Daily Telegraph criticised for monitoring journalists’ desk time

How would you feel about your desk time being monitored? The newsroom at Telegraph Media Group Photo by Lucas Schifres/Pictobank
How would you feel about your desk time being monitored? The newsroom at Telegraph Media Group. Photo by Lucas Schifres/Pictobank

The Daily Telegraph has been criticised by the National Union of Journalists for carrying out “surveillance” on its journalists by installing devices that monitor whether they are at their desks.

Employees of the magazine’s London HQ reported on Monday morning that small plastic monitoring boxes had been attached to their desks. The boxes track whether someone is sat at their workstation, using heat and motion sensors.

Telegraph management emailed staff at lunchtime after being contacted by various newspapers, saying the monitors would be in place for four weeks to help plan measures to improve energy efficiency.

One journalist at the paper said Telegraph union representatives had raised concerns about the issue and “HR are frantically rowing back on it”.

“Employers must adhere to strict rules governing the collection of data in the workplace. Workers have very strong privacy rights and these must be protected. The right to be consulted on new procedures governing such data is enshrined in law. The NUJ will resist Big Brother-style surveillance in the newsroom,” said Seamus Dooley, the NUJ’s assistant general secretary.

The devices, made by company Cad-Capture, are designed to help companies save money by reducing the number of desks, and also provide a dashboard which shows when each desk is occupied.

The website for the product, called OccupEye, says: “With the global economic climate demanding that all organisations – large and small – find savings through increased efficiency, the pressure on property and accommodation managers has never been greater.”

“Quite simply, if a space is used, your OccupEye sensors will record it and you are guaranteed to know about it,” the website states.

The Telegraph decided to remove all the sensors shortly after the story reached the headlines.

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  1. It’s interesting that in the picture of the newsroom 50% of the desks are empty – normal for an organisation working in traditional ways.

    The use of sensors or of ‘scouts’ who observe at periodic intervals when desks are occupied is quite normal in developing new workplace designs.
    The aim of these projects is usually to provide more fit-for-purpose spaces for different kinds of work – collaborative, high concentration, project, creative, etc.

    In the modern world, someone not being at their desk doesn’t mean they are not working – more likely it means they are out doing their work. We have the technologies to work anywhere now, and most journalists do this. So tying up workspace factory-style in rows of desks is just archaic. It’s a shame the Telegraph is missing a chance to keep up with the times with modern working practices.

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