Telegraph removes desk sensor monitors overnight following staff 'uproar'

The Telegraph yesterday installed devices to monitor whether journalists were at their desks – and then removed them following a staff "uproar".

The sensors, produced by a company called OccupEye, "are triggered by both motion and heat". The Telegraph said they were put in place for environmental reasons.

In an email to staff last night, the Telegraph said: "In the light of feedback we have received from staff today, it has been decided to withdraw the under-desk sensors immediately.

"We will be looking at alternative ways to gather the environmental sustainability data we need, and will keep staff in touch with any new proposals.”

Press Gazette understands the devices were installed over the weekend and stuck on to the underside of journalists' desks with Velcro.

When journalists began to query what the devices were, staff were sent an email saying: "Over the weekend we have installed a number of under-desk sensors across some areas in advertising, editorial, technology, production, newspaper sales and marketing. They will be in place for a duration of four weeks. 

"These devices are part of our drive to make ?our floors in ?the building as energy efficient as possible and reduce the amount of power we consume for heating, lighting and cooling the building at times of low usage. Accordingly, they are designed to record occupancy across each 24 hour cycle for all seven days of the week to make sure we are making best use of our space in ?the building. 

"Over the past few years the Telegraph has achieved a great deal in terms of sustainability. We have reduced our lighting energy use 

?"On all perimeter lamps ?by 90%, send 300,000 fewer rubbish bags to landfill and we won a silver award in the Mayor of London’s Business Energy Challenge for reducing our carbon intensity by 29% between 2010 and 2014."

A well-placed source told Press Gazette this resulted in a staff "uproar", with many not believing the devices had been installed for environmental reasons.

The source said some staff removed the devices from their desks or took out the batteries, while others contacted HR and the National Union of Journalists.

News of the devices being installed also featured on Buzzfeed yesterday before staff were told they would be removed.

This morning, the Velcro patches remain under desks but the devices have been removed.

OccupEye said in a statement:

OccupEye sensor technology is being used on a global scale by organisations from across the public and private sectors, and has been available since 2012.

These organisations have, collectively, delivered savings in the range of tens-of-millions through smarter management of their facilities based on OccupEye space utilisation data.

OccupEye sensors monitor the presence of people within space, but do not idenfity individuals – a key factor in the popularity of the technology within the UK public sector, with a vast number of NHS and Local Authority users delivering redundancy-defeating efficiency improvements.

Our system typically assists users to;

• Deliver energy savings via intelligent building management (i.e, lighting, heating, circulating air based on actual ‘demand’, rather than estimates)

• Accurately understand space demand (including staff and visitors), and thus size accommodation appropriately (this includes providing MORE desks/property where needed, not just less.)

• Assist staff with wayfinding – live floorplan space availability maps are commonplace amongst our users, just like finding a parking space at the airport car park or shopping mall.

• Provide workspace ‘intelligence’ on staff environment preferences – which break out areas do people prefer? Which meeting pods work best? Why is the seat under the flickering light never used?

The intention of OccupEye technology is very simply to assist property managers in increasing efficiency through the improved utilisation of space – which in the public sector can often have a direct link to staff retention through times of severe budgetary challenges.

OccupEye is used successfully by blue-chip corporate users and small district local authorities alike, and once properly informed and the benefits communicated, both users AND space occupiers embrace the technology with positivity.

Telegraph Media Group’s short-term deployment of OccupEye as part of their ‘green’ initiative should be welcomed and understood by all as a forward-thinking and positive step by the organisation’s facilities managers – they are simply the latest addition to an ever-growing list of users who acknowledge their social responsibility in operating large, energy-intensive, real-estate.

We regret if any staff within any of our client workspaces have not received communication in advance of an OccupEye deployment and thus had unfounded concerns – we can only reassure those people that they have nothing to fear from our system…quite the opposite, they are working for a smart organisation!

Picture: Telegraph newsroom

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