Ross: It’s either middle managers or robots looking over your shoulder

Sep 23, 2022, 8:01 AM | Updated: 8:28 am


Photo from Flickr

First, I want to acknowledge that all this-back-to-the-office talk must be pretty entertaining for the people who do the real work – construction, maintenance, retail, restaurants, transportation, warehouse work, building airplanes, public safety, and – the most important job in any civilized society – trash collection.

You have to show up in person.

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But people like me who sit at computer screens and can work anywhere are in a tug-of-war with bosses who want them back at the office.

And to convince their bosses that they can be just as productive at home, some of them have been gaming the software.

According to Bloomberg News, it’s called “Productivity Theater” – where you wiggle the mouse every so often, join meetings you don’t need to be in, update your status – whatever it takes for the productivity software to show you as being actively engaged.

Apparently, productivity software is that stupid.

For example, according to my productivity dashboard last week Feliks Banel, our resident historian, and I spent 15 hours attending the same meetings. It even recommends that Feliks and I consider dividing up our meetings and sharing notes to save time!

Well, as regular listeners know, Feliks and I work together for about ten minutes, twice a week, Wednesdays and Fridays. If the software is that unreliable for someone like me who is back at the office, I can see why it’s so easy to game it from home.

My dashboard also displays my top collaborators.

James, our producer is number 1 – that gets an A-plus, Colleen is there too – also A-plus, but no mention of Chris, even though we spend three hours a day in the same studio! And instead of Chris, it lists seven listeners I’ve never met as being among my top collaborators! OK – we’ve exchanged e-mails, but collaborators? Hardly.

And yet as flawed as this software is, if you work-at-homers continue your boycott, that software will have to become more and more intrusive, because bosses need to know you’re working.

Now in my case, it’s easy – they can just turn on the radio.

But for those of you not on the radio, if you’re not in your cubicle where a supervisor can walk by and say, “hey how’s it going?” –  they’re going to turn to artificial intelligence, cell phones programmed to listen to your breathing, and eventually insect-sized drones that perch on your shoulder.

If you draw a paycheck, one way or another, your company is going to make sure you deserve it. So, you might as well come back.

It’s either the human supervisor or the insect drone. Buzzzzzz? No thanks.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: It’s either middle managers or robots looking over your shoulder