UK Bosses Using Artificial Intelligence to Monitor Staff Activity


Critics, however, fear that such system may cause distrust and increase pressure on workers

Several UK business owners are using artificial intelligence to scrutinise staff behaviour minute-to-minute, according to The Guardian.

The actions of 130,000 people in the UK and abroad are being monitored by a new system called Isaak. Designed by a London company, Status Today, the system ranks staff members’ attributes by harvesting data on their work and interactions like “who emails whom and when, who accesses and edits files and who meets whom and when.”

The system shows bosses how collaborative workers are and whether they are “influencers” or “change-makers”. It can compare activity data with qualitative assessments of workers from personnel files or sales performance figures.

The data is controlled by the employer and workers do not automatically have a right to see it.

Trade unions against use of such system

Isaak system is the latest example of a trend for using algorithms to manage people. However, critics fear that such system will create distrust and increase pressure on workers. They also say that it could encourage people not to take breaks or spend time in creative thought that will not be logged.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC)’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Workers want to be trusted to do their jobs. But this kind of high-tech snooping creates fear and distrust.” She added that it undermines morale and “could do businesses more harm than good”.

The Guardian also quoted Ursula Huws, a professor of labour and globalisation at the University of Hertfordshire, as saying, “If performance targets are being fine-tuned by AI and your progress towards them being measured by AI, that will only multiply the pressure.”

There are risks to mental health if people did not feel free to take breaks, the professor added.

The system may help bosses cut out bias!

Ankur Modi, the chief executive of Status Today, said his system aims to provide a “wellbeing analysis” and can detect overwork.

But he admitted: “there’s always a risk that it might be misused”.

He also agreed that the concern that companies could use it only to boost productivity, without focusing on wellbeing, is legitimate.

At the same time, he argued that the system could help bosses cut out bias and discrimination by removing subjectivity from management decisions.