Wednesday Buzz: When Workplace Monitoring Goes Too Far

A British newspaper installed monitoring devices across its office, and the backlash has been swift. Plus: David Bowie's long-lost coffee campaign.

Offices everywhere are experimenting with new ways to increase efficiency, especially among their employees. But sometimes those efforts can go a step too far, as The Daily Telegraph discovered this week.

As reported by BuzzFeed‘s Jim Waterson, employees discovered black boxes had been installed at their desks without any forewarning. Upon doing some research, employees determined that the boxes were from OccupEye, a company that trumpets its ability to let employers monitor employees’ movements.

“Quite simply, if a space is used, your OccupEye sensors will record it and you are guaranteed to know about it,” the company’s site declares.

The Telegraph said in an internal email the devices were installed in an effort to “make ​our floors in ​the building as energy efficient as possible.” But the backlash was too strong, and the paper swiftly announced in another email that the devices would be removed “immediately.”

OccupEye issued a statement after the news broke, telling client employees that “they have nothing to fear from our system.”

Even if the Telegraph‘s focus was on energy efficiency, and not on executing a 1984-esque monitoring campaign, the way the newspapers conducted its plan backfired.

As workplace psychologist Eve Ash told Sydney Morning Herald editor Cara Waters, “This was amazing, and to do it with no discussion whatsoever was unbelievable. We already have workplaces where trust is so susceptible to being damaged and this is like a giant sword through that trust.”

Throwback of the Day

The late, great David Bowie was more than a musician. Any fan of Labyrinth knows that. But beyond his acting career and ahead-of-their-time internet pursuits, Bowie also made an appearance in a 1984 ad campaign by the National Coffee Association. As Night Flight contributor Bryan Thomas reports, the ad was used during a time when the coffee industry was concerned about a decline in consumption among young adults. (Clearly the campaign worked.)

Other Good Reads

Is it possible to succeed without owning a cellphone? For one Silicon Valley startup CEO, the answer is yes, though, as he writes in this story for The Guardian, the lifestyle definitely isn’t for everyone.

We can talk nonstop about the importance of engaging millennials, but nonprofit expert Colleen Dilenschneider has some hard data on why cultural organizations need to try even harder to appeal to the younger generation.

Membership expert Amanda Kaiser presents an interesting question in her latest blog post: Is your association helping members with their personal professional challenges?


Morgan Little

By Morgan Little

Morgan Little is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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