The Daily Telegraph has installed devices to monitor whether journalists are at their desks, BuzzFeed News has learned.
The newspaper confirmed the move in an email to staff after multiple employees said they came into work on Monday morning to find small plastic monitoring boxes attached to their desks.
Journalists were baffled by the unannounced appearance of the boxes. Staff resorted to googling the brand name and discovered they were wireless motion detectors produced by a company called OccupEye that monitor whether individuals are using their desks.
OccupEye’s website says it provides “automated workspace utilisation analysis” using sensors that “are triggered by both motion and heat”. This allows management access to a system that is “ultra-sensitive, yet ultra-reliable when it comes to tracking real-time 1:1 space utilisation”.
“Quite simply, if a space is used, your OccupEye sensors will record it and you are guaranteed to know about it,” the website states.
2. The results can then be viewed on a sensor-by-sensor basis, giving bosses complete access to data about whether an individual is at their desk.
One journalist at the paper said Telegraph union representatives had raised concerns about the issue and “HR are frantically rowing back on it”.
Referring to the prospect that management could now potentially tell when staff nip out for toilet breaks, they said: “Never before has taking a shit on company time felt so rebellious.”
Shortly after BuzzFeed News contacted the newspaper for comment, an email was sent to all staff explaining that the sensors will be in place for four weeks and are an environmental measure designed to “make our floors in the building as energy efficient as possible” while reducing “the amount of power we consume for heating, lighting and cooling the building at times of low usage” as part of the Telegraph’s commitment to green energy measures. The data would be used to monitor broad areas within the office for energy usage, it said.
However, OccupEye’s own website makes few references to environmental issues and instead focuses on how companies can make cost savings by downsizing their offices and fitting more staff into smaller spaces.
The Telegraph declined to comment on the monitors.
The Telegraph decided to remove all the sensors four hours after this story was published. According to a note to staff, forwarded to BuzzFeed News, the devices will be removed with immediate effect.
“In the light of feedback we have received from staff today, it has been decided to withdraw the under-desk sensors immediately,” the note said. “We will be looking at alternative ways to gather the environmental sustainability data we need, and will keep staff in touch with any new proposals.”