According to Microsoft, productivity score is not a work monitoring tool. Instead, it is referred to as a means of discovering new ways of working and providing your people with great collaboration and technology experiences.

However, critics referred to Microsoft’s new productivity score as the newly introduced feature that allows employers and organizations to monitor, track activities, and collects data on how productive employees are during the pandemic, which has required more people to work remotely and involved major changes in how technology is used. 

The score is a feature within Microsoft 365’s Workplace Analytics, which the company advertises as a way for employers to “harmonize productivity and well being,” “enhance organizational resiliency,” “transform meeting culture,” and “increase customer focus.”  The tool was first announced by the company in October and launched on November 17. It allows employers to gather granular data about how their employees are using Microsoft’s suite of tools like email, Microsoft Teams, and Word. It can even identify people who are not using their cameras during video conference meetings, as well as the number of time people are spending online.

Critics and labor advocates say this all amounts to an invasive method of monitoring and cataloging worker behavior, producing inscrutable metrics and forming databases that may be used for union-busting or to tilt the playing field toward employers during annual reviews. (While Workplace Analytics can be used to collect anonymized data, by default it collects individualized user data.)

However, Microsoft spokesperson said, “Productivity score is an opt-in experience that gives IT administrators insights about technology and infrastructure usage. Insights are intended to help organisations make the most of their technology investments by addressing common pain points like long boot times, inefficient document collaboration, or poor network connectivity. Insights are shown in aggregate over a 28-day period and are provided at the user level so that an IT admin can provide technical support and guidance.”

Microsoft explains in its documents that the score offers “metrics to help you see how people are using Microsoft 365 products to collaborate, communicate, and work across platforms” and to measure how people collaborate on content using Microsoft 365 products, such as Excel, Word, and Teams. On one hand, it lets companies know how their digital transformation is going with employees.

But the response has not reassured all critics. “This productivity suite lacks transparency and do not inform employees nor requires their consent. Companies such as Microsoft should not be giving incentives to employers to turn their office suites into surveillance machines violating employees’ dignity,” Eliot Bendinelli, a technology at Privacy International, told Business Insider.

Furthermore, David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder of the office productivity suite Basecamp tweeted that “the word dystopian is not nearly strong enough to describe the fresh hellhole Microsoft just opened up,” He said; “Just as the reputation of a new and better company was being built, they detonate it with the most invasive workplace surveillance scheme yet to hit the mainstream.

“Being under constant surveillance in the workplace is psychological abuse,” Heinemeier Hansson added. “Having to worry about looking busy for the stats is the last thing we need to inflict on anyone right now.”

Bennett Cyphers, a staff technologist at the privacy advocacy Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Forbes tools like Productivity Score could permanently shift the power balance between employers and employees. “I’m afraid that when Microsoft eases people into these employee monitoring dashboards, employees are getting used to living with this level of surveillance, and managers are going to get used to having a nice data feed about their employees and it’ll be a boon for the industry,” he said

In conclusion, although, Microsoft insists that the Score feature is focused on actionable insights about the ways in which people and teams are using the tools so you can make improvements or provide training to further your digital transformation, however, the opinion and analysis of different analyst and stakeholder make Microsoft view of the tool partial.

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