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Discussion on: How do you feel about activity monitoring tools and other workplace surveillance practices? 🔒

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kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman • Edited

When I worked for a consulting company, we had to track time in order to bill a customer. There was a lot of pressure to always be doing billable work. Adding non-billable time was questioned. Its okay when you consistently work for one client. But when juggling multiple projects and I had to do something not directly related to any of them, I felt pressured to attribute it to a billable client rather than adding non-billable time.

Several places I worked (including this one), web traffic is filtered and monitored. In the past I have used an SSH tunnel along with Firefox (has its own proxy settings, separate from Windows... don't forget to send DNS through the proxy too) to check my home email at work. But otherwise it is mostly a petty annoyance.

I cannot see myself ever working at a (non-consulting) place with time tracking software. It tells me they have an exploitative / sweat-shop mentality. Know how I know? Executives do not get their time management scrutinized.

One thing that I have also learned is that being connected to the people you work with really increases job satisfaction. Even if management didn't give a rip about how I feel, job satisfaction has positive benefits to performance. But keeping connections requires ongoing expenditure of time in "non-productive" ways like conversation.

Handling non-productive employees is a separate issue. The problem is not that they waste time... that is a symptom. The problem is that they are not a good fit for that problem / role / team / environment / department / whatever.

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coffeestasia profile image
Anastasia 🏄🏻‍♀️ Author • Edited

Thank you for sharing, Kasey!

My experience with time trackers is a bit more positive as we use one for project management purposes only. So we just log our time against our weekly tasks and use these stats for more accurate planning.

Though, at one of the places I worked, they used DeskTime that recorded our comp activity, inactivity time, app time, website visits - literally everything. I still feel dread and horror remembering that I had to check my stats and make sure that I was doing fine even though I'd never slacked off. I couldn't stand the pressure and quit in a few months. But simple time trackers work just fine by me.

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kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman • Edited

At my last job we did estimated hours on tasks. I guess I wasn't really thinking of that as time tracking. Sometimes we would get scolded if we forgot to put hours in. But the main issue I had with it was that I often found that the tasks (or hours) I planned didn't work out to be what I actually needed to do once I got into it. And it can be a bit tedious to keep all that synced with reality.

When I formed this team, we started out doing the same thing but after a while we decided to try dropping the hours for a sprint as an experiment. And we never went back to it. Because playing a shell game with the hours provided no real benefit. Later we dropped preplanning of tasks too for the same reason. We work at the story level. It is still quite valuable to do some initial design work for each story, but that doesn't always translate easily into discrete tasks. So it isn't a requirement to task everything out ahead of time. Devs can choose to use tasks to help them keep track of things if they want.

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coffeestasia profile image
Anastasia 🏄🏻‍♀️ Author

Well, estimating is harder than it seems. Most of us tend to either underestimate or overestimate our efforts; accurate estimations are rare.

I'm a bit surprised to learn this approach works for your team, but I'm happy to know that it does!

Thank you again for sharing 🙏