Tracking device: Asia Insight employee Steven Li conducting a survey near Bugis Junction. He is using a tablet which has mobile data collection software, allowing his employers to track his work patterns. - The Straits Times / Asia News Network
BIG bosses are watching. Firms are keeping a closer eye on their employees’ punctuality and efficiency – thanks, or no thanks, to technology.
Larger companies are investing in advanced software in mobile devices that can detect location – and record the time taken to complete tasks.
And smaller firms have found that run-of-the-mill but inexpensive instant messaging apps can also be used to monitor workers.
Employees of local property valuation firm GSK Global, for example, when out at meetings are told to send a picture of the venue to their departments’ WhatsApp group chat within 15 minutes of the designated time. Those who are consistently late will get their bonuses docked.
Bosses say they are not spying on their staff. Rather, they want to improve efficiency.
GSK Global boss Eric Tan said: “I want my staff to be punctual so they can be done with work earlier and go home by 8pm.”
Market research consultancy Asia Insight chief executive Pearly Tan agrees.
Her firm engaged local tech start-up Epsilon Mobile earlier this year to develop mobile data collection software that records the time employees take to interview people and complete surveys, among other things.
It costs “a few hundred thousand” but Tan said it was worth it. The software helps the company spot patterns in the way the surveyors work, and also intervenes to reduce errors and boost productivity.
Her firm plans to use the software, which is enabled with Global Positioning System (GPS), to detect its employees’ location.
Epsilon Mobile boss William Vo said besides market researchers, organisations such as voluntary welfare groups and chain restaurants had also shown interest in his data collection software.
Similarly, tech company FPT Asia Pacific provides a few fast-moving consumer goods firms with GPS-enabled data collection software to monitor roving sales staff.
While most surveillance technology now focuses on tracking location and time, firms may soon be able to use it to monitor their workers’ interactions with customers.
Local tech company FXMedia is in talks with some retailer groups to roll out a visitor analysis system in stores. The software detects the number of customers and consumers’ emotions using webcams.
However, bosses admit there are some drawbacks to using workplace surveillance technology; workers face extra stress and loss of privacy. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network