Now here’s a guaranteed morale-builder: Make your employees wear space-age monitors that detect how productive and efficient they are — and even monitor their bathroom breaks.
That appears to be the tactic employed by the owners of the British food chain Tesco, which forces warehouse workers to wear miniature computers to measure how well they complete tasks and how long they take to do them.
According to a recent story in the Irish Independent, workers at a Dublin distribution center were issued “arm-mounted terminals” to monitor such activities as picking orders, loading them on pallets and using forklifts to move the goods from place to place.
Each task was assigned a set time limit. For example, if employees completed a 20-minute task in 20 minutes, they were given a 100%. If they completed the task in 10 minutes, they received a rating of 200%.
But the system wasn’t always so benevolent. Workers claimed that if they keyed into the terminal that they went to the bathroom or took a break, they got penalized with low scores on the task they took on after they returned.
‘A horrendous score’
One employee was quoted in the Independent story as saying, “I had really easy assignments and when I’d come back after a break, I would get a horrendous score and wonder why.”
“One manager said to me that it was due to the breaks.
“You might get 80% because you took a break, and would have to get 120% (on a subsequent task) on to make it up.”
And if they didn’t make up the bathroom-break deficit? Management would summon workers to the office and warn them they’d better get their efficiency scores up.
Tesco told the Independent the workers were simply using modern warehouse/inventory tools, and that the break time had no effect on productivity scores.
The arm-mounted terminals, by the way, are manufactured by Motorola. Product literature says they “can be worn comfortably on the wrist or hip.”