Barclays Bank's Big Brother backlash

Barclays Bank have abandoned their employee monitoring system, at least temporarily, after feedback from staff. The system tracked how long employees were at their desks and sent warnings to those who spent too long on a break, which was problematic for employees who'd had an overly spicy curry the night before.

Barclays said the system was intended to:

… tackle issues such as individual over-working as well as raise general productivity.

Although I suspect it was more about under-working than over-working.

Barclays has history here because in 2017 they installed black boxes under bankers' desks to track how long they were spending at work.

A company does of course have a right to expect employees to get on with some work occasionally, but this sort of Big Brother monitoring smacks of extreme paranoia in the upper echelons of Barclays' management.

Furthermore, it seems to equate the hours an employee spends at their desk with productivity and that's a very outdated view.

That they feel the need to install such intrusive monitoring is perhaps indicative of a serious cultural problem in the workplace, and that will start at the top.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said this of the system:

Technologies like this may actually cause more harm than good.

They can create mistrust or low levels of trust for employees — employees can feel like they're being watched and not trusted to do their own work effectively.

Quite so. It would be far less expensive to simply chain employees to their desks and introduce mild whippings for anyone who's immobile for more than 10 seconds.

In the interests of disclosure, I'm not a huge fan of Barclays. Back when I was 18, the bank manager called me in to discuss my spending habits, which mainly consisted of beer, partying and wasting a lot of money on broken down cars. I thought this was quite a reasonable way to spend money but the bank manager disagreed. He tried to introduce me to a concept called saving, which I thought was a novel idea but not one I had any taste for at the time. I moved to another bank after that.

He was of course correct but that's besides the point.