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Ask Slashdot: When Does Time Tracking at Work Go Too Far?

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the your-time-is-our-time dept.

Businesses 630

An anonymous reader writes "I work in a call center, full time, for a large mail order pharmacy. Recently, as part of their campaign to better track time spent both at and away from our desks, they have started tracking bathroom breaks. They use a Cisco phone system, and there is now a clock out option that says 'Bathroom.' My question is whether or not this is in any way acceptable in a large corporate environment (Around 800 people work at this same pharmacy) and is it even legal? How invasive would this really be considered, and beyond privacy concerns, how are they going to deal with the humiliation that their employees feel as a result of this? Has this happened to any of you?"

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Unionize (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41351837)

You need a union. It's the only way to fix this kind of thing.

Re:Unionize (5, Insightful)

leromarinvit (1462031) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351853)

You need a union. It's the only way to fix this kind of thing.

This. So much this. You don't have to put up with this bullshit. And it will only get worse unless you fight back.

Re:Unionize (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352007)

What a terrible first response. I mean fucking, stupidly, terrible. You don't unionize over a few bad practices, probably put in place by a stupid manager. You unionize when labor laws are obviously being violated.

There is a distinct issue here of medical privacy that is most likely being violated. Tracking bathroom visits could be a way for someone to infer you have a medical condition.

What you should do is seek an attorney who will look at this pro bono. They will probably tell you to start with your HR department with a complaint. It's all about the paper trail.

Re:Unionize (5, Insightful)

leromarinvit (1462031) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352059)

The idea migt be shocking to you, but there's nothing wrong with having a union even when things are going well. When labor laws are being violated, you need a union that can draw support from and build upon an established base, so it is actually able to act. Just starting to build one then seems a tad late.

Re:Unionize (5, Insightful)

Pseudonym (62607) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352143)

You unionize when labor laws are obviously being violated.

You get a lawyer when labor laws are obviously being violated. You unionise when you want to negotiate with management on behalf of the workforce as a whole, not just on behalf of yourself.

You also unionise when labor laws which don't yet exist (but should) are being violated. The law is often behind technology, so there will always be a place for this.

Re:Unionize (5, Insightful)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352293)

What a terrible first response. I mean fucking, stupidly, terrible. You don't unionize over a few bad practices, probably put in place by a stupid manager. You unionize when labor laws are obviously being violated.

There is a distinct issue here of medical privacy that is most likely being violated. Tracking bathroom visits could be a way for someone to infer you have a medical condition.

What you should do is seek an attorney who will look at this pro bono. They will probably tell you to start with your HR department with a complaint. It's all about the paper trail.

I will never understand how the political and moneyed classes in the USA managed to convince the working man in that country that unions are the spawn of Satan. While I can see the problem when unions becoming lazy and corrupt I don't really see what is wrong with the vast majority of them who are properly run. I have been a union member all of my professional life. I prefer to have a union behind me to foot the bill if I have to take my employer to court as opposed to the situation in the US where you are frequently up shit creek without a paddle if your employer decides to crap all over you. Another service I get from my a union is legal advice regarding employment contracts. One of the many things the engineers union I am a member of offers to for it's members is to have a legal professional read over your employment contract and point out to you legal land mines your employer sometimes builds into those things like draconian clauses about IP ownership, anti competition stuff and requirements that you relinquish the right to take them to court in favour of private arbitration (no prizes for guessing who gets to choose the arbitrator). It's easy to abuse a single person, it's a whole lot harder for employers to abuse 100.000 of you standing together.

Re:Unionize (5, Interesting)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352047)

Although I agree with the sentiment, as a former vicidial / polycom consultant in all cases where I had to log toilet breaks the underlying reason was always driven by the clients, not the call agent employers. The call centers would prefer to log nothing at all, but the clients pay good money for analysis of the dialler logging. Take a look at the contracts and you'll get an idea of how detailed these agreements are. It sucks, but that's where the pay check comes from. If you push back too hard there are a hundred more centers that could be up and running with the same product in a few days.

Re:Unionize (5, Informative)

alere (2731427) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352103)

Joined just to comment on this. Used to work at a unionized call center for a major corporation, they did the exact same thing. Tracked bathroom breaks, had people coming to work while contagious and ill, wouldn't let you use PTO you earned because it was "not available that day". The only thing the union did for me before I quit was take my money. Now I am extremely happy in a non unionized job making a fair wage, infinitely better benefits, and I actually enjoy going to work (not so much getting up to go to work though :) ). I've been on both sides of the fence, and my experience with unions have been they are more worried about their bottom line than helping the people who pay them. They may be good for some people and really help them, but I have not experienced one that does.

Re:Unionize (5, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352321)

OR... you could just find a new job.

Re:Unionize (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352373)

Nice try Mr Romney...

Re:Unionize (2, Funny)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351857)

USA to china: "when I grow up, I want to be just like you!"

(think about that..)

Re:Unionize (2, Insightful)

dmacleod808 (729707) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351883)

Unions will results in layoffs. Corporations will not just accept lower profits because their labor unionizes, they will layoff (Or go to India or the Philippines) until the costs are back in line to where they were.

Re:Unionize (3, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351895)

and to fight back, any attempt at a layoff causes ALL the workforce to strike.

THAT is why you have a union. 100% that.

its high time we bring back unions. corps have shown they are not good at self-managing and self-policing. left alone, they will squeeze you dry. they used to! study your history!!

Re:Unionize (4, Insightful)

dmacleod808 (729707) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351907)

Until the United States passes union laws, this will just result in the entire workforce being laid off and non - union talent being hired. There are plenty of people who want a job.

Re:Unionize (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352001)

that's why you hire teamsters (etc) to 'manage' the picket lines.

to counter a brut regime, you bring in your own hired thugs.

seriously, its the only way to fight fire. the bosses are not about to give in voluntarily. again, study your history. what we lost over the last 50 yrs, we have to fight AGAIN to get back.

the repubs are busy trying to destroy organized labor. and they are winning, too ;(

Re:Unionize (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352213)

Because organized labor is detrimental to the economy and a joke. If you can't make yourself valuable to your employer on your own merits without these sort of government-backed or thug-backed coercive tactics, you really don't deserve the job, and the corporation in question shouldn't be required to pay you more than you're actually worth to them in market terms. All that does is make the corporation less competitive with other global players, which is bad for our economy. (And yes, I apply the same logic to things like trade/tariff protectionism and corporate tax breaks that prop up domestic industries - bottom line: companies need to be self-sufficient and profitable on their own merits, and so do their employees, or the whole economy's headed for the shitter).

Re:Unionize (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352317)

Because organized labor is detrimental to the economy and a joke.

Yeah, just look at Germany. Probably the strongest unions anywhere in the world, and look where it's gotten them. The economy in the ruins, all labour outsourced to India, poor hungry people roaming the streets, right? /sarcasm

Re:Unionize (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352319)

Just to bring it back on task, not reporting in great detail the exact time and duration of a digestive anomaly for later tracking, disciplinary, and promotional purposes is now defined as:

thug-backed coercive tactics

I'm curious what you'll define "not wanting to email a picture of the resulting turd using my smartphone to boss to document the event" will be defined as. I'm guessing something like "unamerican socialist terrorist with something to hide"

Re:Unionize (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352241)

You're damn right they're winning.

Getting your way by force is primitive. Grow up.

Re:Unionize (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352129)

Until the United States passes union laws, this will just result in the entire workforce being laid off and non - union talent being hired. There are plenty of people who want a job.

Last time I checked, there are plenty of union laws that already exist. In more than half the states, you don't even have a choice: if the employees are organized in a union, and you want to work there, you are required to join the union and pay your dues, so that the union is able to participate in their money laundering scheme where union dues get turned into campaign contributions to the Democrat party. If you refuse to do so, the employer is legally required to fire you. Furthermore, it would be illegal for the employer to do what you suggested: fire all the unionized workers, and replace them with non-union employees.

Re:Unionize (3, Insightful)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351961)

Exactly. The right has demonized unions while ignoring that they level the playing field between an employee and an employer. Without them, you get abuses like this. That doesn't mean that a union needs to drive a business into the ground. Typically they both understand that a strong business means a strong profit means a strong workforce. If things get unbalanced too much to one side, you end up with either corrupt management, or a company that goes out of business.

Re:Unionize (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41351977)

Seen how that tends to work out in the long run?

Union in, costs up, profits down. Have to reduce costs so look into cost cutting measures which can include layoffs. Union in uproar and strikes. Costs spiral and profits tank. More cost cutting measures and can eventually cause the closure of the company or shifting of all work offshore with EVERYONE loosing their job.

I've been involved in unions before and seen the destruction that they actually cause whilst claiming to be helping, NEVER AGAIN!

Re:Unionize (-1, Flamebait)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352045)

good morning mr republican shill!

how are you today? has jeeves delivered your breakfast in the customary sunday morning silverware?

btw, you make me sick. shills and mercenaries like you are a cancer on the american people.

Re:Unionize (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352207)

Nice to see a well though out a reasoned response like this.

I'm not a republican. I'm not an american. We do have unions in other countries you know - and I have first hand experience of just how bad they can be.

Still, if it doesn't fit with your opinion then I guess it must be the opinion of a shill.


Oops, I nearly forgot those most important part of this response - how are you mr union shill. still enjoying helping making your country less competitive and forcing more jobs overseas then.

Re:Unionize (3, Insightful)

Karlt1 (231423) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351983)

Hate to say it but it's not a highly technical job. If people start complaining they just outsource to India.

Re:Unionize (3, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352055)

and then we need to counter that with laws (and tax codes) that, uhm, 'motivate' against such anti-american behavior.

I'd be all for it.

since corp ethics is on 'perma vacation', we need some teeth in the law system to stop this kind of continuing bad corp behavior.

if we don't take care of our own people, we will slip into being a 2nd world country. you want that??

Re:Unionize (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352159)

The solution isn't government regulation. The solution is to encourage more corporations to start and grow in this country. If the submitter had the option of quitting that job working somewhere else this whole discussion would be moot. You don't want that?

Re:Unionize (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352339)

And we need government laws to regulate forcing people to keep buying buggy whips even though they drive horseless carriages. And we need government regulation to ban automation on manufacturing lines because that keeps people from jobs. And more regulation to prevent computers from keeping track of accounting for large companies because that again costs more jobs.

Oh wait, the country that DIDN'T do those regulations was the one to go from 2nd world status to 1st world status. No, you are a luddite that wants to keep everyone in the country in poverty following your arbitary rules, just as long as you aren't also bound by the same stupid rules.

Re:Unionize (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351943)

I agree. The bottom line is that nobody should be working for such a company [unless there is something going on in that company that I don't understand].

Honestly, if a company can't treat its employees reasonably well, then it deserves unions, and I say this as a non-supporter of unions.

Re:Unionize (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41351929)

Yea, because you don't have to do any time tracking while collecting unemployment after your job goes away.

Re:Unionize (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352163)

bullshit. you do.

Take your phone to the bathroom! (5, Funny)

yog (19073) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352141)

Better than unionizing -- just take your wireless headset to the toilet. You can stay on your calls, and there can be an LCD monitor in the stall if you need to reference information, read from a script, check your Facebook page, etc.

At the end of a particularly annoying call, the sound of a toilet flushing would be entirely appropriate, too!

Re:Take your phone to the bathroom! (2)

BonThomme (239873) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352355)

at least they'll find out who number two works for

Shitty... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41351861)


Short answer (5, Insightful)

mrsam (12205) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351869)

Time to start sending out resumes.

Re:Short answer (2)

yog (19073) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352085)

I was thinking the same thing.

The job market's bad, but it's not THAT bad.

Re:Short answer (3, Funny)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352115)

Or simply time to get everybody to constantly hit the "Bathroom" button. When management realise that every cubicle is occupied by an average of 17 workers every minute of the working day and work is still getting done, they'll realise it's pointless. A virtual dirty protest if you will.

Honestly? (5, Insightful)

dmacleod808 (729707) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351871)

Get another job. You are just being treated like cattle and there is NOTHING you can do. If you were to sue, they will find some reason to fire you. If you were to Unionize, there would be massive layoffs. In my company, I don't clock in, I don't clock out, I can work 5 hours per week overtime without approval. And I work for a fortune 300 company who you think would be soulless. I see how our CSRs are treated, and it is a damn sight better than anywhere else. And we have metrics in the upper 90% range for hold times (Less than 90 seconds) and call backs. Customer first will always make you profitable.

Re:Honestly? (1)

YukariHirai (2674609) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351935)

Basically that. I haven't experienced it personally, but a couple of the people I work with (at a small company; roughly a dozen people all up) used to work in call centres where they had this kind of toilet break timekeeping. They utterly fucking detested it, which is why it's somewhere they used to work.

Re:Honestly? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351957)

..not to offend hard working call center people, but wouldn't that be the usual recommendation to anyone working at one regardless of if they're tracking bathroom breaks?

Re:Honestly? (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352009)

If you are going to quit, then you are essentially taking a voluntary lay off. If you unionize, then you/somebody takes a mandetory layoff. It seems about the same to me. At least, with a union, you get to stick it to the man.

If companies can care only-about-profits then why can't unions and their workers?

I'm not a supporter of unions, though.

Re:Honestly? (1, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352067)

you don't 'stick it to the man', when you unionize, you equalize what HAS BECOME an increasingly unlevel playing ground.

you show social responsibility when you fight to get a union installed in a bad company. and this surely sounds like they need some EQ there..

and while it may be bad for those fighting, they'll make life better for those that follow.

we USED to care about stuff like that. we used to. what happened to us? why do we have this 'got mine, fark you!' mentality?

your grandparents - that fought for unions and a better work life for you - feel you have abandoned them and all the hard work they fought for!

Re:Honestly? (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352147)

:^D I don't think that my grandparents fought for unions.

Why can't we use unions to stick it to the man? What's wrong with that?

Re:Honestly? (1)

EvilIdler (21087) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352011)

Yeah, getting out is the only sane option. I used to work at a place which implemented a tracking scheme like that, and after two weeks they had lost about two thirds of the people. Too many to have the remaining people work overtime. I was among the people who left, but heard from someone who stayed that they stopped that silliness only a month after introducing it.

So getting out will make one of two things happen: Either you are free from a horrible employment situation, or you help make them see the error in their ways. If you're in the US chances are the place of employment will do like usual: Apply more beatings until morale improves.

Re:Honestly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352219)

What is the problem with accurately logging your time? You are paid by the hour. Log your time. What is the problem unless you are in fact stealing from your employer by working fewer hours than you are paid for. All these retards calling for unions in a market where offshoring is easy and doesnt result in loss of quality - really?

"Bathroom" can easily be renamed.... (5, Interesting)

overlook77 (988190) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351887)

Your company should track all "Personal Breaks" together and not specify whether it's a bathroom break or not. A personal break would be a smoke break, getting water/food, bathroom, etc. There is no reason to break it down further in my opinion. I'm a call center manager, and at our company we lump all that stuff together. At the end of the month if someone is not meeting their percent time work goals we can see how much of the problem is attributed to personal breaks vs. other things, such as off the phone research. But I personally don't want to know that someone was taking a dump for 20 min.

Re:"Bathroom" can easily be renamed.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41351981)

It depends on the job. Back when I used to work security it would depend upon where in the building I was working whether or not the time was counted. When I was working in the building it usually wasn't counted as it was just a legitimate time to check for drug users in the restroom. When somebody had to relieve me to go, then it would be counted.

Ultimately though, it depends a great deal on the work environment. For some jobs there really does need to be somebody doing it at all times. For other jobs if somebody is absent for a moment it's not a big deal. And for other jobs, one can keep working while using the restroom and get both done at the same time.

But, without reason, it's something I'd be suspicious of. Needing to use the restroom between breaks should be relatively uncommon, provided that the individual doesn't have a medical condition. And that's where it really fails hard as once there's a few people with medical conditions that have to go, then it's hard to justify the hit to morale that enforcing it for everybody else leads to.

Re:"Bathroom" can easily be renamed.... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352369)

Needing to use the restroom between breaks

What makes you think the kind of place where mgmt daydreams of timing, tracking, and probably training and disciplining bathroom breaks would give people "break time"? They probably make them bring coal to work to keep the place warm in the winter.

The solution, obviously, is if you have to go, then just whip it out at your desk and/or use those "first class" cardboard boxes and some tape to interoffice mail the result "somewhere". Ask for a potted plant in your cubical and a little privacy, or maybe not if you like that kind of thing.

Re:"Bathroom" can easily be renamed.... (3, Insightful)

JustOK (667959) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352173)

They should use the same methods for tracking management and the employees.

Canadian call centres do it too (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41351889)

A friend of mine worked in a call centre where they were smart enough to not label the button "bathroom" but just said "press aux 3 when you're going on break." I guess that way they can say they're not tracking bathroom breaks per se but telling the system when calls should not be routed to their phone.

Re:Canadian call centres do it too (3, Insightful)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351997)

How do you know the question asker isn't in Canada? They seem to assume that all /. readers are also mind readers who can answer "Is this legal?" without being told which jurisdictions are relevant.

eat a lot.... (4, Funny)

TenAngryPistols (2519272) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351897)

of chinese/taco bell for lunch... They did this at my first job (tech support) a few years ago. I just did everything like I always did.. if I had to drop a huge deuce and it took 10-15 minutes... then whatever. What're they gonna say? "You're fired for taking big long dumps?" Besides, with those Cisco soft phones when you "log out" and choose the available options for why you're logging out, most people will select the most generic answer like "asking a question" or "helping a customer" or whatever. You'll eventually see that people in your apartment spend a LOT of time "asking questions/helping customers" and almost nobody has to poop anymore.

Re:eat a lot.... (3, Informative)

theRunicBard (2662581) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351955)

What this guy said. Any REAL action is going to take a lot of work on your part and give you no real benefit. Meanwhile, if you just game the system, you win! That's why we love the system. In the meantime, keep an eye out for a new job. Couldn't hurt.

don't overthink it (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41351903)

You're in a call center, so when you get up today, you already have to hit something to stop receiving calls that were in queue. I would say the purpose of that button is to separate out a bit more detail on the reporting side vs, checking up on individuals. I came from a prior call-center environment, on the backend network/telephony team, and having to "check-in/out" each time you walk away from the phone/cube was normal. This was a 600 person call center, also healthcare.

It's too invasive, but employer makes the rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41351911)

When you take the Man's dime, you play by his rules. Working in a call center is a job that is particularly fungible. The reality is that you can easily be replaced by someone else locally, or someone overseas who would perceive the conditions you work under to be luxurious.

The real answer is to develop skills that garner respect. Just look out the window. The guy pushing the lawnmower is powerless. The guy who designs the lawn mower is not.

Re:It's too invasive, but employer makes the rules (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352231)

If the guy pushing the lawn mower runs the landscaping service, he may be landing much more money than you do or will.

Be careful before "assuming".

Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41351919)

Every helpdesk and call center I have ever worked at (worked at a total of 5) they have always tracked this information. The company does not hire you to spend xx amount of time in the RR they hire you to be on the phones or working.

They are doing this to see if there are any habitual people that tend to go off in "Restroom" to go talk to their buddies on the other side of the building. This also allows them to better schedule breaks and lunches if they notice employee x goes to RR at 10:15 every day - why not schedule his break then - he can then use the RR on break.

They can set policy as they see fit - they are the company and as far as I know (i am not an attorney - they can track it if they want).

Re:Really? (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352349)

the problem with that is no one wants to waste half their lunch break taking a massive shit.

Seriously asking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41351923)

When it begins. No other answer.

These anuses must not have anuses. (2)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351941)

You can be pretty confident the management doesn't impose this on themselves.

It's up to a human manager to determine if you're abusing bathroom breaks or not. Sometimes there are good reasons. A robot isn't going to give any leeway.

Both sides (0)

gagol (583737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351949)

Time tracking, as an peon employee can be tedious to keep. But as soon as you have to manage your team, bill clients and justify the fees and report to your boss, it becomes a priceless tool. We did billed toilet time to clients though, and it was not a call center.

I see it both ways (3, Interesting)

adosch (1397357) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351963)

I do have to say I do feel a bit of empathy for OP. I'm sure if I had to 'time' my bathroom breaks after going to a Mongolian grill for lunch, I'd be a bit embarrassed to mark that down as well. All jokes aside, I do go back and forth on this subject of time tracking. I'd say inherently, company time gets more abused than treated as a flexible privilege. At my work in salaried careers, I see people taking 'multiple' breaks during the day that total up to 'hours' (yes not an hour, hours), plus smoke breaks, plus water cooler talk, plus BS about random subjects at their desk, 2+ hour lunch breaks, showing-up-late-leave-early enough, work-from-home-because-I'm-expecting-the-UPS-guy, etc. that I start to question who tracks all this or even matches this all up on their time sheet at the end of the pay period. I don't have enough experience in call centers to really say why they are really driven on 'time' as their measurement medium. Bottom line, I like to keep things simple: Either some suit thought it would be a good idea to do that so they get a bonus for meeting some silly 'goal' they had to dream up or it's been enough of a abuse problem because employees have figured out bathroom breaks aren't measured against you and do not effect your bonus incentives, so to get an extra break, they claim a weak blatter.

Re:I see it both ways (0)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352111)

I start to question who tracks all this or even matches this all up on their time sheet at the end of the pay period.

the same people that track when the company 'asks' you to stay late today and tomorrow and, oh, next weekend we need you here on saturday and maybe you can stay up till 1am since we have a conf call in india you HAVE to attend?

hmmm. are you thinking about THAT side of the war? or only the 'poor poor company' that the employees abuse and kick around...

Make that break permanent. (4, Insightful)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351967)

If you care about your rights, working in a call center is not the right job for you. Only drones can tolerate it for long. It seems you have hit your limit, so go take a permanent bathroom break and find yourself a new job.

I disagree with the general opinion (3, Interesting)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 2 years ago | (#41351973)

I worked for a couple years in a helpdesk organization where breaks were tracked. In my country you are legally entitled to 10 minutes break every hour. You can take 10x 1 minute, or 1x 10 minute, or even skip a few breaks and take a larger one. At the end of the day though, you should not have more than 90 minutes of breaks.
This was tracked through Avaya CMS and usually there was no action taken even if those breaks were exceeded, as long as the offended didn't blatantly exceed his break quota for an extended amount of days.
It depends a lot on how does the employer interpret that data. In my company, the processes and procedures are lax, there's usually no follow up unless someone really abuses breaks.
Another reason for monitoring is capacity management. You wouldn't want all your employees to go on breaks at the same time (some tend to group up when going for a smoke, that affects call flow and customers). There was a live report publicly displayed on every center using projectors, so that everyone could see whether they affect call flow or not by going in a break. Sometimes agents had a particularly nasty call and they needed to lay off the pressure by stepping away for a few minutes, and all they needed to do was ask for an exception, that was always granted. There was a guy who tried abusing that as well, so I had to talk to him for a few times and he finally got back in line.
Monitoring your behavior while at work is okay. being absurd about the data is not. Fine line between those two.

Commoditisation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41351979)

Time tracking is important in services businesses to understand productivity and where your money is going internally. Tracking project success and failures is key to realigning your business moving forward.

But it can go too far. So when does it go too far?

It usually gets over baked when the company's margins are thin. The service or product that is being sold has such tight margins, the business needs to finds ways to scrape on the other side.

For some businesses it's their natural state. Call centres are a highly competitive commoditised market, where time is a key measurement. Where minutes are the difference between profit and loss, you need to know if more staff are required, or whether someone is spending a long time in the toilet. Toilet tracking is common practise in call centres.

Other non commodotised businesses do this when they are going through tough times, where their profit is slim, if existing at all, and they need to find ways to be more efficient without spending money.

Go to College, Become a programmer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41351987)

Seriously, quit your whining. You have a job.

You can become a software engineer like me then they don't track your bathroom breaks, but:

1. You get yelled at for missing unrealistic deadlines.
2. You're expected to put in 45, 50, even 60 hour weeks at some companies.
3. You get paged at 2am to fix a production problem and work until 5am, then when you crash your manager calls you at 10am in the morning, wakes you up and asks why you didn't come into the office?
4. You get promised thousands of stock options and get cheated out of them.

You call center guys have it easy. Grow up.

Re:Go to College, Become a programmer (-1, Troll)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352137)

lack of sympathy and compassion for fellow man.

you MUST be a republican; or at least one in training...

must also suck to be you. you really sound like a happy, nice person there (...)

Why does it matter? (0)

Andy Prough (2730467) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352003)

Some managers have always tracked bathroom breaks. Would you rather be an adult and keep track of your own time, or be like a small child and have someone else track it for you?

Re:Why does it matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352257)

That's the problem I'm facing with an employee. In my office, we're all pretty much disciplined to get our work done or follow our own schedules. But my worker just blatantly abuses the system and seldom works. There's almost no progress on her work day to day, even after almost daily meetings and talks. Short of firing her, I was considering these metrics, but they're just a passive-aggressive way of letting them know they're not working. Honestly, I doubt she will take notice of those metrics, just as she has disregarded my verbal warnings (masked as "observations").

Sadly, all these rules/ metrics and big-brothering is a result of the lowest common denominator. Last thing I want to do is micro-manage.

The Reckoning (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352017)

"The Reckoning" by David Halberstam has a very interesting, and somewhat scary, description of how bathroom breaks were handled at Ford, before unionization. It's indicative of just how brutally management thinks they can squeeze workers.

Re:The Reckoning (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352363)

can you elaborate in 2 of fewer paragraphs? I don't really feel like looking up, buying, and reading an entire book to know how 1 company handled bathroom breaks.

I feel your pain (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352019)

At my last company, I was salaried (IT support, not a call center), yet I had to have a daily meeting going over everything I did the day before (and if not enough was on the list, answering to why I did so little on a public call in front of the rest of the group), make sure every case I worked on was filled out immediately and in great detail in a ticket, and then at the end of every week, fill out a timesheet accounting for every second of my week, which was then compared to everything else I said/did.

The short answer is, middle management is scared for their jobs. They're asked questions about your time by upper management that they're woefully incapable of answering (or have enough of a backbone to say, "ya know, we really don't need those numbers") and in a frenzy to find a way to answer them, dump a half-assed way of tracking time to the second on your lap, and then monitor like a hawk in hopes of getting answers they're looking for (generally, that someone or some small group is not doing everything right, so they can "fix" it and report back to upper management that they did something to justify their meaningless existences.

Others have said it already, but the answer really is to get out of there. I stupidly stuck with my last job for probably a year longer than I should have, given the conditions, and it really cost me a lot, mentally (I was quite unhappy during that time, contemplating getting out of IT altogether). After I got a new job, I've been much happier.

It's normal in a call center. (2)

Soluzar (1957050) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352025)

I interviewed at a couple of places that do this. One was even worse. They actually place a limit on the amount of time in a day when you can be away from your phone using that button. After that you be counted as just AWOL. They also had another button for 'personal time' but that was limited too. The other place would permit unlimited 'personal time' or 'bathroom break' but they would be tracking it and anyone who used too much would get a talking to. They were both completely open and upfront about how their systems worked.

Management Fail (1)

heironymous (197988) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352041)

Somebody somewhere in the organization is abusing the flexibility you all enjoy. So instead of addressing that one individual problem, management tried to "fix" the situation in the way you describe. This is simply management choosing not to do their jobs.

Very short conversation (3, Funny)

EngrBohn (5364) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352063)

I can give you an answer, but it'll have to take less than three minutes to explain. More than three minutes gets rounded to six minutes, a billable tenth of an hour.

Really that big a deal? (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352065)

I suspect that if, prior to this button being added to your desk phone, your manger saw you walking back to your desk and asked you where you were, you would have said you went to tgebathroom and never thought twice about it. Now, for some reason, because your employer put a button on your phone you think they are getting all 'big brother' on you...

If the button offends you, don't push it - there must be another way to 'clock out' from your desk - use that. BUT if there is a policy that requires you to use the bathroom button under penalty of loss of employment, then the decision is yours.

Personally, I've worked in call centers and I've been required to clock out everytime I step away from my desk, and on a monthly basis I was asked to defend any excessive time in the companies opinion. They didn't care 'why' I stepped away from my desk, they cared that I wasn't there to answer calls.

Your employer has a valid reason for knowing when you are away from your desk - call routing decisions are influenced by this - if they added a bathroom button they probably had a reason (employees abusing honor-based system).

Talk of unionizing are cute, but this really isn't that big an issue - is it?

Re:Really that big a deal? (1)

CubicleZombie (2590497) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352237)

f the button offends you, don't push it - there must be another way to 'clock out' from your desk

When I worked phone tech support, as soon as you hang up a call, it immediately rings with the next call from the queue. Non stop. There was a "Make Busy" button on the phone to keep it from ringing and it's use was logged to the second. Data entry, bathroom breaks, and the two 10 minute personal breaks per day all counted against that time. So to take bathroom breaks without getting yelled at, just skip your personal breaks.

It gets worse from there. Internet Phone Tech Support was the most awful job I've ever had. And I've had some pretty bad ones.

Wireless phones (1)

Yoda222 (943886) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352075)

Your company should gives you wireless phones with headset, so you could be able to continue to answer calls while you are in the bathroom. And add a computer at each toilet to record the orders.

I haven't see that detail - only phone & web u (1)

a2wflc (705508) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352093)

I have worked place where a few people spent 50% of their time in the break room, at lunch, in the bathroom, on the phone, "talking to HR", or any other excuse to leave their desk. There seemed to be a correlation between who did/didn't do this and who didn't/did get good end of year evaluations. But it's still not good for day-to-day moral.

The only time I've seen tracking used was when a contractor was let go for spending OVER 80% of his hours on the phone. In a job that required no phone (i.e. he worked only with us in the office and nobody outside the office). It was a pretty easy talk for the manager since he had the detailed phone usage report.

I want that !!! (0)

ccguy (1116865) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352099)

Why on earth would I want bathroom breaks monitored you might say? Because it would make it possible to correlate bathroom breaks with the state of the bathroom is found sometimes. And that, being someone who takes pride of leaving it as I find it (except for temporary smell intensity) is something I find priceless.

In fact I'm all for at least 5% of the bonuses being linked to this.

Only Illegal if they pay you based on it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352105)

I worked at a call center like this. They did not have tacking specifically for bathroom breaks, but we were paid by the time spent on the phone. If we logged out of the phone, we did not get paid. Basically the phone was our time-lock. I live in a right-to-work state. Even here this was illegal. I only worked there for a few months, but I still got a check in the mail months later when someone turned them in to the state and they had to pay out a settlement.

Re:Only Illegal if they pay you based on it (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352261)

"Even here this was illegal. I only worked there for a few months, but I still got a check in the mail months later when someone turned them in to the state and they had to pay out a settlement."

THIS was the most interesting reply in the thread. Mod up!

Don't try to "fix" the problem, but contact an attorney and see if you can't win a lawsuit. Much as yokels bemoan lawyers, without your OWN lawyer you have no rights.

Misc Mail order pharmacy?? Pfft. (1)

dentree4 (1424693) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352109)

I worked in a Apple Call Centre. Apple the computer and iPhone company. Doing front line tech support. (1-800-APL-CARE). You know, Steve Jobs, etc. A real company, with 60 BILLION in the bank. We got 4 min a day for bathroom breaks. It was labeled "9. Aux" on the softphone, but when the only time you go in the code is to leave your desk, for something not covered by 1-8 and the only time you can leave your desk without a managers specific approval is to use the washroom, we all knew what they were doing.

Silly time waster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352127)

This kind of thing is a big waste of time, causes morale to drop and doesn't accomplish anything. I once worked at a company which tried to implement this and I left (partly because of the time keeping, partly over other mismanagement issues. If you want to be treated with respect you have to take a stand against this policy and, if management insists, then you should be willing to leave the job.

Legal as well as Morally inept. (3, Insightful)

upuv (1201447) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352139)

Most countries this is 100% legal. They can also listen in on all phone conversations work related or not. They can also place a video camera pointed at your face from 1 foot away.

Is it good for the people working there. NOPE.
Does it instil a sense of corporate loyalty. NOPE.

I've been through these call centres. I feel depressed just entering the floor. It's a cattle station with better flooring.

Get a trade, skill, education, anything and move on out.

Re:Legal as well as Morally inept. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352201)

catheter...that is all

Re:Legal as well as Morally inept. (1)

fedemp (2731431) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352265)

They can also listen in on all phone conversations work related or not.

True. They call this "QA". They would listen to any random call and later give you a feedback based on that. You had a nice call and managed to get rapport with the client, you got a "100% from QA" and (maybe) a little bonus at the end of month. You had a bad call; you do not deserve to live.

When they start out-lawing overhead (3, Interesting)

way2slo (151122) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352149)

Lots of companies force employees to track their time. Even salary employees who legally do not have to punch a clock to get paid. That's fine. It helps them for future estimates and proposals involving labor hours. It can be a very valuable tool.

However, all too often management begins to use these time tracking systems to try and shift overhead expenses to something billable to a customer. You walk in and read e-mails on billing guidance on how regular staff meetings, training, and even fire drills are billable to customers. Then another e-mail on billing guidance informs you that the normal overhead related billing is now forbidden unless given explicit authorization (that you will never get). Essentially, they are lying to themselves, that they have zero overhead when running their business. That nothing ever goes wrong and no one has to wait for anything.

But the one thing they forget is that by charging their customers for everything, they are charging them too much for services. The business is now vulnerable to any other business that can provide the same service and not charge their overhead to the customer.

It is likely illegal (1)

Cyfun (667564) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352187)

Pretty sure this is illegal, or pushing it. I used to work at the Bresnan Communications call center in Billings, MT, and they once tried this same bullshit. Except the kicker is that they also mandated that we only got 20 minutes of bathroom break time PER WEEK. So if you happen to need to take a shit, or for that matter if you're a female, you're pretty fucked. Although since pretty much none of us could keep it under 20 minutes, even though we would sprint back and forth to the bathroom and gave up washing our hands, I never heard about anyone getting in much trouble for going over. It was likely just another metric they could hold over our head if they didn't like someone and wanted to axe them. But as I recall, after I left the company, they did get reprimanded for either this bathroom break rule, or the fact that they frequently forced their workers to work through ALL their breaks during the day, often making us sit at a computer for 12 hours STRAIGHT. Go find a local lawyer who specializes in labor laws, they might be verrrry interested in this.

I install Cisco Call Centers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352189)

I have come across a lot of managers that want to use Bathroom, Smoking, etc and I always recommend that they stick with "Break", "Lunch" and ask their legal dept if they should be tracking it to that fine grain a level.

The system needs to know when you are Ready and Not Ready to take calls since it cannot see you. When you are Not Ready the manager wants to know why since you are paid to be ready or taking calls for 8 hours, minus your legally allotted breaks. Yes it is brutal to be ON for 8 hours but that is the semi-skilled job you have. If you do not like it, I would bide your time, save money and get training for a better job.

Ultimately, you question is one for the dept of labor in your state. Google them, call them and ask if it is legal. Then give an anonymous tip. Do not confront HR or management about this as it will go on your record and then 6 months later you will be laid off with others. Guaranteed.

The most abusive job (1)

ElvisGump (1018396) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352199)

I once worked in a Directv call center and I'd never work another call center job ever again. You get screamed at by frustrated customers all day long and abused by companies that run these thing - National Electronics Warranty or NEW ran the one I worked in. They are horrible human beings insisting that you can deal with the elderly, uncooperative and technologically incompetent in an average of 700 seconds or less. Which is impossible, but achieved by most CSRs by telling customers to do something that typically doesn't work, like hit the red reset button and giving them the bums rush off the phone. The whole thing is structured with tedious grading systems and spreadsheets and monitoring tracking your every second inside these buildings. The place I worked was like a high-school study hall left in the charge of the most viciously cliquish kids in the class. Don't get me totally wrong though, some of it was entertaining. Constant visits to the parking lot of trailer trash spouses and lovers that resulted in the police being called to break up these domestic violence away from home incidents. The best was the original manager's wife causing an eruption of screaming, throwing & breaking everything in reach tantrums when she caught the 50-something manager was screwing around with a 20 something CSR. Or the day some chick decided to leave the job in spectacular fashion by writing obscenities on the ladies room wall in her on feces. It was like working in the monkey house of a zoo. The hell of "Office Space" looked tame compared to my call center. Bottom line, most of the people that work in a call center aren't smart enough to want a labor union and corporations that run these junk job centers are sufficiently evil that they are confident that they can keep it that way.

Happens in Argentina (1)

fedemp (2731431) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352217)

I used to work for a call center around 2008 that had this same policy. I had to tell a supervisor (a kid given my age) that after I finished the call, I would go to the bathroom. I worked part-time (6 hours a day) so I was allowed two bath breaks of 2 minutes each and one break of 15 minutes. I don't remember being denied the right to go to the bathroom but getting the break allowed was a different story. We had an union; not one related to telephone operator but one generic for shop employees. When I left this place, I went to the union to talk about the abuse employees receive there but I was told that it was my decision and my responsibility since I took the job in the first place. About the humiliation and privacy infringement, I was not smart enough to complain when I was still there. I just left that place the day after they suspended me for using Opera browser. Two weeks later I got my first IT job. As a side note, I worked for Teleperformance, that was hired by Accenture, that was hired by AT&T. I was assigned to high speed Internet support team, taking calls from Spanish speakers in United States. Oh, man... How much I loved that granny with no computer knowledge that translated everything to English to her computer savvy grandson (instead of the latter taking the call). Happened every day.

IBS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352235)

Get a note from your doctor for IBS and bring your smartphone to the can with you.

Isn't this more about operator availability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352243)

Isn't this more about operator availability than tracking time? You can't exactly route a call to someone who isn't at their desk. When your job is to be available to answer calls at any time, tracking bathroom breaks does not sound so crazy.

Probably will be ignored. (1)

rsxaeon (2506670) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352285)

Honestly they probably only want to track it so they can separate it out from other activities. For example, if a person takes a whole hour of personal breaks one day there is a good chance they'll ask that person why, at which point the person would have to explain they had some bad burritos for lunch. Alternately if they can see that the majority of that time was spent on multiple bathroom trips starting after lunch, they know they probably don't want to know any more than that and no body has to waste anyone's time asking questions with embarrassing answers. As long as they aren't giving you or anyone else (that isn't clearly abusing the button) a hard time about the amount of time spent in that mode, and as long as they aren't posting the information where everyone can see, It's probably something you should just ignore.

People start to make stuff up (3, Interesting)

CaroKann (795685) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352303)

I've noticed that when companies start to go overboard with the amount of time and/or project tracking detail people need to record, employees resort to just making stuff up. I'm not saying they out-right lie, but because it's impossible to have a system detailed enough to record every little thing that may happen in a work day, people will often just pick a generic bucket to dump time into for things they don't remember or don't know how to categorize.

This defeats the purpose of installing these types of systems. Instead of simply not knowing exactly what employees are spending their time on, they now have an inaccurate or down-right false picture of what employees are doing. This can lead the management to make the wrong decisions on things such as when to hire or how to allocate resources, especially when they believe the data over their lower level managers.

Are you in China? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352343)

Making Iphones? Oh wait, you said call center. Are you looking for Chinese College Students to work for Foxconn during their spare time?

Form a union, lose your client (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352347)

That thing called a client (the person who pays your call center to do what they're doing) will probably go find another supplier.

Manager here (5, Informative)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352351)

I'm a manager at a call center. We track time away from calls, not because we care how long it takes you to take a smoke, or to take a crap, but for metrics. We have over 25,000 people on the phones world wide and how many minutes a call takes vs. how many workers are available for a call vs. how many workers are away from their desk (for whatever reason, we don't care) is critical to improving wait time.

As usual for the paranoia gang around here, it's not really about you. It's a big wad of data that is considered on the whole to make better business decisions.

Now back to your extended shitter break.

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