Microsoft’s creepy new “productivity score” tells your boss how often you attend meetings, answer email, and use Word

If your workplace uses Microsoft Office products, be aware that the company launched a new “Productivity Score” feature this month, which lets employers track how their employees use Microsoft’s tools across 73 different measures — including things like how frequently you send emails, how often you turn your camera on during virtual meetings, how often you contribute to shared documents and group chats, and the number of days you used Word, Excel, Skype, Outlook, and other Microsoft tools in the last month. Then they compile it all into a report and send your boss a breakdown every month.

Microsoft claims this is “not a work monitoring tool” and points out that it’s optional — even though the administrator of the program (your employer) is the only one who can opt out.

Here’s Gizmodo:

If that sounds like an Orwellian nightmare in the making to you, you’re not alone—privacy experts are criticizing the company for essentially gamifying workplace surveillance.

… David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder of the office suite Basecamp, described the feature’s design as “morally bankrupt at its core” in a series of tweets this week.

“The word dystopian is not nearly strong enough to describe the fresh hellhole Microsoft just opened up,” he said. “Being under constant surveillance in the work place is psychological abuse. Having to worry about looking busy for the stats is the last thing we need to inflict on anyone right now.”

… Workplace surveillance has become a particularly prevalent concern this year with the pandemic pushing more and more people to work from home. In June, the research firm Gartner found that 16% of employers were using monitoring tools more frequently to track their workers’ computer usage, internal communications, and engagement among other data. And with coronavirus cases continuing to climb to record heights in the U.S., experts expect the development and adoption of these tools to only ramp up further.

{ 354 comments… read them below }

  1. Crivens!*

    We truly do live in a boring dystopia.

    Also, if a manager can’t discern your productivity without these tools, they aren’t a good manager.

    1. many bells down*

      So if, for example, I leave several Word and Publisher documents open on my computer … does Office think I’m “using” those apps? Because if so I’ve been “working” 24 hours a day for the last 5 days.

      1. Artemesia*

        I can’t get over the idea that the number of emails you are sending is a measure of productivity. Yipes.

          1. Amethystmoon*

            Does it count if you e-mail your personal account? I mean, I could see people spamming themselves just to increase it.

          2. OyHiOh*

            I mean, my work (as previously described, a bunch of social weirdos) just moved us onto an office chat program to cut down the amount of email chatter going back and forth!

            1. AnonEmu*

              Yeah, I am in a biology dept and all of us that work with a specific type of animal have moved to WhatsApp for ease of convenience tbh. Plus I am in Slack and Discord servers for other work related stuff. But at the same time, if I am being scored on how long I have Word and Excel files open, I’m winning?

        1. hell's bells*

          It’s hell! I send a handful of emails every week. My job just isn’t very email or meeting heavy. I also work remotely but most of my team doesn’t. I often don’t get enough work to stay busy for 40 hours (even when I ask for more work). I don’t like this!

          1. DireRaven*

            oh, good. then we can combine these three people’s jobs into one job (no raise in pay, either, for the survivor or the new person brought onto replace the three that got laid off – in fact, their salary is lower than any of the replaced individuals) (/s)
            then /shocked-pikachu-face when there is no slack to handle a sudden surge in business

            1. lailaaaaah*

              Did you mean: my last job? They fired a bunch of people, gave me their full workload + supervisory responsibility for one assistant (for zero extra pay), and then when they were stunned at how the two of us couldn’t keep up… they brought in an extra manager, at the cost of two more entry level staff who could have handled the workload.

        2. Caramel & Cheddar*

          It’s not necessarily counting quantity as a good thing. I’m assuming it’s drawing on the same data that comes with the “My Insights” emails it sends out; mine told me I was responding *too* quickly to emails and that I should cut back on quick responses. It’s like any other kind of data: there are numbers, but what your manager does with them says a lot more about your manager than the number itself.

          1. rain rain go away*

            Yeah. Data never exists in a vacuum; I’m concerned about microsoft assigning value to various things based on its own ideas.

            1. Dasein9*

              Especially given its record with grammar. If it can’t get English right, I really don’t want it doing something as complex as axiology!

              1. Chinook*

                Grammar AND dialect. Whenever I get a new computer, I ALWAYS have to teach it how to spell Canadian English and use metric. What else is it getting wrong in a local context if its default is for Washington state?

            2. TardyTardis*

              Are you sure this isn’t modeled on the Chinese social reliability algorithm? This sounds like they’re trying to sneak up on it, probably with a side of keystroke management. Panopticon: your word for today.

              You have to kind of admire Wally in Thursday’s Dilbert.

          2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

            Yes. I’ve also had the My Insights chastise me for looking at/answering a Teams chat message or Outlook email outside my office hours or while I’m technically on vacation, but I’m friendly with my coworkers and sometimes we send a dumb meme to just give each other a laugh. I’d hate to have to move all of that “team building” offline or be paranoid that it’s not being productive.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              I want to know if it accounts for how many of my teams messages are just reaction gifs. Because that’s like 1/3 of my team’s traffic.

            2. tra la la*

              I’ve gotten “chastising” emails like this too and it’s INCREDIBLY annoying. I work in higher ed, where everything’s gotten floopy timewise and a lot of the people I work with work weird hours now. I have a anxiety-related sleep disorder, my sleep has been borked for months because, well, All Of This is kinda anxious-making (I just found out that a childhood friend has covid, so yeah). I often work weird hours in order to make up for not being able to function well in the mornings. Like, why is Microsoft trying to box me into super rigid working hours NOW of all times?

              1. allathian*

                Well, if it’s Microsoft and not your manager, I hope you can ignore it. But it still sucks! Decent employers should disable the whole thing.

                1. tra la la*

                  I’m going to ask an innocuous question in our next staff meeting about what these emails mean…

          3. Emma*

            We get those – I was able to unsubscribe when they started, because they are in no way a useful metric and the chipper “take the stress out of managing your time!” stuff annoyed me.

            Now we’ve had a round of redundancies, so we get them into the team’s group inbox in batches of six because all our now-redundant colleagues’ emails are being forwarded. So unstressful! *eyeroll*

            1. Lavender Menace*

              Yeah, I unsubscribed to these the very first time that I received one. I can’t see how it’s helpful.

              1. Shhhh*

                I did too. And part of why this new productivity score thing is bothersome is because I wanted to know what was up with the my insights thing and I remember there being a thing when I went to unsubscribe that was like “these messages are only for you! Your organization won’t see any of your productivity data!”

          4. ian*

            Even that example seems annoying to me, though. Lots of emails I get can be responded to extremely quickly or even with pre-written responses; that doesn’t mean that I’m responding “too fast”. Surely the metric there should be whether or not my coworkers find that I’m not reading their emails carefully enough or that my responses aren’t written clearly, which are things that software like this isn’t going to be able to discern.

        3. Coder von Frankenstein*

          It’s like when people used to think “lines of code” was a good way to measure programmer productivity. In both cases, a high score more often indicates poor quality.

          I once worked with a guy who would boast about it on days when he’d written negative lines of code (because he’d rewritten some nasty messy copypasta code to be clean and simple). He was also, not coincidentally, one of the best devs in the company.

          1. Clisby*

            I thought of that, too! Years, ago, when I was about to graduate with a BS in computer science, I actually had an interview with someone who wanted to know how many lines of code I’d written. I’m like, I have no idea. I still have no idea why anyone thought that was a worthwhile metric. Adding useless extra lines of code is dead easy.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              I’m in communications. More words does not equal better writing.

              And not all the systems I use are MS. If I spend all day updating our website or creating online surveys, I’m just as productive as if I spend it editing/writing documents in Word.

              1. Aquawoman*

                I’m a lawyer and I edit other people’s writing. I can confirm that your proposition is correct.

              2. Quoth the Raven*

                Same here, even as a translator. If I have a compatible document, I’m probably using a CAT software such as MemoQ or OmegaT since they allow me load up a glossary or use translation memories from previous files, and that allows me to be more productive.

                If I’m translating a file directly in Word I tend to be a lot slower, and just by that alone their metrics would be off.

              3. Cat Tree*

                It’s like that turning point in school, when essay page length requirements become the maximum instead of the minimum.

              4. Lyudie*

                The use of other systems was the first thing I thought of too, I have Outlook and Teams open all day but rarely use Word and only send a few emails a day, at most. But I could be spending hours in other software.

                1. Self Employed*

                  How is it going to measure an engineer’s productivity in Solidworks? Or a graphic designer, photographer, etc. in Adobe Creative Cloud? Or a biologist aligning genetic sequences in whatever you do that in these days?

                  Specialists would be better off getting advice on how to get people to email them less so they can get their work done.

            2. Conspiracy-Industrial Complex*

              “I’ve written over XXX,000 lines of code, but only 50 of those lines were useful. The rest were filler to meet your meaningless metric.”

              1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                I’ve written a great many lines of code. However, over 90% of that was assorted increasingly complex yet rude variations on
                10 print “thing about classmate”
                20 goto 10
                back in 7th grade, so I don’t think we should count all that. (I had a lot of spare time and unsupervised computer access at school that year, and so did the rest of the computer-focused kids. We even wrote poems with words appearing with specific timings and other such innovations on the basic theme of “rude thing about classmate repeatedly appearing on computer screen.”)

                I’ve written plenty of code since then, even competed in programming competitions back in undergrad, but for sheer quantity of lines of code I’m pretty sure 7th grade dominates. (Particularly since I believe the only way to edit the BASIC we were writing on those machines was to re-type the whole line to put in something new as line number whatever overwriting your previous line, which incentivized spreading your code to as many different lines as possible rather than trying to get a lot done at once so there’d be less re-typing if you needed to fix something.)

                1. TardyTardis*

                  My husband wrote a short program back in 1973 on punch cards to get the computer to be flirty with me…

              1. TechWorker*

                Lol, I mentioned code golf below before seeing this but… yes it’s impressive in a ‘look I did a cool thing way’. If someone thought that was an acceptable way to write code for a production environment that would be a major concern.

            3. TechWorker*

              *puts hand up* as someone who interviews for software roles and does sometimes ask interviewees roughly how big a project was in lines of code, I can answer :p

              What I want to know in an interview is ‘has someone written anything substantial’. Yes, lines of code by themselves are meaningless and if code that could be written in 200 lines is written in 1000 lines that’s a bad thing. But if you’re also talking about the content of the project then it *is* used as a rough metric for how ‘big’ it is and that’s good to know. If the most involved project someone’s ever done is a few hundred lines then there’s probably quite a few things they’ve not come across or needed to do yet (care much about modules, extensibility, version control, etc) and there *is* a limit to how much that code is doing. (With the exception of things like code golf but I don’t want you writing that kind of code for production anyway :p and people who do that generally know that!).

              It’s IMO no better or worse than using word count as a metric. Yes, of course it’s possible to write an essay where 50% of it is fluff and adds nothing to the points made. That doesn’t mean word count is totally meaningless, and one might reasonably believe someone who’d written a 10,000 word dissertation on a subject knows more about it than someone who wrote a 500 word summary.

              In the business sense we have other ways of stopping crap code or lots of lines that do nothing from getting into the codebase, primarily code review, which we take seriously. So again, lines of code is not a perfect metric nor one used against individuals, but it does get used as a rough metric of how big a project is or how likely it is to cause bugs.

              1. TechWorker*

                To be clear, I don’t think kLoC is reasonable to be used as a productivity metric, I disagree that it’s totally unreasonable for an interviewer to ask about if they’re talking about the content of what’s been written in conjunction.

          2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

            Oh man, I worked with a guy who bragged about how many layers he had in his Photoshop files like it proved how good he was in Photoshop, and I was all one layer per pixel is too many, clean up your messy files. That’s a bit a hyperbole…but not by much.

          3. Koalafied*

            Yeah, tbh, on any given day when I’m sending a lot of emails and responding quickly to incoming emails… There’s almost guaranteed to be a big project I’m procrastinating and/or already overdue on, and responding to emails is how I convince myself it’s okay to keep procrastinating because look, I’m working, aren’t I? Look at all these emails!

            It’s not a good sign for me to be sending a lot of email every day.

        4. Rayray*

          But, see, my score gets dinged for responding to emails within 30 minutes.

          Yes, your score is dinged for being prompt.

          1. JustaTech*

            I guess I should start reading those things instead of just deleting them?

            I know my boss doesn’t put any stock in this (if he even reads them), not least because on our most productive days we’re in the lab and away from our individual computers!
            Though really, what’s more productive, the three days of document writing and email wrangling to set up my experiment, or the day of doing the experiment?

            I guess it’s a good system for weeding out bad managers?

      2. Viviana*

        Right? In the beginning of this pandemic, I was using the same zoom account to connect for work, family, and friends. They applauded how often I was using zoom. I thought back to drinking with my friends until 4 am, making fun of each other on zoom, and how work interpreted this as “productivity.” Bless them.

      3. TimeTravlR*

        Yep I said to my husband, after reading this, “I’ll just set reminders on my calendar to open a Word doc, chat on Skype, chat on Teams, send email…” Ridiculous.

    2. It is a big deal.*

      Indeed. I never imagined the dystopia would involve so many automated emails full of numbers.

    3. Not A Girl Boss*

      I would argue, if your manager thinks they can use these tools to discern your productivity, they aren’t a good manager.

      My rate of email sending is a product of number of emails received, not productivity. Like, duh?

      That said, I actually really liked my weekly Microsoft MyAnalytics emails when I thought I was the only one getting them. The tracking on how much focus time vs collaboration time I had available made me feel better about not making progress on individual assignments, and I mentally patted myself on the back when I registered 15 quiet days (days I didn’t answer emails outside of work hours) this month, up from a record like… 1… last month?

      1. Salad Daisy*

        Not so much. I am a “fireman” (firefighter?) and usually start the day with at least 100 urgent emails to reply to. The MyAnalytics program told me that I answered emails too quickly and should wait at least an hour, even better wait two hours, before replying to emails. As for Quiet Days, sometimes my meetings have meetings. I have been on both a Skype meeting and a Teams meeting and the same time. Not my choice.

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          All analytics are deeply flawed snapshots. The point of you using them for yourself is that you can throw away the ridiculous ones.
          For me the Quiet Days analytics made me realize how often I stress-answer emails from bed the second I wake up in the morning, even though they can wait until 8am 99.9% of the time. When I have a week that is 90% in meetings, I can use that as part of the data I share with my boss about why my nonessential projects had 0 movement that week – but when it thought I should have been super productive even though I was on vacation, I just rolled my eyes at it.

          But if your boss is incompetent enough to think analytics are a good measure of productivity they might also be incompetent enough not to recognize when the analytics are being ridiculous. Which is why they’re much better left as a tool for self-auditing.

        2. Amethystmoon*

          I couldn’t do that in my job. When things are urgent, you can’t twiddle your thumbs for an hour.

        3. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          I’m a desktop publisher. And if I respond too quickly, people up the pipeline will determine that the time I am allotted in a project can be cut.
          It’s the same in your job.
          If you give people a false sense of time, then they are just going to burn those houses down and spill flammable chemicals whenever the hell they feel like it.
          It’ll be anarchy.

        4. Guacamole Bob*

          Yeah, if this were going to be any use at all they’d need to have parameters that people could set for each job, depending on the needs of the role. How much time should you be spending on Teams? What’s your company culture around video? What’s the right response time for email in that role? What’s the right balance of meetings versus not? How much are people expected to check their email after hours?

          I work with one organization that does very long-term stuff and I don’t even notice if it takes them 3 days to get back to me by email. I also work with front-line operations people for whom anything that happened more than a few hours ago is water under the bridge. An analytics report that assumes standards apply across the board is worthless.

        5. Rayray*

          I got the same thing! I will give it a thumbs down and leave a comment about how absolutely stupid that is to try and ding my score for actually being productive.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        The part about the analytics emails that made me roll my eyes was the AI scanning of Teams and Outlook to give me reminders to follow up on things, but they were totally useless. Like it would notice that I had sent an email and not gotten a response, or hadn’t replied to an email, but it would have no way of knowing that we talked about the issue on a call later that day and so it was handled. It was weird and creepy and not helpful in any way.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Yep, Gmail does something similar with prompts to follow up after X days, except it doesn’t account for the fact that only the one “prompted” email hasn’t generated further replies but 10 other emails to/from that address and under different subject names have happened in the meantime. Not helpful!

          1. Oh Snap*

            Ok I actually find the Gmail one super helpful for my personal email. I constantly forget to respond to emails.

        2. Lavender Menace*

          I hate those, and I got way too many of them when they were turned on. 80% of them were things that were resolved some other way and the bot just didn’t know. It was occasionally useful, but not enough to make up for the increased email volume.

      1. Lavender Menace*

        As a manager I have neither time nor interest to review these on a weekly basis. Like, I have so many better metrics at my disposal to assess how productive my employees are; I can’t imagine how the number of hours they used Word or Teams would tell me anything useful.

    4. Beth*

      I have a nearly limitless ability to waste time playing with Excel. That would screw up metrics in a whole new direction.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        I could live with Excel alone, and love writing macros. My *grocery list* is on excel, has macros, lots of graphs, charts, stats. You get the idea. Monitoring my excel use would probably double productivity level on paper, even if I did no work at all for days.

          1. Batty Twerp*

            My sisters! (Apologies if I’ve misgendered)
            This is absolutely what I do. I’ve even introduced myself by saying I spreadsheet recreationally

            1. Argye*

              Check out Filemaker Pro. My recipe database is approaching 5000 recipes, and it autocalculates calorie and nutrient values.

              1. No Sleep Till Hippo*

                If you like Excel, you should check out Airtable too… it’s like Excel on steroids. And I say this as someone for whom EXCEL=LIFE in past jobs. I’m beginning to get a reputation at this job. With this hammer, every problem is starting to look like an Airtable-shaped nail. I’m going to need to start an Airtable to track my Airtables.

          1. Liane*

            Please explain how on weekend thread. As long as it doesn’t involve pivot tables, as I have no clue. LOL (Been over a decade since I’ve had a job involving Excel)

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          Lol, I set up my lifting routines and manage the family budget. In fact, excel is probably the app I use most for not-work during work hours (except my browser, obviously).

          Although I once worked at a company that used excel for all the things and guys, EXCEL IS NOT A DATABASE and NOR IS IT MICROSOFT WORD /rant

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I once managed a week long virtual event for my local running club using Google Sheets. Made pivot tables and everything. I was so proud to get to use my job skills outside of work.

          2. JustaTech*

            Ah, you’ve met my old coworkers.
            When I started at my job my then-boss sent me an Excel spreadsheet and said “turn this into an Access database” and walked away. (I’d never even heard of Access, and I’m a lab biologist, but OK.)
            I opened the spreadsheet and realized why even my boss had decided it didn’t work in Excel: it went from column A to column FU – there could be no clearer sign!

            1. TardyTardis*

              –This…(has flashback over the property tax spreadsheet for a resort I was the accountant for. One amount for property tax. A million different categories, including projects not yet completed. Golf course, looking at you). Actually, I am not the least bit surprised.

        2. TardyTardis*

          I use it to keep track of my chapter alerts for FFN. Yes, I really do have that many, and yes, I was even more behind in the past.

    5. Cat Tree*

      This is why I’m holding out some hope that most employers won’t ever look at this data beyond passing curiosity. Employers have had other ways to monitor for a long time, such as tracking every website visited and even proxying in without permission. I have never known of an actual case of an employer using these options, except maybe to seal the case against an employee who is already having problems.

      Good managers don’t need these tools or have time to use them. Mediocre managers are too afraid of giving constructive feedback to go searching for problems. I’m sure these tools will be abused in some places, but I’m still hopeful that it won’t be widespread.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        Another nine day wonder/shiny new toy that we will all put on the shelf in a month or so.

      2. Zweisatz*

        That’s honestly making me cry that computing power is being wasted on this nonsense. Not that I WANT employers to monitor their employees, but then at least make it opt-in, not opt-out!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is the level of micromanagement I’d expect in retail. Might just as well go get a retail job where management foolishness is to be expected.

    6. Mystery Bookworm*

      Yeah, this makes me think of Goodhart’s law — if these tools start to get used as an important measure of productivity, then people’s efforts will move towards maximizing that (sending more emails where you could have had a quick phone call, making excel spreadsheets more complex and color-coded than they need to be, etc.).

      You have to have more nuanced ways of looking at productivity.

      1. Liane*

        Or this win/win email exchange:
        Worker 1: I am calling you about Razor Crest project.
        Worker 2: I am picking up my phone now.

      2. JustaTech*

        Yes, this!
        And the follow-on from Goodhart’s law: when the metric becomes the goal, you can start losing sight of the *rest* of the job.
        There was a division at my company where the only regular metric a whole group of workers got was how fast they finished the thing (and not how well they did the thing). So they invented a million ways to go faster, several of which were actively bad for the process. But they didn’t know that, because no one ever showed them the results of their work.
        So we made a new scorecard of how fast they’d done the thing, how well the thing had turned out (not totally under their control) and if they’d had any mistakes. Times didn’t go up much, but the other metrics improved and we finally got them to stop doing the bad things.

        1. TardyTardis*

          This reminds me of the linear programming course where we looked at typical Soviet production goals (shudder).

    7. Quill*

      I’m pretty sure a good half my workload (because it involves physical paper or old programs that should not be compatible with this) is untrackable.

      But also, coming from R&D: this kind of potentially remote data-dumping is a GDP minefield.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        And then there is the supervisor who does not know how to use our shared drive so PRINTS PAPER COPIES of everything and works on those, word docs, spreadsheets, everything! This is NOT required by our jobs and is actually causing problems for the rest of us.

        These metrics might lead to some changes there so, silver lining?

        1. TardyTardis*

          We had a manager who would not allow us to review invoices online. Which of course had to be scanned and indexed later…

      2. JustaTech*

        Oh no, not the GDP!
        I *just* finished my annual refresher training in that. There are so very many ways this could be terrible in that.

    1. Kittenthatmoos*

      Hate to burst your bubble, but Google pulls the same data it just doesn’t have the pretty graphs yet. They’re working on it though it seems. My GSuite admin portal definitely has spreadsheet reports in that vein.

    1. Artemesia*

      Bezos could give every employee a 100K Christmas bonus this year and still have as much money as he had before COVID began. Yet he still pays poverty wages and dropped the COVID hazard pay while subjecting them to COVID hazard.

      1. John*

        Right? It’s so unconscionable… I imagine he sees humans like we’re NPCs in a video game or something

        1. Madeline Wuntch*

          Except most people can’t help but humanize NPCs (see: Free Guy), and also animals, plants, objects that kinda look like they have a face on them, cars, things with googly eyes…maybe that’s the secret to his success, but at what expense, you know? Dystopian indeed.

          1. TardyTardis*

            And then there’s Leroy Jenkins, but I now know several new uses for a burrito. So, not totally wasted.

      2. For clarity's sake*

        Just for the record, unless you have a family of four or more, Amazon’s lowest pay exceeds “poverty wages.”

        1. JustaTech*

          Yeah, but their injury rate is so high in Washington state they’ve been moved to their own special category for worker’s comp rating, because the other warehouse companies were mad that their rates were really high even though their injury rate had gone down.

          The Amazon warehouses are now up there with logging.

    2. Properlike*

      Read that as “Amazon whorehouse” and got a whole ‘nother mental picture… still based on impossible metrics.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        “Y.T.’s mom pulls up the new memo, checks the time, and starts reading it. The estimated reading time is 15.62 minutes. Later, when Marietta does her end-of-day statistical roundup, sitting in her private office at 9:00 P.M., she will see the name of each employee and next to it, the amount of time spent reading this memo, and her reaction, based on the time spent, will go something like this:
        Less than 10 mm. Time for an employee conference and possible attitude counseling.
        10-14 min. Keep an eye on this employee; may be developing slipshod attittide.
        14-15.61 mm. Employee is an efficient worker, may sometimes miss important details.
        Exactly 15.62 mm. Smartass. Needs attitude counseling.
        15.63-16 mm. Asswipe. Not to be trusted.
        16-18 mm. Employee is a methodical worker, may sometimes get hung up on minor details.
        More than 18 mm. Check the security videotape, see just what this employee was up to (e.g., possible unauthorized restroom break).

        Y.T.’s mom decides to spend between fourteen and fifteen minutes reading the memo. It’s better for younger workers to spend too long, to show that they’re careful, not cocky. It’s better for older workers to go a little fast, to show good management potential. She’s pushing forty. She scans through the memo, hitting the Page Down button at reasonably regular intervals, occasionally paging back up to pretend to reread some earlier section. The computer is going to notice all this. It approves of rereading. It’s a small thing, but over a decade or so this stuff really shows up on your work-habits summary.” -From Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            As someone who works for the government- they’ll never spend the money on that software. NEVER.

    1. truphiwr*

      Wow! So the software can quantify RBF? I can imagine people gaming the system by plastering fake smiles & nodding like a room full of idiotic bobble dolls. So very gross.

      1. kt*

        People in parts of Europe already think Americans do that (I need to recalibrate resting facial expression and reactivity every time I visit Scandinavia from my part of the US).

        1. wittyrepartee*

          Hah, there was a time where I was really confused by a coworker from the former USSR whose actions and words indicated she liked me, but whose face did not. At some point I realized it was just what her face did. I brought it up one time and she told me how bizarre American smiliness is. Your scandinavian friends should spend some time around people from Thailand. I had someone smile while telling me her grandmother was in a coma. People just be smiley there. What I’ve learned is that resting facial expression is just cultural.

      2. JustaTech*

        Or worse, the software down-rates everyone who is taking notes, and uprates the people who talk a lot, so soon all of the quiet people aren’t invited to meetings anymore and it’s only the talkers.

        I’ll let everyone draw their own conclusions about the gender makeup of *those* meetings.

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      So, it’s continual workplace polygraph tests without the wires?! “During our audit meeting, you only registered a 3 out of 10 in physical comfort, and a 1 when you told the shareholders you were pleased to be there! Here’s the replay on the screen: your pupils were constricted 2 mm over 10 seconds. This is UNACCEPTABLE!”
      Geez, for customer service evals this would be wretched.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I wonder what it would make of my facial expression when my 6yo came in during a video call a little while ago so I could untangle her hair that had gotten caught in the headphones she wears for remote school.

        This sounds like a dystopian nightmare.

      2. Kyrielle*

        I think they will end up tracking markers for some disabilities, too, just because those affect physical comfort and mood.

        1. Non. E. Mouse*

          Yeah I dread to think how badly I’d perform on something like that being Austistic and ADHD. Not to mention the chronic pain.

          1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

            This!!! Or how my autistic brother can’t make the same facial expressions at the same time as everyone else, let alone the contact. Or when anyone winces from chronic pain.

        2. Chinook*

          It already does that for intellectual disabilities when it tracks errors and corrections in the programs as well as the amount of time a particular email is open to be read. Heaven help you if you are a slow reader!

          1. Le Sigh*

            oh god. when i’m working on reports and have to refer back to emails, i leave them open in a tab for hours while i work, so that it’s right there as i work. my stats would be trash.

      3. Lavender Menace*

        To be fair, it seems like the AI is intended more for aggregate analysis (as opposed to individual analysis) – so to determine the traits of a ‘good meeting’ and then provide recommendations to meeting organizers to help them improve the productivity of the meetings. It doesn’t appear intended to identify individual behaviors and enable managers to ask against them using personal records. You can collect quality parameters like this while discarding the personally identifiable information and aggregating the data across millions of observations, such that it becomes impossible to identify any one person’s set of behaviors.

        That said, I find that often developers who make these kinds of products are really excited about the technological possibilities but aren’t thinking about the ‘evil’ ways in which they can be used (no, literally – I am constantly baffled at the number of software developers I interact with that have really rosy pictures of human behavior despite all evidence to the contrary) and are also making the possibly erroneous assumption that you can predict meeting productivity using the variables they’re measuring/collecting data on. Then it’s my job to crush their faith in humanity, hooray!

        Although if it suggests leaving me out of recurring meetings in which I spend 90% of the time checking email and browsing the Internet because I don’t need to be there but for some reason I am, I might forgive it.

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          Yes, just like when the guys developed their guidance system in The Big Bang Theory. It wasn’t about the way the military could use it. I agree, many times it’s tech that’s acquired for large sums of money and then the original developer no longer has any say in its use.

        2. Mr. Shark*

          Yes, this is all perfect.

          I just watched the linked video describing how great this new productivity score software is, and if you listen to it how they are preaching, it makes sense. You get to know how people are using the tools, and how effectively they are doing so, so you can analyze how you can make your organization more efficient. As an aggregate, this all is logical and sounds great. But it can be much too easily used in nefarious ways rather than an organizational improvement tool, and someone will find a way to use it for bad purposes. We all have read here how horrible bosses can be, and this gives them another tool if they choose to use it that way.

    3. Esther*

      As someone with atypical body language due to a disability (I have a substantial sight impairment, so I can’t make eye contact or mirror other people’s facial expressions, and I have a noticeable head wobble to counteract my nystagmus), the idea of how a technology like this would measure my engagement at work is viscerally terrifying. If this technology is commonly adopted in the workplace then the (already enormous) employment gap for people with disabilities like sight impairment, autism or cerebral palsy will grow much, much wider.

  2. Richard Hershberger*

    I can easily see bad managers making this the Be All and End All. In response to which, employees will spend the first half hour of every day opening a Microsoft application, “using” it, then closing it and getting on with their day.

    1. Drew*

      Key word being “bad managers.” I think the vast majority will either take it with a grain of salt or not know/care it exists.

      This can be helpful information. I’m using “productivity” data from Microsoft about the number of emails sent, etc. to help guide some restructuring decisions right now. If we were all in person, we’d have a sense of employees’ workloads that we just don’t have now. It’s one piece of a much large puzzle, but it’s absolutely helpful to compare employees in similar roles or look at an employee’s data over time *in context* to have some idea of workload.

      1. ian*

        I guess that might work as long as employees don’t know you’re doing it, but if I’m an employee who thinks that you’re looking at the number of emails to gauge workloads, you better believe I’m going to start sending more emails even when other methods would be more productive.

    2. truphiwr*

      It doesn’t take people long to figure out how to game something like this. Imagine training a new hire:

      The boss uses Microsoft Creepy1000+, so be sure to open Word three times a day, Excel twice a day, etc. I just set some calendar reminders.

      1. ian*

        Heck, Windows has automations built in. Just set something up to open Word and type nonsense for 15 minutes, while you go make a cup of coffee and use the bathroom. Bam – you’re instantly more productive since you clearly never take any breaks!

    3. Bilateralrope*

      You could probably script that to happen overnight.

      Now the real fun begins when someone starts hacking the monitoring. Things like a camera that shows as being on in 110% of meetings, but never has an image if the boss is looking.

  3. somanyquestions*

    There’s also the feature in Teams where you can track someone’s availability all day. They’ve set our teams parameters so low that if you don’t wiggle the mouse every 2 minutes you show as unavailable. I go yellow just from talking on the phone or stopping to read for a bit.

    1. Not A Girl Boss*

      Ugh, mine won’t turn green again until I specifically use Teams. I find myself nervously opening it and pretending to write something just to get it to go green. Like, hello, my most productive hours are the ones where I’m not typing on teams.

        1. TeamsIssues*

          I’ve had a Teams bug where my status would turn to Away then Offline if I wasn’t actively using it. Shutting down my PC at the end of the day has been the workaround for me to keep it green all day. If I go more than a day without a reboot it returns. Having people message my manager that week to ask if I was on vacation was not a fun time.

          1. Anony-Mouse*

            Yes, I have a similar bug. I get my supervisor contacting me in Skype asking me why I’m offline in Teams. Ack. But, it never shows as offline to me, only others see it that way. It sounds like you at least can tell that you’re supposedly “offline”? I already shut down every day, but I’ll try actively using Teams more.

            1. TeamsIssues*

              My situation was actually the same. It appeared green for me while others saw Away or Offline. I had a coworker keep an eye on my status to compare against what I was seeing. It’s so frustrating when people think you’re not working.

      1. Chinook*

        I show my students that this is the wrong way to use those dots. The right way is to see if it is worth calling someone and when you may expect a response for an email. If they are in a meeting or presenting, it will obviously be a while. Ditto for yellow. If it is green, odds are good that it may be seen but no guarantee of response time (which should allow for 24 hours).

        But even the newbies flag it is a way a bad boss could come down on you, especially they have all realized that not all computer work requires an active keyboard and not all time on your keyboard is active (and these guys have been using computers for only a week or two).

      2. Lyudie*

        This is apparently a bug that is supposed to be fixed soon (Teams has a lot of issues…I’m currently red even though the meeting I was supposed to have at 8 was moved to tomorrow.)

      1. CockrOPch*

        Or put a cold soda can on your touchpad. A friend figured that one out at an old job that tracked computer time.

    2. Michaela*

      Two words: mouse jiggler.

      I’ve used it whenever I’ve been working from home for at least the past 5 years. The last two companies I could use the one downloaded off the internet – these were big corps too so it’s a little surprising they didn’t lock it down. Current company had it blocked, so I bought a physical USB one off Amazon. Of course I actually seem to work long hours most of the time anyway, but still love it.

      1. DaisyC*

        Thanks, I didn’t realize there was a USB version with no software install needed. Cool! Tired of Teams saying I’m “away” when I’m not.

    3. Cat Tree*

      In a few months, my company is switching to Teams as our IM program. I want to like Teams, I really do, but it’s just not good.

      One thing I like is that it automatically changes my status to Do Not Disturb when I’m called into a meeting (but only if the meeting is through Teams, not Webex). I guess everyone has different communication styles, but I find it really rude to IM someone in a Webex if it’s not urgent. I see it as no different than tracking down someone and going into the conference room during an in-person meeting (although I recognize that at least an IM doesn’t disturb everyone else in the meeting). Yet, I get a flood of messages during every Webex unless I remember to manually change my status.

      However, there are other things I hate about Teams. For example, I like to set my messenger to give an audio beep for the first message of a new conversation, to draw my attention to it. But once I’m in the conversation it drives me nuts to hear the ding with every single message. Teams doesn’t have the option to only beep once. It’s either every single message or none at all.

      1. rain rain go away*

        It also stacks messages on the side of the screen. If I’m in a meeting and people are chatting in the IM, every new message pops up on top of the one before it. So sometimes I’ll “mute” the meeting chat for a meeting I’m actually in, just to stop that.

      2. Not A Girl Boss*

        Weird, my Teams stops dinging as long as I have it open as my primary application, which I actually find super useful.

        My pet peeves are trying to find someone to message (no ‘frequently contacted’ list) and this awful bug where any time someone ‘reacts’ to my message I have to go out of the chat window into the activity window to get the notification (1) thingie to disappear.

        1. Lowly Minion*

          FYI, when you hover over the name of a conversation/contact on your recent list, you can click the three dots that appear on the right-hand side and select ‘pin’. You’ll create a new list of pinned conversations above your recent conversations. Super handy if you need to message the same handful of people over and over :)

        2. Cat Tree*

          I haven’t fully explored Teams so I admittedly could be missing something. I think my problem with Teams is just its mediocrity. Every function it has already exists elsewhere. It’s nice in theory to have everything in one place, but I’m not impressed enough to invest the mental energy to really learn all the nuances. If it worked great and had a more intuitive interface, I think I writings jump on board. But right now it’s the same functionality as other applications with the same number of problems, except I’m already familiar with the problems of the things I already use.

          1. lemon*

            You’re pretty spot on. I’ve dug around a lot in Teams and it feels like a minimum viable product that Microsoft quickly slapped together from bits and pieces of different apps so they could quickly compete with Slack.

          2. soon 2be former fed*

            I hate Teas. I much preferred Skype for Business. So tired of Microsoft world domination.

            1. JustaTech*

              We got Teams at work and some departments took to it like ducks to water. Other groups, not so much, and the complaint was usually “but we have Skype and WebEx, why do we need Teams?”

              Just learned from IT last week that Skype is going away (for us). So that’s one reason.

      3. Firecat*

        I like teams. It’s very well organized compared to Skype and the video and share features work loads better.

        The men chat channels have been a sanity saver too!

    4. rain rain go away*

      If I’m in any meeting that isn’t in teams, I’m apparently Away. It’s very very annoying.

      1. Gumby*

        Not sure what is going on there, but this is not how it always works. I’m available as long as I am doing *something* on my computer (or have within 5 minutes or so) and not in a Teams meeting (in which case I am busy).

        My pet peeve is that meetings stay in the ‘recent’ list – I have a lot of single-purpose meetings and the past meetings clutter up that list. It’s an easy fix, but having to go and manually hide each one is annoying.

    5. TPS reporter*

      yep, then you end up with the clever ones gaming the system by downloading the Teams app on their phone and just leaving it open when they go hang out with their cats for a few minutes.

      1. lemon*

        They’ll probably figure out a way to track this, if they haven’t already. At Old Job, we used ADP to clock in and out and they could tell who was logging off from home or from the mobile app.

        1. Wired Wolf*

          My old company (retail) used Homebase, and after a management change they started messaging us when they had to know we were off the clock…a coworker was dumb enough to reply, so that opened the floodgates for getting pinged at all hours about the stupidest crap. When Covid hit a few of us were close to figuring out exactly what the app could track and how (rumblings that it ran afoul of a few things), but we never got the chance to complete that project.

    6. BadApple*

      As a teacher, the replies here about how people don’t want to appear away are funny to me. :-) I totally understand why ! but for me I’m on the teams so much I want people to not bother me over the platform and use email, phone or canvas messages.

    7. Mr. Shark*

      Yes, this is just extremely annoying. I’m never quite sure what my status is. I do have it on my phone as well, so sometimes I’m away from my desk and look at my phone and see my status is green, but then sit down at my desk and it shows away. I can monitor my bosses status, and he’s more techy than I am, so I’m sure he probably monitors my status, even if he’s only doing it just unintentionally.
      Our previous IM was more consistent on how it showed your availability, so I knew if I was away for X amount of time from my desk, or just not actively typing/moving cursor around and doing something off to the side, when it would show me “away”.

  4. Beboots*

    Isn’t this also tracking quantifiable measures instead of qualitative measures, too? How high quality are your edits to those shared documents, etc.? The company is assuming more is a desirable thing.

    Also, I can’t be the only workplace that doesn’t have every element of an “office job” take place not only by computer. I consult published materials (actual books! Imagine!), make phone calls, make edits on paper because it’s sometimes easier to map out thoughts that way… and by this system that would make me an under-performing employee.

    I don’t think anyone is saying this technology is a good thing, but I felt compelled to add a few “but what about THIS reason why it’s terrible??” to the pile.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      Yeah, Goodhart’s Law! (When you start evaluating based on a metric, it will cease to be a good metric…because people will be trying to optimize the metric itself rather than the thing it ostensibly measures.)

    2. PeanutButter*

      Most of my actual job takes place in the Linux partition of my computer, or on the computing cluster…I never paid attention to those “My analytics” emails (and I’m sure my PI has much more important things to worry about) but now I’m wondering! Also a lot of my correspondence is with researchers on the other side of the globe, so I will send off a flurry of emails in the morning…then get responses in the middle of night, then email again in the morning.

    3. Jodie Mills*

      You’re not the only one. I’m client serving and do more hands on work. We log our notes after client contact. At first I would log after a full conversation/contact/meeting/call what have you. But when my numbers were pulled, it wasn’t as much as the staff who were not as client facing and did more paperwork so of course they could log different documents sent and received which would be way more than someone seeing 5 clients a day. Client serving staff were told to get our numbers up so we started logging our notes in pieces. Think instead of the entire text conversation in one note, each message had its own note. So “scheduled client follow up meeting on date” is now about 5 entries. It makes it much more difficult to follow because everything is in separate pages but my numbers are way up and management is happy. This is what happens when quantity is valued over quality and individual work isn’t considered.

    4. tra la la*

      I read books and articles on paper and make notes on the paper with pens! I do a lot of planning and writing longhand because it helps me problemsolve! I have meetings using the (gasp!) phone because they’re so much less exhausting than videoconferencing!

      Also, an unmeasurable aspect of my job is that while a small portion of my email can be answered quickly — and quite a lot of of my email involves having to research stuff online (hey! screen time!) — a good chunk of my email involves a looooooot of very careful wordsmithing (responding to difficult questions with tact, responding to questions in a way that doesn’t make the asker feel stupid for having asked, sorting out what exactly this person is asking so that I can answer effectively). I have a reputation for being good at this, but it does take a lot more time than I think my boss would say it should, because I’m not always able to just whip off a perfectly tactful email. In other words, it’s something I have to work at, it’s not quite how I naturally communicate. But my clients are happy and better served by my being careful, and I’m not going to respond tersely/brusquely/unhelpfully just because it’s faster. (I’ve also had my boss tell me that I respond to certain types of email too quickly, so, um, maybe it balances out?)

    5. Andrea*

      I work in a lab. Tomorrow I’ll be away from my computer all day doing stuff on a lab desktop. That’s going to read as “wow she wasn’t even, like, AT work” to my management. Fortunately my immediate boss is reasonable, but he’s literally the only reasonable manager at my company.

    1. MissFinance*

      Same. It’s completely optional. Most people never turn their cameras on. Some sales team members do if they’re on client calls, but I work in finance.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, we are actually discouraged from using the camera in most circumstances because of the bandwidth. But I wonder how the metrics would report it if you turned the camera on but kept the cover closed so it’s just a black square all the time.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      Same. Since March I’ve had exactly one meeting where the director had his on and said it’d be great if everyone turned on their camera just for a few minutes (all hands staff meeting). I think about 3 people did so but most of us didn’t for the usual bandwidth reasons. I don’t even have a camera!

    4. Charlotte Lucas*

      Cameras are used by people in my office, but my team (which is full of the data geeks) pretty much never uses them. I know what they look like, & we don’t need to see inside each other’s houses. And every time I’m in a meeting with too many people using video, I lose the connection.

  5. bunniferous*

    They just assured I will not buy Microsoft Office….I was on the fence, but that tipped it over into the dustbin for sure.

  6. TootsNYC*

    “Having to worry about looking busy for the stats is the last thing we need to inflict on anyone right now.”

    It’s also a really quick way to divert energy AWAY from true productivity.

    Statistics can be really evil in how they divert attention away from the truth and into the numbers. (See the Veterans Administration scandal of a few years ago: )

    Any time you put highly specific performance measures in place, and you’re reporting them publicly … they become high stakes and it encourages people to do stupid things like gaming the numbers,” said Ellen Rubin, an assistant professor of public administration at the State University of New York at Albany who published a study of government performance appraisal systems in 2011.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I think this can also apply to the Wells Fargo scandal too. If their jobs depend on signing customers up for accounts or loans, they’re going to fake new accounts and loans.

  7. A Poster Has No Name*

    Those aren’t productivity measures, they’re Office usage metrics, which aren’t even remotely the same thing.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Right? Probably 75% of my work is in our database program that is not Microsoft based so this won’t tell my boss anything remotely useful.

      1. A Poster Has No Name*

        Me, too. It’s a nothingburger for me, but I can totally see it being a stupid nightmare for people with bad bosses who are obsessed with numbers because they’re not capable of much else.

      2. Sharon*

        Well, it could tell your IT manager something like “only one person in Dept. A used Excel last quarter,” helping them to make decisions on how many licenses to buy. But for measuring individual worker productivity? Not useful. (Also, a manager who spends a significant amount of time reviewing such a report probably isn’t doing THEIR job. Far better to meet with your reports once a week or so for a status report on the projects they are working on.)

      3. Glitsy Gus*

        Same here. I know my company does have this service, because I get little update emails, “you spent 6 hours in meetings this week!” OK, thanks, stalker bot. Most of my actual work, though, is done in our proprietary programs, so they can track all MS all they want, it’ll always look like I did about 2 hours of work in Word or excel and had a meeting or two.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I was going to make the same point – In essence Microsoft is portraying these metrics as work-engagement metrics, when the real objective is to increase the usage of Microsoft’s products, thus making the products more “necessary” for workplaces. After all, a product that is used an increasing % of the time is a good product, that needs to be kept / upgraded, right?

      To do this on the backs of employees by panning the features off as workplace productivity measures – well, that IS downright villainous.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I completely agree that this would be a good use for this product. But by naming it “Productivity Score”, MS pretty much ensured that the metrics will be skewed and unusable for any practical purposes. How are they going to know if Fergus used Outlook 300 times a day because he needed to, or because Fergus’s boss monitors Fergus’s Outlook usage and ties it to Fergus’s annual raise %?

      2. Mockingjay*

        Bill Gates’s contribution to history isn’t great software, it’s usage licenses.
        Office is repackaged every three years with a new GUI and users are forced to upgrade, even though there is no improvement (fixes) in product usability or usefulness.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      Yep. I saw news about this over the weekend and laughed. In my job, I use Word maybe once a month. Outlook sits open all day, but I only get real emails that aren’t automatic notifications from other systems maybe once a day. My boss (and whole department) have means of objectively measuring our productivity. What Microsoft’s doing ain’t it. Heck, if that showed me using Office all the time, it’d be an indicator of my lack of productivity since my job should not entail tons of Office-ing.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        So I only work a couple days a week. My work/life balance is tipped waaaay over to life. They assume 9-5 hours which is not the case for me, also.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I mean, just on a basic level, you could be creating a formula in Excel and copying and pasting it down, and that’d be two “contributions” to a shared spreadsheet that you spent five minutes on. Your unproductive colleague, on the other hand, could get the same results by hand-typing “calculated” results for each row, which would be about hundred “contributions” over the course of an hour.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Spending more time in the document and making more “contributions” could be the exact opposite of productive.

  8. TiffIf*

    Teams and Outlook are open on my computer all day every day. But I am not always using them. Word I rarely use. Excel I use a few times a week. Most of my core work doesn’t touch Microsoft products at all. This would be a very poor measure of anything I do.

    1. Mel_05*

      Yeah, I can’t see my office ever trying to use this, because 90% or more of our work isn’t done with microsoft products.

      And probably the best measure of my productivity is that all my projects get done on time.

    2. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      Same here. Our three biggest departments use software products that aren’t even available through Microsoft (okay, I suppose Microsoft might OWN another company that I’m unaware of but on the face of it they’re not a Microsoft product). I can’t see this being implemented, thank goodness!

      1. Mockingjay*

        I use SwiftKey on my personal devices. Great keyboard and word prediction and no record of keystrokes.

        Microsoft bought it. Sigh.

    3. noahwynn*

      Same. A lot of my work is done in a browser because the primary software my department uses is web-based.

      I have Outlook and Teams open all the time as well. I kinda wish they would just integrate email into Teams so I could not deal with Outlook since Teams has the calendar already.

    4. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Me too. I use a Windows laptop for Team meetings, while the proper work is done on MacBook Pro. I’m on “away” for most of the whole working day.

    5. Mr. Shark*

      I don’t even know how to shut down Teams. Even if I close it so the Window isn’t on my computer, it still will beep when I get a message or a meeting starts in Teams.

  9. NewYork*

    There is a lot of frustration with people who are supposed to be working remote, but are not. I don’t think this is the best way to track the problem, but companies have a legit imitate interest in solving this problem. Managers can use this in connection with other tools to try to decide who gets to work remote.

    1. Myrin*

      I mean… do all these people who aren’t actually doing work remotely but claim to do so work jobs that have no tangible results whatsoever?
      Like, if Tina’s job is to write ten reports on llama combing procedures a week and those reports show up in her boss’s inbox on Friday, it’s probably safe to say that she did indeed do the work; if there are no or fewer reports to be found, boss can come to a conclusion based on that and react accordingly without some kind of spy software.

      1. Hiker*

        Yeah I agree. If you can’t tell whether or not an employee is working, you’ve got problems bigger than Microsoft can solve with a generalized algorithm.

        1. NewYork*

          I could tell who what is not getting working. I guarantee you, Microsoft hears the frustration in the workplace where parents are dumping work on non parents. Finally, my company got fair and said if you can only work PT, PT it is for you. If you do not want it, you are not meeting expectations and are gone.

          1. Jean (just Jean)*

            I hear you on the resentment when kid-free workers seem to get everything dumped on them, but right now parents are just as stuck in a no-win situation. Especially parents who **cannot** afford to stop working for wages (like, most single parents) and parents whose spouse is unable to provide at-home help (because they are deployed, a front-line worker, or obliged to work 80 hrs every week).

            People planned their lives based on having their kids in school from 9-3 Monday-Friday; then the pandemic blows up the plans. It’s like being expected to type all day after some stupid accident breaks half of your fingers. Some parents (usually women) quit work if it won’t mean total collapse of their family finances (never mind the damage to the worker’s professional life or the loss to the world of a capable admin, nurse, doctor, teacher, painter, postal worker, etc.). But most parents, single or not, can’t afford to Just. Stop. Earning. a Salary.

          2. Bee Dub*

            Wow, you work for a really horrible company with appalling management! I’m so sorry! Hope you can escape and find somewhere more reasonable, compassionate and decent soon!

      2. AnonPi*

        In our case, they don’t know enough to gage what is normal amount of work for me/coworkers, and are overwhelmed enough to not bother other than superficially. And if we complain about the slacker because we’re having to do their work, excuses are made for one reason or another. Which mainly boils down to the manager just not wanting to deal with it.

      3. Mel_05*

        Yeah, there’s no real difference in how my boss knows I’m working now than when I was in the office. My work gets done.

      4. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, this is also supposed to be a benefit of being salaried, which many Office users are. If my work is getting done at the right quality, who cares whether I’m staring at my work screen for 7 hours or 9?

        And for people who have time-sensitive jobs where coverage is important, the manager would notice pretty fast if calls or emails aren’t getting answered.

      5. Chinook*

        I agree. I deal with students remotely who are all on worker’s comp retraining schemes. I can tell who is working, who is having a bad day due to pain/illness and who is not even bothering to pay attention based on the results of their work. I have them email me assignments as they complete them as a way to check their work and monitor their “compliance,” but if someone wants to send me all the work at once and they happened to do them at 10 pm, why should I care? As long as they understand the material and are tuned in when I teach my classes.

        It is also interesting to see how those students who come from workshop/trucking environment have a hard time adapting to a work with no productivity metrics. Every new class I have to explain to someone that I don’t care if you need an early bathroom break or to lay on the ground to ease your back pain – just get the work done when you can. I think it is both frightening and liberating.

    2. cabbagepants*

      Besides what others have said, this experiment has no control and thus isn’t a good measure of whether someone’s productivity has changed as a result of WFH.

    3. Hiker*

      Considering we’re in a global pandemic, it seems that “who gets” to work remote should be much more concerned about the health of employees, as opposed to broad workplace productivity measures created by an outside company.

    4. Beth*

      If someone isn’t doing their work, that should show in their output, which should have concrete consequences for the business. It shouldn’t need much tracking; it’s not hard to say, “Fergus, you had deadlines for A, B, and C this week, but none of those happened and now the entire project is delayed. What’s up?”

      If someone’s work is so disconnected from business needs that they can get away with doing significantly less work than usual and not have anyone notice, there’s a bigger problem afoot than just an inability to track their productivity. They’re paying someone to do busy work, or they’ve got a manager so disconnected from their team that the manager doesn’t even know what they’re supposed to be doing, or something.

    5. pancakes*

      “The problem” being workers not actually working or managers being neurotic about not being able to see them working? It seems like you’re referring to the former, but everything I’ve read on the subject suggests the latter is a far more widespread problem.

  10. Elbe*

    A decent manager should be monitoring your output, not your usage of Microsoft products.

    And, really, how much is MANAGER productivity going to go down when they spend their whole day stalking their employees’ email send rate instead of doing meaningful work?

    This is a horrible idea all around, but I do think that there’s probably a pretty high demand for it. There are a lot of managers who are really insecure managing remotely.

    1. Stephanie*

      Yeah, my last manager was pretty insecure about managing remotely. He just had us in meetings all the time to manage his insecurity.

  11. Anonymous Tech Writer*

    Measuring productivity by how often I use Microsoft products? BOGUS. Yes, I use MSTeams for communication and Excel to track my flex time, but the department uses Jira for project tracking and Adobe products for our main job function. I suspect my company is tight enough on VPN usage that they’ll shut this down. (We’re solidly in the no-camera camp.)

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Also, I am thinking about how I’ve been asked to group my questions to my subject matter experts–it’s less disruptive for an engineer if I send her one email with 35 questions than if I send her 35 emails. But guess which looks more productive on the MS.BS scale?

  12. Dan*

    The very great irony in all of this is that I am a computer programmer. I do all of my software development and data analysis with non-Microsoft tools.

    If I have high “Microsoft Office” productivity, by definition, I am *not* doing the the job I am paid to do, and my boss should ask me why I’m wasting all day in meetings or on administrative odds and ends, and not the job that actually needs to get done.

    Here’s hoping that Microsoft never buys Slack.

    Also, re: the web cam thing. Comcast in the Northeast (pretty much Virginia and points north) is instituting bandwidth caps next year. Video conferencing certainly chews into that, and if WFH is still the rage, then some people will definitely push back on superfluous webcam usage on their home internet.

  13. Beth*

    Brought to you by the company that thought stack rankings were a good idea!

    Next year, we’re going to cut to the chase and simply put all office workers into an arena full of dangerous monsters. The survivor gets a cost-of-living raise.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      You got to it before I did. Microsoft absolutely wrecked itself as a workplace with stack ranking — now it wants to wreck everybody else’s workplaces too!

  14. Bostonian*

    Yikes! I think part of the issue is branding it as a “productivity” score: there are other ways of being productive without using Microsoft Office (internet research! PubMed! eDMS! old-fashioned phone calls for confidential discussions!).

    I could see how these stats (de-identified summary data) might be useful to get an idea of what tools are being used in certain roles, but I’m having a hard time thinking of a non-nefarious purpose for this information otherwise.

      1. Quill*

        All worker monitoring programs are a GDP nightmare, and may or may not work with proprietary software, so… I have a feeling it would either be unuseable / incompatible or banned by the powers of intellectual property techs.

        Then again, I spent time in R&D, where even trying to use the internet adobe application to combine PDF’s was not allowed because it potentially put proprietary information on the internet.

    1. Lucy*

      It doesn’t cover Zoom – that must be a major part of many people’s work days given that even if your office has access to Teams many other companies don’t.

  15. Portabella*

    I spend the vast majority of my time on a remote server, so if you were to track my activity on my actual work computer, it would look like I’m doing nothing 99% of the time.

  16. Damn it, Hardison!*

    We disabled this functionality as it potentially ran afoul of data privacy, particularly in our European offices. Our Legal and Privacy teams jumped on it right away.

  17. Amethystmoon*

    We don’t use Word at all where I work, only Excel. Everything we do is on the intranet and a database that’s been around for at least 20 years. We also don’t use Skype. So I guess we’re not productive.

  18. Jennifer Eight Thousand and Seventeen*

    My company has this turned on, so we receive the weekly emails about ourselves. But I also manage a team of nine, and I do not receive any data about them, nor has anyone in the IT department reached out to me asking if I want to. If they did, I’d decline, because I know that those kinds of stats tell me nothing about the quality of my team’s work, which is what I’m really evaluating. To me, it’s more about Microsoft playing Big Brother than my company’s leadership. I’m not saying this is true everywhere, but I wouldn’t assume that your manager is seeing your stats without asking.

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      I my organization we’re the same – it’s on but only reported to the users themselves, not managers. It’s moderately intersesting.

      Overall MS Teams is a really strong for us.

    2. Des*

      You know, I’m absolutely not worried about a good manager seeing those stats. Have at them! But when you see some of the posts being submitted into AAM — taping people’s mouths shut anyone? — then you have to imagine this is going to be horribly misused by some orgs. Those are the poor people I feel sorry for.

  19. Stephanie*

    FirstJob had a production quota system to track work due to a severe backlog. Imo, the problem with a lot of these production tracking systems for knowledge work is that it can encourage gaming a system. I know at that job, there was often focus on just hitting numbers and doing everything to make your numbers look the best. Our required quota was somewhat determined by the number of work hours per pay period — this was 80 hours less vacation, training time, sick days, etc. People loved to sign up for blood drives because it was four hours off your total workload for a 15-minute appointment. I remember when I was behind, I would take a sick day and just work through it.

    I could see something similar happening with this productivity score — people sending emails solely to boost the score, adding nonsense edits in shared documents, etc.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I work in a highly regulated industry where most documents must be reviewed & approved by 1 to 5 other people besides the author. Some reviewers only make a comment if they find a factual error, but some are nitpicky and will overhaul sentence structure, formatting, word capitalization, etc. This would incentivize the first group to be more like second group. They would have to add pointless comments just to get credit for actually reviewing.

  20. Firecat*

    Considering how terrible their “My Analytics” tool was – you had 30 hours of focus time this week! Go you! (Except it didn’t count people stopping by your desk, your boss calling you to their office, phone calls….). It also tried to determine your top collaborates. Mine were “DoNotReply@org-info
    Com” an “Sally on behalf of HR” why yes those were totes the people I worked with the most.

  21. Alex*

    You have to wonder about the actual bottom line contribution of the person whose job it is to read all that data to make a bunch of fake assumptions about who is productive or not.

    I mean really. If the only way you can measure whether or not your employees are productive is counting the number of emails they send, maybe you aren’t adding anything necessary to this world. The world doesn’t need more emails.

  22. Abogado Avocado*

    In addition to the management wisdom of using such tools, there’s a privacy issue here that is ripe for litigation. If your employer wants to monitor your work via computer usage and your laptop’s camera, there is a legal argument (in the U.S.) that you implicitly consent to that monitoring when you use the employer’s equipment for work. However, your household companions have not consented to being monitored by your workplace and have an expectation of privacy at home. Therefore, unless you’ve got a home where you can wall off your work space from everyone else, your household companions can legitimately complain that their privacy has been invade should your workplace’s routine computer monitoring capture them half-dressed or having a private conversation rife with embarrassing facts.

    1. Anonymous AF*

      I’m sorry. What? There is nothing in Microsoft’s productivity score that monitors someone in any state of dress. That’s quite a stretch. Sorry – I don’t mean this to be *at* you. The breathlessness of content published (including here on AAM) about Productivity Score is really frustrating for people who understand what information is being collected and what is actually being measured. Of *course* there could be organizations who would misuse the data collected in order to take action against one or more employees. That does not mean that Microsoft is monitoring your off-work behavior, or intrusively stepping into your private lives.

      Productivity Score is tracking the use of key *features* in Office 365; and for companies that have just spent a great deal of money buying and implementing those features have a legitimate interest in seeing if those features get used.

      Furthermore, every breathless article about this implies that managers are getting these reports by default. That’s simply untrue. Here are some things which require administrator changes to enable or disable:
      > Opting out entirely (this is correctly noted in the breathless and more levelheaded articles both)
      > Changing the collection so that all data is anonymized
      > Setting access for people inside the organization to read the reports

      So even if administrators do absolutely nothing, they’ll be the only ones who can see the user level details. And NB: administrators are seeing these details across systems they’ve administered for years.

    2. Wired Wolf*

      It also gets tricky if the hardware is legally owned by the employee. What does the monitoring software have access to, and does the hardware owner not have the right to deny that access (especially if said access would create or utilize a vulnerability)?

  23. rain rain go away*

    We’ve got Delve and some other thing here in the new 365 that I don’t recall the name of, but it used to send me emails about my productivity until I turned the emails off, and both of them are so very very very creepy. I’m not union, but others in my org are, and I’m really hoping the union can shut this down.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Just a heads up that even if you unsubscribe for the emails, I’m 99% sure that doesn’t stop that same data from being collected. You just don’t hear about it in your inbox every day.

    2. irene adler*

      I recall receiving such emails. Thought, “What on earth is the purpose of this info?”
      Turned them off but fast.
      My boss wouldn’t give such data a second thought.

  24. Caramel & Cheddar*

    We have Microsoft products at work and we’re a small enough org with a small enough IT department that I guarantee no one is even looking at this stuff because no one has the time, frankly. That doesn’t make it okay, but it’s a relief that the numbers are unlikely to matter.

    The other thing is what I mentioned in one of my replies above: namely, that the data itself doesn’t tell you anything without your manager choosing to interpret it. If my usage of Microsoft suite App X is low, is it because I’m slacking off or because I spend most of my time using a different piece of software outside of the Microsoft suite? My email stats are such that the My Insights feature (which I assume draws from the same data source) told me to stop replying to emails so quickly. While I’m sure this is part of the “productivity” aspect of this (i.e. I’d be more productive if I wasn’t letting myself get interrupted so frequently), it’s also not assigning a “sending lots of emails = good” value either, which a lot of people seem worried about.

    1. Mr. Shark*

      I don’t get the idea of replying to e-mails too quickly. What is the problem with replying to e-mails quickly? What is the theory that makes this a negative action?

  25. Brusque*

    Oh my that would be so verboten in Germany! While I admit, some of the rules here are far to rigit and don’t just protect the employee but seriously disadvances the employer and stifles creativity and development, this thing I’m very glad about that it can’t be adapted here without an option to opt out for the employees. It sounds as if it might even be illegal if the employee would permit it.

  26. Nicki Name*

    Gizmodo: “how frequently they send emails (and how many contain @ mentions)”

    Wait, people use @ mentions in emails? Is this a common thing that I’ve somehow missed out on?

    1. nona*

      I use @ in emails if I need a certain person to pay attention to a certain part of it. It also makes sure I’ve added them to the email. Definitely do not use them in all my emails (that would be silly).

    2. rain rain go away*

      I’ve started to see it on listservs I’m on. Otherwise, we’re still using names here. (“Sally, can we get more numbers on the llama shoes? Dave, I think we should talk to Juan about alpacas.”)

    3. anonymous1*

      Same as nona, I use them when multiple people are on an email and I want different people to be aware of different pieces, especially if they’re not in the first couple sentences so people may have only skimmed and missed an action item.

    4. SEM*

      As far as I can tell, it’s a relatively new feature on Outlook where if you @ someone it automatically adds them to the email. I’ve noticed it this year

      1. Mr. Shark*

        I’ve seen one group of people do this, and I didn’t understand the purpose. I guess if it adds them to the e-mail…um, okay. You could do that the normal way just as well.

  27. MaureenSmith*

    I am the admin for our Office 365 subscription. Just logged in to look for this new Productivity Score thing. It’s there, but it has to be specifically enabled. It’s not turned on (at least for us) by default, the admin or IT person has to enable it. Which I am NOT doing. My small team has manufacturing jobs to do and practical metrics to meet.

    Anyone who works for a smaller, non IT-based org is probably safe from this new spyware.

  28. NewYork*

    I could tell who what is not getting working. I guarantee you, Microsoft hears the frustration in the workplace where parents are dumping work on non parents. Finally, my company got fair and said if you can only work PT, PT it is for you. If you do not want it, you are not meeting expectations and are gone.

    AAM said it was OK to assign more work to non parents than parents, as long as non parents are not unduly burdened. Glad my company disagrees

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you’ve misinterpreted something I’ve said — can you point to what you’re thinking of? That’s certainly not OK as a blanket policy, although it might be reasonable in a specific, time-limited situation (just like you might temporarily assign more work to coworkers while someone is out sick).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          What I wrote there is what I wrote above as well: “people without young kids may indeed end up carrying more of the workload for now, just like they might if a coworker were on medical leave or having another crisis in their life. … Your company needs to make sure it has reassessed projects in light of this new reality. You can’t just give lip service to all of the above; none of it works if workloads stay the same. Projects and timelines need to be pushed back (in some cases canceled, and possibly even pared down to only business-critical functions), and expectations need to radically change. If they don’t, then yes, an unreasonable burden will fall on some of your employees, and it’s likely they’ll be disproportionately non-parents, and then everything above will go out the window and lots of resentment will appear in its place.”

    2. Firecat*

      My dude. A non parent here. If you have a ton of extra work due right now, it’s the company, not your parent coworkers, at fault. Seriously I am the only non parent on my team and I am in no way shape or form put upon because our company set deadlines back and reduced workloads to adjust to the reality that is this year.

  29. Olive*

    Right, it’s SUPER HELPFUL /s, letting me know I’ve been 27% productive today lol. I spend most of my time on the phone or non-Microsoft programs, so…

  30. Spearmint*

    In addition to being dystopian, this kind of surveillance is probably counterproductive from an amoral management perspective. It incentivizes employees to increase their “productivity statistics” instead of increasing the value they deliver to their employer.

    It’s similar to managers with a “butts in seats” mentality, which encourages people to focus more on appearances than on getting things done. If you measure someone’s performance based on a proxy that is at best indirectly related to their productivity and at worst completely unrelated, you create bad incentives for your team.

  31. Sylvan*

    Oh, joy, these are the programs I use at work. Neither my manager nor anyone I work for is intrusive enough to use them, but ew.

  32. Cats and Caffeine*

    My husband was let go from a job once for this very concept. The company did not have very much business at the time, so there was little for him to do. He was let go because he was not registering enough clicks in the design program the company used! I understand lay-offs due to slow business, but measuring clicks always seemed ridiculous to me!

    1. BlackBelt Jones*

      So, if your husband had invented some device that could register a lot of clicks, he could have become rich?
      I need to work there!

  33. anonymous1*

    I can definitely see this getting dicey and being used as a weapon for bad managers. However, as someone whose whole role is creating and defining employee productivity metrics and loves stats like this, I’d love to see my own information as an interesting FYI and not a measurement tool used by my manager.

    Microsoft has had something similar for quite a while, at least in Outlook. I think it was called Insights where I could see how long I spent in meetings based on my calendar, how long I spent on emails, how much time I spent reading a specific email and how much time a recipient spent reading an email I sent them. My current larger employer, doesn’t have that enabled.

    If employees are entry level and work on a computer, they probably already have similar metrics (e.g. average call times for a call center) since they’re probably spending most of their time in an application specific to their role or company. The problem I see is that when there’s reporting like this across all the Microsoft programs, there’s not going to be any knowledge of how much is the “right” amount of time, especially as you get into more abstract roles and managers who are less familiar with the specifics of what their reports do. Some will be surprised and assume there’s a problem. It’s gonna raise a fuss. I’d be pretty irate if my manager asked my I spent X amount of time in Skype and Y in Word instead of X in Excel. I’d bet it’s even worse because companies are scrambling for savings in a COVID economy and would be more willing to pick at things they normally wouldn’t and may not even understand.

    1. Bostonian*

      I agree with your first point. I would love to see how much time I *actually* spend on email every day. I’m sure it’s even more than I think it is.

  34. OhBehave*

    Micromanagers will be clapping their hands to get a look at these reports. They were already hyperventilating when WFH was mandated.
    The concern should be that managers use this as the only tool to determine employee performance.

  35. Throwaway123*

    I know how to create an endless loop of emails using Microsoft automate. Will this make me the most productive person ever?…

  36. voluptuousfire*

    The bit about monitoring who turns on their cameras on for meetings would be interesting. My team uses Teams for our meetings but we all keep our cameras off. It was a quirk of my team that was weird but that I’ve gotten used to.

  37. anonymous1*

    Alison, after reading some comments, I’m chomping at the bit for a follow up post in about six months to a year hearing 1) any horror stories about employees that have been managed to this OR 2) any employees that have somehow beat this system. See Throwaway regarding their endless email loop. I LOVE it.

  38. (No Longer) Some Sort of Management consultant*

    I have never been so happy about being laid off than I do right now.

    For someone with ADHD like me, this is my nightmare. I would be fired the first week.

    1. Janne*

      I wouldn’t think so — Office 2019 is for Windows and Mac and I assume they have built in the same functionality in both. The versions for Windows and Mac are nice and compatible as far as I’ve experienced (Mac user with lots of Windows users around me).

  39. Delta Delta*

    I’ve sent 32 emails today. That feels pretty average for me. but who’s to say what is a “productive” number of emails for me to send? Or documents to draft? Or spreadsheets to… spread (I don’t do spreadsheets so I’m not sure what “productivity” looks like in terms of spreadsheets). This seems dumb.

  40. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    So…if your boss is looking at whether or not you’ve opened a program, you can beat this metric by adjusting your computer’s startup routine. Almost any program can be set to automatically load when you log in. I actually already do this with outlook.

    Speaking of outlook. The built-in rules engine is very robust and can easily be set up to automatically forward all incoming emails to specific addresses based on the sender. So, maybe you forward all external emails to yourself…with a second rule setup to send all emails from yourself to a special archive folder. For backups and stuff.

  41. Chinook*

    I laughed the first time I received this summary because I am teaching online and literally “in meetings” for 90% of my day. I have looked through the stats with mild curiosity as well if there is a way to cater them for someone who does my work or other jobs I have done in the past and, well, they are pretty much useless for someone who does desk work with pen/paper/filing or answers phone calls as part of the work. The metrics seem to measure that which the computer can sense and true reality. Heck, I pass some of my Microsoft Training courses for “time spent learning” by fast forwarding through the videos on the portions I already know (I take the quiz first).

    On the plus side, I am able to take this as an example to my “new to computers” students of why it is important to be paranoid about who is watching you and the fact that “if you can’t tell how they make money, then you are product” mentality you need when using “free sites.” This type of email, while it can be useful if you are trying to be more productive and want to change habits, just brings a lot of “uh oh” feelings to people who were formally blue collar workers on the shop floor.

    1. Chinook*

      I should add that it also says I have X number of collaborators. I prefer to call them students and they are not collaborating with me on anything other than sharing the latest information on how to tell a moose to stop licking your car.

      It also says I had 3% of my work week to focus and 97% collaboration. So, it only reads that I am in a Team Meeting, not anything else I am doing while there while my students are working. It definitely does not give great details or context.

  42. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    Any metric that is looking at what programs you have used in a given period can easily be overcome by adjusting your computer’s startup routine. I already do this with outlook. Every time I log in, my email opens itself and refreshes.

    Speaking of outlook…it has a very robust rules engine. Emails can be automatically forwarded based on the subject, sender, and a whole host of other criteria. So…you could forward all emails from an external domain right back to yourself, with another rule that sends all email from yourself to a special archiving folder. For backups and stuff.

    1. Absurda*

      At my office we have a ticketing system that comes with the “ability” to identify both the requestor’s and respondent’s emotional state based on their word choices and phrasing. For example: it flags all caps as angry since it’s commonly understood to mean shouting. Unfortunately, it can’t tell the difference between shouting and capitalized acronyms. We use a lot of acronyms, everyone was angry all the time. We don’t use this functionality.

  43. designbot*

    This might be a really dumb question… but how would Outlook even know who my boss was?
    Or do they just send everything over to IT (because they’re the people who deal with our software licenses) for them to throw away or forward to the appropriate people depending on their appetite for this bs?

    1. Anon in Texas*

      In Microsoft Office 365, contact cards show “Reports To” as the manager. This is usually configured by IT based on report structure data from HR.

  44. Slinky*

    Ugh, just what we need. Microsoft labeling “using Microsoft products” as “productivity.” Also, why would having the camera on indicate anything about productivity, one way or the other?

  45. SofiaDeo*

    OK, people, please be kind to me here. I am going to say that this, like other metrics tools, can be useful, depending. Poor managers will blindly use “data metrics” and certainly poor employees will try to game the system. But, for instance, in a call center where people are supposed to take service calls…..remote work where camera’s aren’t on allow poor employees to ignore their work for hours (I have a friend currently experiencing this problem). If customer complaints come in about Fergus not responding to emails, a tool that shows he receives 50 a day but recently started responding to only 10 of them can form a data driven basis of discussion. I swear, I had employees that used to spend more time trying to avoid assigned work that if they just did it. The labels Microsoft has chosen to use for some of these metrics, I disagree with; they appear to be more “value judgement” than simply descriptive, which rankles. I’m not sure what the solution is, but unfortunately since a few bad employee apples are spoiling the barrel of responsible adults taking care of business tasks, businesses are looking for ways to sort & assess remote work accountability. I hated it when hospitals had to start installing security cameras in work areas, but people were stealing. It wasn’t a comment on the largely honest staff not being trustworthy & needing to be “treated like children”, it was needed to prevent, or at least catch, the thieves.
    Let’s hope as remote work becomes more of a reality, metrics tools can be used correctly to help assess productivity. Because I am reminded of the time we had a regional system wide software upgrade, I HAD to work remotely because I couldn’t be seen in the hospital else I was asked to do other things when I needed to spend 100% of my time on building the database and GUI’s, and my computer clueless boss used to look at reports of “how much time I spent entering data” and question it. She didn’t get that thinking about the design, reading the corporate standards documents, etc. were a part of the process. I was only vindicated on the day of Go-Live; my department was the only one in the region that everything worked & we weren’t submitting Help Desk tickets to Support.

  46. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    There have been a few MS Office 365 outages over the last few months…at least at my university I’m not sure if they’ve been nation-wide; so do the metrics account the hours that Office 365 apps are down? What if I’m working in an Office desktop app while disconnected from the internet — internet is spotty for some people depending on their service provider?

  47. Teddyduchampssleepingbag*

    Well I work at a restaurant and our boss just monitors us from cameras he installed all over each restaurant to make sure nobody ever sits down. It’s becoming very common in the restaurant industry. Security cameras are over the registers and pointed at doors. If you go in a restaurant that has cameras all over the kitchen and dining room, it’s to make sure the overworked, understaffed, underpaid employees never sneak a break. We already are demoralized being forced to work as essential employees, many restaurants have cut hours, some have eliminated employee meals and discounts, some stopped allowing employees free drinks claiming it was for safety to lock the fountain machines, and most don’t offer hazard pay or affordable insurance. Business is way down at sit down restaurants so tipped employees are making almost nothing, while carryout places are slammed with skeleton staff. Customers are absolutely horrible very often now and tips are non existent. So adding the cameras is just another great morale booster! *Sarcasm*

  48. Call Center Survivor*

    OMG! I was wondering what the heck those emails were about! I get these weekly emails called “my insights” which talk about my productivity, my networking, collaboration, etc. I asked my management team about the emails a few months ago when they first started showing up in my inbox, and my management team just told me to delete them and they had no idea what they were about! Lol! I’m guessing this is something Microsoft rolled out to everybody? Because my employer doesn’t seem to be using it for anything, and my management team told me to delete them and disregard them. I’m sure if companies want to track what we’re doing while we work from home, there’s other software out there that they can use besides this Microsoft thing! I used to work in a financial services call center. I’ve seen some plenty skick monitoring software in action over the years! LOL. Stuff like this makes me grateful that I got out of the call center industry. Ugh! *Shivers*

  49. Anonymous AF*

    I’m sorry – but LOL at this. Like monitoring systems and the ability to peek into users’ activities while on workplace systems is anything new. Double LOL at the founder / CEO of a competing office suite platform being quoted as the main voice of opposition.

    1. Anonymous AF*

      Here’s a significantly less purple look at the technology.

      Not sure if links work here. If not – it’s an article from Computer World about Microsoft’s Productivity Score capability.

      According to Microsoft’s website on Productivity Score, it would appear that only system administrators have access to the Productivity Score — and not supervisors/line bosses (unless those people were also made admins in O365).

        1. Kittenthatmoos*

          I think the main concern of people who already knew this data was being collected is that the data is now more accessible. Theoretically, a manager could request the data from the admins and all they have to do is download the spreadsheet with all the data. Before, you had to know how to access the Microsoft Graph API to pull this sort of usage data and that takes more technical skill. However most of the loud complaining is coming from people who were not aware that Microsoft was collecting this data at all and don’t like that part, which is totally valid. But shutting down a dashboard doesn’t mean the data collection will stop.

  50. IrishEm*

    My brain is just exploding at the GDPR violation possibilities this type of surveillance can and will bring about.

    1. Anonymous AF*

      Why? How is the collection of this data any different than the storage of user data related to usage of O365 systems that’s already happening?

      1. IrishEm*

        Because under GDPR legislation individuals need to consent to a) the collection and b) the sharing of data which I’m sure companies will handle sensitively, but just in case they do not, enshrined in the legislation is the right to be forgotten and if that type of thing pops up in my life I would be asking weekly for the right to be forgotten.

        1. Kittenthatmoos*

          I’m in the US so GDPR doesn’t cover me, but I definitely have a portion of my contract that gives them permission to track things I do on the company-provided hardware and software. So that probably covers the consent aspect. As for the right to be forgotten, once a O365 account is deleted, the company can’t get that data back. I don’t know if Microsoft could, but it would be tied to a work account which may be difficult to track back to an individual person.

    2. babblemouth*

      I also came here with a GDPR compliance question. This seems like it would not pass any kind of GDPR necessity test, and my employer has definitely not asked for my consent to be watched in this manner.

  51. Nora*

    Most of my work is in a web-based database that already tracks my tasks by when I complete them, and that’s irritating enough. This would probably inspire me to ragequit in record time.

  52. Kittenthatmoos*

    I’m a sysadmin at my company and I am one of the admins for our Office 365 instance. I think a BIG thing this article completely missed is that this feature is only available in the administration portal of Office 365. I don’t know how their company works but the only people with that type of access is me and my fellow admins. It’s not something a random manager has the ability to access. I may have missed a line where they say they plan on rolling this out a different way but all the articles and documentation I’ve found only shows the admin portal.

    Also, none of the information in this dashboard is new. This data has been available for a while now, at least a year or two. The only new thing Microsoft is doing is collating it and putting it on pretty graphs. I could have developed a program to do that a while ago but fortunately my company realizes that this data is woefully incomplete and isn’t going to base any personnel decisions off of it.

    1. Anonymous AF*

      I read on the Microsoft article around Productivity Score & Privacy that admins can grant report reader access to individuals and groups, but it’s not a default setting by any means. I’m glad to see another M365 admin weighing in with measured responses. The amount of pearl-clutching here is really fascinating.

      1. Kittenthatmoos*

        Ah I didn’t see that part. The only way I saw to get per-user data was to export raw spreadsheets and I highly doubt any competent IT person or manager is going to want to spend time formatting all that data. The pretty graphs Microsoft gives you only show business level stats.

  53. Coverage Associate*

    I have actually been waiting for something like this. I have to account for my time in 6 minute increments. Our current software tracks time editing Word and Excel docs (not how long they’re open) and time composing emails on our phones, but not our laptops. It tracks voip calls and entries in our Outlook calendars.

    It does not track emails received or written on our laptops, time in an internet browser or time reviewing PDFs. So it doesn’t track most emails, document review or research.

    I used to have a client where every time entry had to have a number of pages. I don’t know if they kept that now that we don’t have access to printers.

  54. Catabodua*

    I wonder about the email counts. I’ve made it a point to ignore emails for large portions of the day and respond in blocks. So, I’ll answer a ton of them every day from 11-12, then again from 4-5. Does it then average the amount of emails you send during a set time period?

  55. Bookslinger In My Free Time*

    My work Outlook account sends me a weekly analytics update on how much time I spent doing what, AND I get daily emails from Cortana reminding me about emails and things people have asked me to do. It’s like having a handy little micro manager in my pocket *smiles*

  56. Lunita*

    This is ridiculous and frightening. And as a supervisor, I can’t imagine wasting my time reading a report like this.

  57. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    I’m very glad my boss is not the type to put stock into this sort of crap (and who also TRUSTS HIS EMPLOYEES). And I’m 1000000% glad that my previous boss retired, because she was ALL about the appearance of productivity and would absolutely have used these types of things to punish people.

    1. In my shell*

      I agree with this! I think we’ve all known a boss (or 5) who would full on embrace this opportunity!

  58. Empress Matilda*

    I just sent this link to our IT security director, and his exact words were “Oh, sweet merciful crap.”

    Fun times ahead!

    1. In my shell*

      OMG, the IT take on it. So many managers are going to be driving IT gurus EVEN MORE nuts! Cue the YIKES ON BIKES!

      1. Kittenthatmoos*

        Eh, I’m a IT admin and people already ask me for this data even before this dashboard was a thing. I’m fortunately in a position where I can turn them down and explain why that data will not do the thing they want it to do or make sure the data is formatted properly to avoid purposely unkind interpretations.

  59. Three owls in a trench coat*

    Does it also include posters saying “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” ???

  60. lilsheba*

    god I hate metrics. I know my old job would have found a way to use this to beat over our heads. Luckily I don’t believe my current job gives a damn.

    1. Leela*

      Metrics really incentivize people to make their metrics look better, not do the job the metrics are supposed to indicate they’re doing.

      I worked at a call center where we had a lot of metrics around what was “allowed” to happen with a call. We had to stay under a certain number of people saying “don’t call again” or we could lose bonuses or even our jobs. Guess how much of a huge uptick in “can’t talk now” calls got recorded, leading to tons of frustrated, screaming people who had told us to never call again, but they’d get called like 20 times because no one wanted to take the hit and lose their jobs in the recession so they kept falsely recording the outcomes of calls?

      This lead to a new metric where even more of “accepted offer” calls were expected to offset all the wasted time, which led to a lot of frustrated, screaming callers who’d find out later that they’d been enrolled in programs when they said no/don’t call again etc.

      Oh and it’s the most honest people who take the hardest hits here.

  61. In my shell*

    I’m the “would be” decision-maker for this at work and it still fills me with dread and an overwhelming case of

  62. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    No surprise it’s Mi¢ro$oft. As if I needed another reason to be a Linux person.

Comments are closed.