" Monzo and the pitfalls of staff surveillance"

Had this come up in my feed and reading it im glad i dont work at Monzo.

This seems a really shitty legacy bank mentality to be checking the activity every five minutes to see if they are at their computer for a productivity measurement and sending them “on a performance improvement programme if they repeatedly fail to hit the target.”

Any thoughts?

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There’s already a discussion in the Media thread.

@N26throwaway and I are Team Orwellian Surveillance and @Revels and @Carlo1460 are Team Nothing to See Here


Those camps don’t surprise me one bit :rofl:


You can read the discussion of it from a week ago, and again today from people that don’t understand what surveillance means.


Wheres the line in the sand for you? If Monzo said they use child labour would you be appalled or say well it keeps the costs down nothing to see here?

I realise you have to pick fault in absolutely everything but Monzo making sure staff are working isn’t the outage you seem to think.


Putting surveillance aside, are you seriously suggesting that checking someone at their desk every five minutes is the best way to measure productivity?

Not at all, it can easily be fooled. I’m sure we’ve all seen the vids of people tying the mouse to a rotating fan.

There’s companies that take screenshots at random times and so far far intrusive things than this.

But if you’re not “active” then that’s a very simple measurement. If you’re asleep on the sofa and not touched anything for an hour, you probably should face action for that.


Definitely if you’re not meeting the work set thats one thing. Productivity can’t be if you’ve clicked something in the last five minutes.

If you’re given five tasks for that day and you complete them in its over to the employee whether they ask for a sixth. It shouldn’t matter if one person can accomplish the same result in 5hrs or 7.5hrs

Obviously its completely different depending on role, if you’re chat support and expected to be present in those set times.

Either way five minutes seems overly aggressive imo.

It stinks of something you would expect HSBC to be doing.


Much of the discourse revolved around whether it is or isn’t surveillance in the first place, which is just distraction.

I think it is. We supply these systems to companies like Monzo as surveillance, for that is the purpose they were designed for. It’s what they are.

The dictionary equivalents of bible bashers will disagree of course. But the definition we use is the more ubiquitous one (I think). Something folks might realise if they take more than a second to think about it and understand where terms like mass surveillance come from, and what we understand that to mean, because it’s certainly not from their respective dictionary entries. In the thesaurus it’s synonymous with monitoring, so folks are just being melodramatic. But I digress.

I never made any comment as to whether it’s Orwellian or ethically wrong, but I stand by what I said. These systems are just tools and that’s all. Used correctly, they can be very beneficial. Used in bad faith and they can be detrimental to the welfare of those under the purview of such tools.

They can be used ethically or unethically. But their existence itself is not necessarily (though debatable I’m sure) unethical. As for its use; not surprising. It’s quite a common practice in tech. That’s about the extent of my views on Monzo doing this. I don’t know how they use their surveillance tools, so I can’t say if it’s something I’d consider to be a good or bad thing.

We sell these systems to our clients, but we put a lot of thought into it. We sell it as a service only. No actual tools for an internal IT team to exploit, and they’re used only for the beneficial purposes they were designed for, which is system integrity and not much more. Essentially the Cisco AAA concept on a more broader scale than networking. DPI never on our systems.

Thank me later. (Assuming your employer is doing this too of course!)

The fact it’s so easily fooled, and isn’t really an effective way to measure, I’m baffled at the idea that this is what they’re using it for! But a large number of companies do use it in that way, so it equally wouldn’t surprise me. The need tools like mouse jiggler wouldn’t exist otherwise.

If your work environment reaches a point where you feel like you need a tool like this, then it probably isn’t a healthy one. And that’s where I’d put my Orwellian hat on. :blush:

I agree with your sentiment, but it’s a normal window. Pretty sure it’s the default with one of the off the shelf ones. I don’t currently know any Apple Care at home advisors (the one I did know moved here work for Dyson after graduation). It’s (was) five minutes there too when they worked there. It was really only for interns and those on their induction/probation period. You eventually earned trust from being good at your job, as other metrics mattered more to Apple.


Me too! I missed this earlier discussion as I hadn’t been keeping up with that thread but my views on it are roughly summed up in the following:

As an employer, if you can’t trust your own employees then that indicates an unhealthy management culture; as an employee, if you are subject to “big brother” monitoring then that is probably going to be stressful and ultimately detrimental to productivity and output, and is also insulting to your professional integrity. I wouldn’t want to work for a company where my work was not valued on a professional level, where I wasn’t treated professionally, or where I felt the employer didn’t trust me. And for all Monzo’s blog posts about inclusivity and tone of voice: if this is what it is actually like to work for them, their commitments seem to ring hollow.


As a creative be that programmer, copywriter, designer etc you don’t have a constant on button like a robot, you might take thinking time or research or collaboration which means you aren’t necessarily clicking a button every fives minutes even though you’re being “productive”.

With a service role productivity is being present.

However it should be clear in the chat software logs how many tickets each person is nailing.


Exactly, if you work in design, as a random example, you might take half an hour to draw out some sketches on physical paper - the system would decide, crudely, that you were not logged in and were therefore “not working”. So to avoid this, now you would have to move your mouse now and again, literally a distraction from your actual work, and something detrimental to your creative focus, just to avoid getting into trouble with some corporate monitoring division. What’s the point of that?

It’s very clear that this sort of monitoring doesn’t work for many, perhaps even most, roles.


For customer support where dealing with one customer can take 30 mins and another 5 minutes then time worked performance metrics are reasonable, and tracking every 5 minutes is reasonable, for other jobs it wouldn’t be reasonable.

Used by fair managers as an objective metric.as part of a larger picture :white_check_mark:
Used by vindictive managers to hound employees - Bad.

The article doesn’t say they are automatically sent on performance programs based on these metrics so why assume that?

This could this be one annoyed ex employee upset that they got caught and presented with evidence as part of the disciplinary action and picked up the 5 minute part or it could be a hint of a really bad work place, but this article doesn’t prove either way.


That’s another commonly misunderstood point, though, which I’m glad you brought up: many mangers assume that shorter interactions = better support and outcomes, better efficiency.

There is often a focus on closing tickets quickly in customer support roles - I’m not suggesting Monzo are guilty of an excessive focus on this, but many companies certainly are. If you focus on the “efficiency” of support agents, simply fobbing off the customer and closing the ticket is the end result if they have a complicated problem, because that is what the support agent is incentivised to do. This is a disaster in terms of customer experience, but incorrectly shows as “good work” on time-based performance metrics. I bring it up as another example of how it is difficult, and often simply impossible and certainly misguided, to reduce measuring “performance” or “productivity” to simple metrics.


Whichever ever camp you’re in on the surveillance side it boils down to this action is negative for the employee, there’s no positive outcome.

The employer thinks they are gaining insight when they are potentially losing good staff who are opposed to being monitored, and potentially causing mental health issues.

There’s some people on forums who love sucking on the teat of the business and will always defend their decisions regardless.

Hopefully though people get on the side of people and think hang on this isnt actually ok.


Exactly, it dehumanises employees and is designed to put pressure on them in the workplace. This is unfair. Inevitably, the goal becomes to continue to drive efficiency up to unsustainable levels, so the metrics always “improve”, and this can lead to employee burnout. It’s not conducive to good corporate culture at all and I would go so far as to say that it’s unhealthy.


It’s a horrible system, a blight on Monzo’s culture, and was a clear signal to me of a company changing in a way that I didn’t agree with. It was one of several red flags to me that happened mostly throughout 2019 that all put together, contributed to my decision to leave. It is indefensible in my view, and prioritises volume and speed over thorough problem solving and helpfulness.


That’s roughly where my thoughts are. Some might argue the mere possibility of the latter is troubling enough to at least be skeptical of the use of these things, and I’m inclined to agree with that too.

I’m pretty fortunate in that I can be rather selective over clients I’m happy to have a relationship with, so we use these tools with a specific purpose in mind that doesn’t just deter misuse at a management level, but outright prevents it. As I say, privacy concerns and downsides aside (and there are privacy friendly methods and tools), they can be incredibly useful when used right.

Remote employees will always need to have access monitored in some way. You leave your company at significant risk if you don’t. I’ve yet to conduct a threat model where this hasn’t been a concern for remote working.

Agreed. Sadly a lot of creative agencies, and even companies have asked us to provide such a service that allows them to micro manage creatives in this way too. But that’s not the sort of service we provide. The place my friend works at does it. They use a mouse jiggler. It pays extremely well, otherwise they’d leave. They’re also fairly high up on the food chain. So it’s not always just those at the bottom affected by these things.

Is it an off the shelf product? If so do you know which?

I can understand folks not liking it, but I’m hesitant with pinning the blame solely on the system as opposed to those in control of it.

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Late to the party and 9 pints in but yes. Monzo don’t give af tbh :joy:

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