You might have seen the Jan. 24 Forbes article: “Keep Employees Away from Cat Videos with Time Tracking Software” by J.J. Colao. My clients certainly did.
It’s about a new computer “employee tracking” tool called DeskTime, which sits inside employees’ computers, recording the time they spend on various applications and websites. DeskTime allows “users” (meaning firm owners or managers) to designate which apps are “productive” (think Excel or Centerpiece), unproductive (e.g., YouTube, Facebook and iTunes) or neutral. The program then produces daily charts with analytics showing what programs were running on each employee’s computer, for how long, and the total time spent “productively” and not so much.
DeskTime was developed by the Draugiem Group of Latvia in 2011 for tracking its own employees. It now has 12,000 users in 90 countries, mostly “outsourcing” companies. The cost is $9 per user. There are competitors: Toggl with 350,000 users; and RescueTime, which markets itself as a “personal productivity tool” as opposed to an “employee tracking service.” Forbes calls these watchdog programs “the gritty business of employee accountability,” explaining that: “Overseers and floor managers don’t make sense in the information age, so digital supervisors are taking their place. In some ways, it’s a wonder it’s taken so long.” I’m not so sure.
Because my clients have been asking about DeskTime after the Forbes article came out, I decided to conduct a little 20-day “research project” with my own staff to gauge their reaction to the program. Only I didn’t tell them it was just for research.
Here’s what I did: I set up a DeskTime account, invited my staff by email to begin using it, asked them to login each morning and log out at the end of the work day.
After the email went out, nearly 10 minutes later I had one of my employees standing in my “nerdery” (the name they have given to my office) asking if I felt like she wasn’t being productive. Twenty minutes later, I got a call from one of my virtual employees who wanted to inform me this software was “completely against our culture.” Just sending the email caused such an uproar that I had to conduct a staff meeting just to explain why I thought it might be valuable. Based on my own employees’ reaction, how do you think your employees are going to react? I guarantee they will respond with the same eye roll.