look busy.

  2. PB90210 Bronze badge

    Homer and the nodding bird toy...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Hence the secondary headline

  3. PBuon

    I use Caffeine.exe to stay active on Teams and I have no shame in doing so. Whateva, I do what I want!

    1. Acme Tech Support

      I use a software mouse jiggler program, only if I need to leave a PC running unattended for a while and I don't want the tree hugging power (saving?) mad son of the boss admin putting it to sleep with his group policies that he is "too busy" to change, so I have to do things like this to do my job!

      1. Casca Silver badge

        Good security thinking there...

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          "Locked" != "Sleep"

          I often lock my PC while it's ramming the CPU to 110%, and would be most annoyed somewhat disappointed if I came back from a coffee break to find it's gone to sleep instead of doing stuff.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Since there are no mouse activity simulator programs hosted on the internal Wells Fargo software library sites, employees would probably need to grab something from an untrusted source. That is a huge policy violation that can result in termination. WFB employees are required to take an annual cybersecurity course that covers the topic, so you can't play ignorant. If that was their chosen method, they chose poorly.

        I suspect that they were using such an app because I have a very old mouse with a high level of jitter connected to my work machine that makes it appear that I am always around unless I lock my desktop or manually change my status in Teams. In all the years I've had that mouse, nobody has complained.

        But it could also be that their supervisor was the sort that fixates on IM status or message response time and eventually caught on to their always available status. Or they were slacking off in other ways that drew attention to themselves. Luckily, my supervisors over the years have generally been chill and really only cared about my actual work metrics. If I was done in two hours, they didn't expect that I remain glued to the keyboard for the rest of the day, so long as attended meetings, checked messages often enough, and was reachable by phone.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "Since there are no mouse activity simulator programs hosted on the internal Wells Fargo software library sites, employees would probably need to grab something from an untrusted source."

          You don't need a software mouse simulator if you rest you mouse on a cheap 3d-printer electro-mechanical mouse jiggler. No installs required, and anyway, if Wells Fargo IT teams are even half competent, the users should not be able to "side load" or otherwise install 3rd party programs anyway.

          Toms Hardware has a nice list of options, most of which require no s/w be installed, including some methods I'd not heard of before such as an app that displays moving patterns on your phone display, all you do is place the mouse on the phone with the app running and it simulates mouse motion. And another that takes everyones favourite all-purpose office app, Excel, where you can type in a Macro to do it for you :-)

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "I use a software mouse jiggler program, only if I need to leave a PC running unattended for a while "

        Similar here, the bloody stupid "standard" policy setting locks the laptop after 5 minutes of inactivity. Thing is, I use my laptop as a tool, along with other tools to do my job. I'm not sitting at it beavering away. I'm keeping technical documents open to refer to, so instead of glancing over check if I just fitted the correct widget to the proper fandangle, I have to stop what I'm doing and enter my password again. And no, no amount of begging and pleading that we engineers have differing use cases and requirements seems to have any effect. The one change we did get, after literately months of arguing with infosecs stonewall "it's company policy" and it eventually reaching director level did we eventually get local admin rights because we do actually need to do stuff that a desk jockey never needs to do.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's usually management

    Managers are well known for random keyboard activity.

    They call it "email" or "report" Go figure.

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      Re: It's usually management

      So true! I dealt with a project manager many moons ago who claimed that he 'worked weekends' as he checked his blackberry once or twice over the weekend.

      1. FirstTangoInParis Bronze badge

        Re: It's usually management

        I’m not a project manager but have carried out the role now and then. All the middle managers want monthly reports in minute detail in their own unique format that takes forever to prepare and they spend either max 10 minutes or all day looking at it. I was once reporting to three such managers at the same time and tried automating the reports but couldn’t install tools to do so. I was so glad to leave that role. When one of the middle managers retired they were actually not replaced, so that tells you how much value they added.

  5. that one in the corner Silver badge

    such as so-called mouse jigglers, which can be found for as cheap as $5

    You are over-paying for your mouse-jigglers (especially if you buy, say, a pack of a dozen). An ATTiny 85 on a Digispark board should do the trick.

    I really wish that I had thought to plug one in on Weds evening, as it would have prevented Windows from rebooting the PC and knackering some very slow and long downloads, as well as the rest of the overnight jobs I had left running!

    So don't go around making it sound like mouse-jigglers are only useful for nefarious purposes.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: such as so-called mouse jigglers, which can be found for as cheap as $5

      My employer enforces a screen lock after 15 minutes of activity for security reasons, which is sensible enough. While WFH during COVID lockdowns, I used a (software) mouse jiggler to prevent my work laptop from locking because I lived alone; there was no point. The work I was doing at the time didn't require me to be physically using the laptop from minute to minute and I grew sick of being forced to log back in every time I returned from whatever productive thing I was actually doing to check on its progress.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: such as so-called mouse jigglers, which can be found for as cheap as $5

        At UK Covid Vax centres, common practices for the admin was to rest a bottle of hand sanitizer on the space bar to stop Outcomes4health vaccination capture website logging you out at slack periods in the day. :-)

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: such as so-called mouse jigglers, which can be found for as cheap as $5

          Homer Simpson used a dippy bird to repeatedly press the Y key on a keyboard to acknowledge that he had checked that all the safety monitoring parameters were in spec at a nuclear power plant.

          This was in the 1990s. In fact he had been on a diet of donuts to achieve 300 pounds in weight that would have allowed him to work from home.

          1. Roj Blake Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: such as so-called mouse jigglers, which can be found for as cheap as $5

            They should definitely put a reference to that in the article's byline.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: such as so-called mouse jigglers, which can be found for as cheap as $5

              Those who don't watch the Simpsons (yes, really) appreciate Werdsmith's explanation.

          2. CountCadaver Silver badge

            Re: such as so-called mouse jigglers, which can be found for as cheap as $5

            Actually it wasn't just donuts Dr nick prescribed

            https://youtu.be/zkr0xeFT4nk?feature=shared

          3. NoOnions

            Re: such as so-called mouse jigglers, which can be found for as cheap as $5

            Who the heck downvoted your post and why? King Sized Homer is one of my favourite episodes.

          4. A. Coatsworth Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: such as so-called mouse jigglers, which can be found for as cheap as $5

            The fact that 300 pounds (136 kg) was hilariously, over the top overweight also says a lot about how the world has changed in the last 30 years...

        2. Natalie Gritpants Jr

          Re: such as so-called mouse jigglers, which can be found for as cheap as $5

          In the 80's I worked on a CAD system for schematic capture written in Mainsail. When generating netlists it would frequently run garbage collection and post a message to tell you, Problem was after 20 odd messages the screen would be full, and you would have to hit Enter to continue. Netlist generation would take hours and we would try to run it overnight. We soon learned to build a stack of stationary to keep the Enter button down.

          1. Ace2 Silver badge

            Re: such as so-called mouse jigglers, which can be found for as cheap as $5

            That is a truly ridiculous software behavior

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: That is a truly ridiculous software behavior

              It is useful if it prevents Microsoft from rebooting your pc for you at an inconvenient time.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: such as so-called mouse jigglers, which can be found for as cheap as $5

          I like to stand a bottle of tequila on the delete key. Not only am I working "smarter not harder", I'm freeing up space on the SAN and reducing storage costs.

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: such as so-called mouse jigglers, which can be found for as cheap as $5

        5 minutes(!) here. Started with "caffeine", switched to plug-in USB mouse jiggler. And for the same reasons as you have so eloquently described.

      3. Marty McFly Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: such as so-called mouse jigglers, which can be found for as cheap as $5

        I've been remote for over a decade, and I live way out in the country.

        I understand Screen Lock for security reasons in a shared office space. But if I have an unauthorized user in front of my PC, then I have a bigger issue with physical security. That triggers my inner BOFH and I end up having to fire up the backhoe and dig another hole out back....

        Oh, and Caffeine avoids the screen lock.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Foolish to use a mouse jiggler

    If the Wells Fargo snooping is crap enough to be fooled that a jiggler or simple keyboard tapping looks like "productive work", these guys should have just spent their time browsing Amazon, playing simple video games or writing comments on The Register, like we all do!

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Foolish to use a mouse jiggler

      Are ... are you suggesting that writing comments in the Register forums is not productive work? What madness is this?

  7. Grogan Silver badge

    Well... that's just what monitoring keystrokes begets. Why don't you judge people by meeting deadlines instead of micromanaging their fingers.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Not everyone has deadlines. Some WFH is just the normal mundane admin that can be easily done anywhere. There are many metrics than can be used to check if someone is maintaining some minimum level of performance, but they probably cost most as they need to be specific to an industry, task or specific app. Most companies seem to go with whatever option is cheapest and just gives reports on log-in/log-out times, counts keystrokes and measures "mileage" of mouse movements.

  8. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Obligatory

    https://xkcd.com/196/

    Cueball: Last night I was watching videos with this girl and my monitors kept turning off - even though I had disabled power save.

    Friend: Odd.

    Cueball: However! I wrote a command to jiggle the mouse pointer every couple minutes to keep it from going idle.

    Friend: Not the first hack I'd try, but see? Linux has problems, but it gives you the tools to deal with them - and save your date!

    Cueball: Actually, I was half an hour into the pointer scripting documentation when she got dressed and left.

    1. Bebu Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Obligatory

      Re: https://xkcd.com/196/

      Randall's cartoon both sad and funny on so many levels.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Obligatory

        I use a small powershell script that toggles Scroll Lock every so many seconds to keep things awake.

        1. Emir Al Weeq

          Re: Obligatory

          I once wrote a bit of code that randomly toggled caps lock, scroll lock and num lock to provide keyboard Christmas lights*, I wonder if that would have had the same effect.

          I also knew someone who fashioned a simple cradle out of Blu-Tac that allowed him to place his mouse on its side next to one of those small, solar-powered, dancing toys to keep screen-lock from engaging whilst WFH.

          *Can't remember the back story as to why.

  9. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    "got the boot after being probed."

    Sounds invasive and painful.

    Homer was evidently employed in the Wells Fargo wealth management arm of the firm and I am guessing there wasn't a lot of actual work to do. These days I imagine retail unit trust administration would be deader than a graveyard at midnight.

    So I guess Homie was facing the unemployment queue either way although I have to wonder what he was doing while his mouse was being jiggled?

    In most workplaces the young and impressionable seem to be fartarsing around with ChatGPT and the like, which should have generated enough keyboard/mouse events.

    The poor bugger for his sins will likely spend his life as a software tester. ;)

    1. My-Handle

      Re: "got the boot after being probed."

      ...and I am guessing there wasn't a lot of actual work to do

      Wouldn't have stopped one company I used to work for. That was the kind of company who arbitrarily set targets for an entire floor of people (8 to 10 teams), based on how much upper management thought they could get done. Workers who didn't meet the minimum threshold for their targets were put on disciplinery actions. That in itself wouldn't have been unreasonable if the targets were accurately set (say, based on previous throughput). But they were a) arbitrary and b) didn't actually take account of how much work was available for these teams! The minimum threshold across the entire floor represented about 150% of the work that was actually available to pick up, meaning that a random third of the staff were being put on disciplinery actions every month, depending on how the work got allotted.

      Said company also wondered why they had staff retention problems. At the height of that idiocy, that floor had about 2% turnover every week. 200 people on the floor, 4 leaving every Friday.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "got the boot after being probed."

        It's as well to remember that the only skill needed to get to the top of a hierarchical organisation is climbing hierarchical organisations. The existence of any other abilities such as intelligence should not be assumed.

        1. My-Handle

          Re: "got the boot after being probed."

          I'm of the opinion that intelligence is actively filtered out by the process.

      2. PB90210 Bronze badge

        Re: "got the boot after being probed."

        A friend got marked down on his annual assessment because manglement had mandated that customer-facing people had to sell a certain amount of product

        He got the black mark despite pointing out that he spent all his time shuttling between government offices fixing the company kit and even if he did manage to 'sell' an idea it would have gone to the government procurement team rather than him

        1. My-Handle

          Re: "got the boot after being probed."

          Yep, been there too. The same company as mentioned above marked me down in my annual review because I needed to work on my "customer interaction". The fact that I was officially QA for website changes (and unofficially their in-house software developer whose software was saving them hundreds of thousands of pounds a year) and thus didn't have customers didn't seem to figure in their decision at all.

  10. GraXXoR

    This is like one of those dystopian situations that comes from films like Brazil.

    There should really only be one major metric for work: merit of work. Which could be broken down into separate sub goals.

    Do they produce good or excellent output?

    Do they produce it in a timely fashion and in an appropriate format?

    Do they add sufficient value to their team or the company as a whole to offset their compensation?

    I just pulled these out of my arse, since I’m neither a personnel evaluator nor a middle manager. But if I were a manager, I would imagine these would be my top concerns.

    1. sarusa Silver badge
      Devil

      If you were a manager, your top concern would be how to pretend to upper management that you were actually contributing anything useful!

      1. Blogitus Maximus

        I disagree, a good manager will keep the meaningless BS away from you and act as a firewall against undesirable upper managers.

        I am not a manager, but I can appreciate the good vs the bad.

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      "I just pulled these out of my arse..."

      Now wash your hands.

      Proof of work: Pull the Block[Bog] chain

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      It says a lot about the nature of "output" in Wells Fargo that these cannot easily be determined.

    4. LessWileyCoyote

      Memories of the (1980s?) spoof "Management Year Accounting Software System" (MYASS), something you could also say you pulled statistics out of.

    5. Victor Ludorum
      Joke

      I just pulled these out of my arse

      Congratulations, you have just passed the middle management initiation!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two monitors much code

    I found that pulling up the View Source code from almost any web page was sufficient to fool any nearby manager.

    That, and copying a story/article to notepad and reading it in a smaller window surrounded by said code.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Two monitors much code

      Back in the old days before Windows, there were games that had a boss key.

      Hitting this key would freeze the game and display an open and active spreadsheet.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Two monitors much code

        I suppose things may be much the same today except that Teams replaces the spreadsheet.

    2. I am the liquor

      Re: Two monitors much code

      The text-mode Lynx browser was always useful for that. If you changed the text colour to green, it looked exactly like you were doing real work in a terminal session on the AS/400.

      Of course that was back in the day when you could actually read text on the interweb, without first having to load a megabyte of javascript and OK a bunch of cookie-consent and marketing-sign-up pop-ups.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Two monitors much code

        Some years back I started to write an application for our CICS emulation that used CICS Web Interface to fetch pages, stripped out everything but normal text, and used SEND TEXT PAGING to display it. So I would have been reading websites in an actual TN3270 session. Alas, I got distracted by actual work and never finished it.

  12. Howard Sway Silver badge

    How about firing the managers

    who were clearly too lazy to do their job, and cheated by using keypress monitoring software to monitor their staff instead of knowing what they were actually doing?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: How about firing the managers

      While I mostly agree, there's also the possibility that middle managers have been culled in the race to more profits and they are now managing far more people than previously because "computers" means they can, thanks to "automation and AI". Potentially, it's not entirely the fault of middle managers but those higher ups who believe the sales BS about monitoring s/w and think a middle manager can deal with 2-3 times the people they used to. Some of peoples ire probably needs to be directed at "efficiency" consultants and the marketing of the BS metric monitoring tools.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fire the managers

    What are the managers doing if they can't even notice the difference between subordinates doing work versus nothing at all?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've never trusted the "undetectable hardware mouse jigglers" - never convinced the USB identifiers aren't something unique to those devices.

    What's far simpler, is leaving an optical mouse on top of an analogue clock with a second hand...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely a half decent AI system

    could have evaded detection ?

    Add this case study to your list of things to ask "AI" vendors to get the answer "we can't do that" and point them to the door.

    (They were probably using "AI" to identify the miscreants in the first place)

  16. adam 40 Silver badge

    There is no Me in Teams

    So, gleaned from the comments above:

    "Chatting on Teams" is actually "working" now?

    We are all doomed.

    1. Stevie

      Re: There is no Me in Teams

      Nonononono.

      No.

      *Attempting* to chat on teams without the blasted thing hanging is work. Restarting teams to make the borked MFA thing work as advertised is work. Attempting to place a telephone call using Teams without the seemingly mandatory three hangs-up-on-answer thing is work.

      Teams meetings are what they've always been. An excuse for managers to schedule staff meetings in the unpaid lunch hour of their "subordinates".

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: There is no Me in Teams

        That wouldn't fly around here. Employees have rights too. There's an expectation that you'll abort your break if there's some sort of crisis, otherwise break time is non work time and is sacrosanct. Normally break time is unpaid, but if the employee is expected to do anything work related (even just being there in case the phone needs to be answered), it is either treated as a paid break or simply isn't counted as a break at all and the employee can take their (unpaid) break at another time. Oh, and usually it is required that the break be taken at a different place to the workplace.

        As is common here, a bunch of collective conventions may adjust these rules. The law states that the entitlement is 20 minutes after six hours of work. I get a 45 minute break. The managers get an hour (but some take less so they can finish sooner).

        Suffice to say, I can be asked to do a task during my break, but I am perfectly entitled to say, and have said, okay I'll do that when I go back.

        1. Ace2 Silver badge

          Re: There is no Me in Teams

          No rules like that here… I had an oblivious micromanager from hell who scheduled a pointless roadmap review meeting that ran over into the company holiday potluck.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: There is no Me in Teams

      There is no ME in tEaMs :-)

      Oooooohhhh, yes there is!

      (Panto season is early this year!)

  17. Stevie

    Bah!

    Wells Fargo?

    The same bank that was in trouble for having employees open hundreds of unwanted, unrequested bank accounts for random people?

    Now wants to fire people for not working?

    Irony abounds.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      Look, it's very simple. There is sanctioned fraud, and there is unsanctioned fraud. The firm is very concerned that we confine ourselves to the former.

  18. Nursing A Semi

    Or go the IBM route.

    Generate so much pointless corporate spam that users need to spend 8 hours a day sifting through it for relevant stuff.

    No they don't get anything useful done but at least you know they are busy.

  19. heyrick Silver badge

    Whut? This is THE dumbest way to measure productivity.

    So we're all supposed to go back to the office because $BULLSHIT but when we're there we aren't allowed to look up something in a dead tree reference or consult a colleague using the high bandwidth link (face to face), but instead must sit at the computer actively pounding on the keys until the end of time? One could do that shit at home, in bed.

    The only upside I can see is that if you're chained to the keyboard as your measure of "productivity", you'll clearly be incapable of attending all of those stupid meetings that low ranking managers call in order to spend three quarters of an hour talking about themselves.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Finally... oh, wait.

    I opened up The Guardian's site this morning and started skimming headlines.

    Headline: " 'Unethical Behaviour' US bank Wells Fargo fires employees..."

    Me thinking: "Wow, they finally canned some people for pulling all that shady crap..." (still reading"

    Headline: "...for 'simulating' being at their keyboards"

    Me: "well, nevermind then"

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Pretending To Work"

    Here in the UK we've had a Tory government "pretending to work" for fourteen years.

    Did anyone notice?

    Will the next lot get anymore attention from citizens?

    Sigh!!!!

    1. nobody who matters

      Re: "Pretending To Work"

      <........Here in the UK we've had a Tory government "pretending to work" for fourteen years........>

      A trick they learned from the previous Labour Government, who in turn learned that from their predecessors, who had learned it from.......and so on and so forth ;)

      Thus it has always been, and in all probability will continue to be.

      The more things change, the more they stay the same!

  22. Bump in the night
    Facepalm

    Curious solution

    Why would you bother with an app that made it appear you were doing work when it's simpler to fart around all day long on the internet?

    What else could they possibly be doing after all?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let me tell you the ultimate mouse jiggler story

    Cast your mind back to 2020, Covid was in full swing and I was determined to make my way to the USA from the UK despite the travel ban, which stated if you had been in the UK/Europe in the past two weeks, you could not enter the USA (including transiting). Why so determined, you ask? Love, dear reader.

    I managed to figure out that 15 nights spent in Turkey first was possible, affordable, end with a direct flight to LA, and, most importantly, would circumvent what had become a pointless ban. However, the next hurdle was the government organisation I worked for not allowing me to work from abroad. This was an issue - I was a contractor, so extended time off was out of the question. However, I wasn't going to let a job prevent me from pursuing my heart's desires. (By the way I was working on an ITSM platform that contained no sensitive data and I was under no kind of secrecy act contract etc. Think civil servant offices rather than MI6). Despite discussions, I was firmly told I could not take my kit out of the UK and as I had to use their issued kit with VPN etc, there was no way around it. Or was there?

    I hatched the ultimate plan. I bought a device (AdderLink) that connected physically to my laptop using usual HDMI and USB sockets, that I could then connect to via my VPN. It provided VNC access to the government issued laptop as if I were in front of it, but without needing any special hardware or software. Of course, the laptop would auto-lock - the mouse jiggler saved me here. The laptop would stay awake and I could remote into it at any time. I even bought an old iPad touch, which was set up to mirror my work issued iPhone, so that I could leave all my kit in the UK, but still appear as if I were still there, answering calls and working on government systems.

    The plan was amazing and it worked, and I wasn't breaking any government rules. There was one thing that let me down. I also had my iPad set up with work email access. And one day, it disconnected from my VPN, and a Turkish IP address popped up on their systems. I was locked out - and, despite my manager not wanting to, my contract terminated. I set about learning how I would work around such a mistake in the future - turns out you can set up an iDevice to only allow internet access when a VPN connection is established and cut it off when it wasn't. Lesson learned.

    I still think it was an amazing plan that worked for over a week and would have continued to work if it weren't for those meddling kids. I mean VPN disconnections.

    Oh, and it was totally worth it to spend 3 months in the California sunshine instead of being locked down at home. And the love thing? Well it was semi-long lived but actually in hindsight maybe I wish I hadn't have bothered but that's another story...

    PS you haven't lived until you've taken a taxi ride in the Middle East.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Let me tell you the ultimate mouse jiggler story

      Re: program stops internet use if VPN disconnects

      Also went through that exercise to insure that my torrent client would not attempt/allow connections except thru VPN as my ISP sent nastygrams when they saw torrent traffic. Have since changed ISPs, but need to get that feature operational again, just for my peace of mind.

      It's fairly easy to do on Linux, just need to remember the steps. Has something to do with setting the program access rights to only use a certain network port.Next step is to detect VPN drops and restart VPN connection...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Many of those working in our company installed jigglers after the new marketing director decided to forcefully shove company logo'd adverts at their employees via laptops. Especially annoying if you work from home and double annoying if you're using multiple screens for static monitoring!

    Still doing a huge amount of work.

  25. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    We've reached out to Wells Fargo for comment, and we'll update if we hear back.

    ghhghghjgcnbvmnvmgjg,ghgjhgkjhgkjhgkjhgkghkgkjghkjhgkjghkjhgkjhgkjghkjghkjghkjgh

    ^ That was their reply.

  26. Tron Silver badge

    Bonkers.

    As long as folk get their allotted work done, all of this monitoring is a waste of time and money.

    If they are doing their work to an acceptable level, no reason why they shouldn't sleep, eat or watch netflix/pron when they have finished. It's not as if they are at school.

  27. Cyberspy
    Big Brother

    Shocking, but not surprising.

    Anyone here who has worked for really big companies will know that there is often loads of 'dead wood' and plenty of opportunity to skive. Big teams of people working on a shared workload with insufficient monitoring and loads of 'Peter Principle' managers leaves plenty of scope for such laziness.

    It also happens in smaller businesses but gets caught way faster. In my last role, we had a developer in the US, who was explicitly hired to work in the US as some customers only wanted US IP addresses connecting to their Salesforce instance.

    This developer went rather quiet for a while, so our manager (we both had the same manager) checked on his laptop and found he was using some software to 'wiggle his mouse'.

    He also found the developer had moved to Estonia! He was sacked for 'job abandonment'.

    1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      Re: Shocking, but not surprising.

      Everybody knows that at least half of all people in the office are doing basically nothing. YOu might know some of them as managers, or others who produce software that is always requiring fixes so much so that eventually someone else replaces w/ new code all the work said people have done in the past few months.

  28. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    What about firing all leadership for pretending to work ?

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