"Just popping to the loo."
BCLP has installed motion sensors under its lawyers' desks.
The 'occupancy sensors' can identify whether a work station is being used by detecting movement and changes in temperature, and are advertised online as a way to identify staff "with high levels of mobility".
BCLP told lawyers that the sensors have been installed to "achieve the right mix of desk and meeting room usage", said a source. "They assure us that they are absolutely not being used to track whether people are coming into the office, despite the fact that all lawyers have assigned desks", said the insider.
BCLP declined to specify what the "right mix" of desk and meeting room was, or explain why it was so important that thermal and movement sensors had to be installed to monitor everyone's location. However, the firm rejected the suggestion that it was intended to record individual lawyers' levels of attendance at their desk.
"We’ve made it clear to the everyone that this is simply about workspace configuration and optimisation as we continue to learn how best to use our office space with the rising attendance", a BCLP spokesperson told RollOnFriday, adding that the sensors "do not record any personal data, just whether someone has sat at that seat".
A source within BCLP told RollOnFriday that lawyers were sceptical about the innovation, which has proven controversial at other workplaces which have adopted it. One manufacturer, OccupEye, claimed there was "nothing to fear" when its system was adopted by the Daily Telegraph in 2016, and boasted that it would allow employers to measure how many people were at their desks, with "no more guesses based on coffee cups and coats on chairs!" The monitors were abandoned within days when furious journalists realised their breaks could be timed, and removed the sensors' batteries in protest.
However, the normalisation of remote working caused by Covid has prompted well-managed firms to consider what changes they need to make to their office set-ups, and an automated means of calculating how many people are where is appealing. It's just unfortunate the solution is a chilling dystopian nightmare one step removed from injecting staff with tracking chips.