30 May 2012

Thoughts of Productivity Measuring Software

[Note: While this was written from the perspective of being at work, it was actually written during personal time.]

Even as I type these very words, I am beginning to cringe as I watch the numbers slowly increase. Just to find my mouse, it goes from zero to one. Launching the word editor jumps me up to two, as I type I am up to three. Then I realize that I made a mistake. That means I have to go back and make corrections which puts me at a level 4.

Last week, some work productivity monitoring software showed up. It was cute and nice at first. It has a brightly smiling face to indicate that I compliant with my breaks (oops. I just jumped up to a five, I should type slower) and an angry red face when I do not take my breaks on time, or for too short.

My favorite part is the numerical indication of my work intensity. It starts out green and at zero. Whenever I do almost anything it jumps up to a one, as the number go up, the green turns to yellow (at about five) and starts turning an angry red around seven. I cannot imagine what a full ten is (probably an angry red).

In addition to the numerical and color indication of my “work intensity,” it also sees fit to remind me, quite intrusively, that I need to take breaks. For example, if I type too long (a couple of good paragraphs) it will make me do a “micro pause” where I am unable to use the keyboard or the mouse for 30 seconds. I can, of course, dismiss the reminder, but much like an incessant child, it waits for me at the top of the screen in bright, flashing colors; and there is always the threat of the nice smiley face turning angry if I fail to comply with my breaks.

While I can sympathize with the management’s desire to help me avoid stress injuries and to, in general, be happy and productive, but in the end I think it is more detrimental to my ability to effectively work to have a constant reminder of that work. I can never zone out and just cruise with the work. Another problem I keep running into with all these “micro pauses” is a break in my thought trains.

So really, there are three problems I see with constantly measuring work performance: it distracts from actual work, the indication methodology encourages low levels of work (the green zero is more pleasant than the red nine) and reduces the ability to cruise through a project by interrupting work with a flood of reminders that I am working too hard and need to slow down.

I suppose, in the end, I could take management’s hint and not wok at all but then why are they paying me.

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