Big Brother Is Watching

In the current building that I work we have unassigned mobile workspaces so that teams can move around and work more collaboratively in their constantly changing dynamics. Unfortunately there are far more people than there are workstations. This design was set up by and for non-agile teams and so each workstation is expected to provide a working space for 2-3 employees with the understanding that people would be off in meetings, using the single chair common spaces, spending an hour or two in a small huddle room or working from home several days a week and it wouldn’t be a problem.

It’s a problem. This team, this very large team, is in the office every day. They may have a meeting for 30 minutes here or there but for the most part they need their workstations to, gasp, work. They are developers and they require constant power supply and 2-3 monitors in order to be effective at their jobs. They can’t sit at a communal table and try to code away on their tiny laptop screen and be anywhere near as efficient as they would be with the multiple large monitors. The space is full of common areas that are never used and if those common spaces were converted to workstations it would help alleviate the overcrowding issue that the team currently faces.

Except, no matter how this issue is explained to decision makers on high, they can’t seem to grasp the concept that this team is different from the rest of the teams in the building. This team is in the office working every day, not wandering around from conference room to conference room or spending half their week sitting at home working in their PJs. All logical justifications have been ignored and now that there is literally nowhere to put new hires and we’re having to shove them into common area conference rooms and un-occupied offices they’ve decided that they are going to put up cameras and monitor us for a month to prove what we’ve been telling them since April.

I’ve worked in buildings that have security cameras and I’ve made my peace with it. However the idea that for a whole month someone is going to be watching everything I do at work for such a silly reason just creeps me out. Just us, no other area of the building will have cameras monitoring them, it makes me uneasy and I haven’t been able to quite put my finger on why. I know I do my job and I’m not worried about that, but it just reminded me of 1984 a bit and  with everything that’s going on in the world right now I feel slightly paranoid.

Just for a month I keep telling myself, just 30 measly days of which you won’t be here for many of them. Except what happens when those 30 days come and go, will they find a new reason to keep the cameras? I don’t work well in heavily controlled environments where I feel like I am not trusted. I need freedom and flexibility and I suspect the majority of this team is the same way.

I joined this team to get away from the micro-managed incompetence of my past team. A team who many now have keystroke monitoring software installed on their laptops and if their mouse is still for more than 5 minutes they get flagged because the director of that section of the company doesn’t trust a single employee to be an adult and do the job they are being paid for. I really can’t handle the thought that mentality like that is permeating this section as well. What do you think, am I just over-reacting or is there a legitimate reason to think this is indicative of a slippery slope?


We were all told the monitoring devices would be installed this weekend.  They went around late Friday and put motion detectors in every office and common space.  I feel much much better knowing this was a communication error and the monitoring devices are not cameras. I’m totally ok with autonomous motion sensors.





7 thoughts on “Big Brother Is Watching

  1. I don’t think you are over-reacting! This sounds horrible! I don’t understand how those up there think they have any idea at all about how people work. At the end of the day, if you produce the work required, they should keep out of your space – and what’s more, actually provide that space in the first place!
    Breathe! And I hope this all goes away at the end of the month!
    But you know what – it’s Friday – so go have a great weekend and forget about them! 😀

  2. You’re right DBA – no one ever removes security cameras – after all they are for security in this violent world, aren’t they? More are just added. Also, if they wanted real feedback they would just talk to the team leads who are obviously suffering from this situation daily. They are using the space issue as an excuse to install the cameras. Honestly, if they make you uncomfortable, you should look for other employment (a transfer I mean) because I can assure you they will never come out.

  3. Most larger companies are now run by paranoid middle managers with few skills other than making themselves appear important to their bosses. The number of workers who actually get the job done for these companies is decreasingly smaller every day, and they work longer and longer hours to make up for those employees training to replace the useless managers. I gave up many years ago (in the early 1980’s) and started my own consulting business that lasted almost 25 years. The dumb managers tend to take the advice of a consultant but ignore the advice of a valuable employee. Go figure.

    • It’s just ridiculous how terrible the business practices can be the larger a company gets. All it takes is one shitty manager to ruin perfectly lovely teams and destroy a legacy of great work. I was on a decent team and it turned terrible pretty quick after some awful management changes and the team I am on now is amazing and has amazing managers but finance is stepping in and starting to cause problems and I really hope the CIO can keep protecting us.

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