Companies will be able to monitor employees working overtime using in-office flying drones

While massive amounts of overtime remains a prominent aspect of many jobs in Japan, recently there’s been a slight shift in attitudes. Compared to the past at least, more companies today are willing to say, “You know, if so many of our employees are still at their desks long after the workday is supposed to be done, maybe they’re dangerously overworked.”

So for organizations looking to reduce the amount of overtime being done in their offices, telecommunications giant NTT has helped to create a new service in which companies can have flying drones patrol their offices and see if anyone is still working after quitting time.

The T-Frend system was developed in cooperation with Tokyo-based drone manufacturer Blue Innovation and Taisei, a building management provider headquartered in Nagoya. Users select a flight course and time for the drones, which are fully automated, requiring neither an operator nor GPS data, as they navigate using their onboard cameras. As the drones make their rounds, they record what they see and upload it to the user’s cloud, utilizing NTT’s technical know-how.

T-Frend is scheduled to begin testing in the spring, and to officially launch next October. It’s touted as a way to both curb overtime for the improvement of employee health and boost information security by having fewer people in the office late at night.

In its press release, NTT says the service was created as an answer to a dilemma in which companies want their employees to work less overtime, but having to monitor employees and implement overtime-reduction strategies was creating excess work for the employees tasked with those responsibilities.

However, it’s unclear how exactly having monitoring drones flying overhead is going to prevent excessive overtime work, except maybe by giving the office a dystopian man-versus-machine vibe that has all the humans wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible. Yes the drones will be able to see workers because of their cameras, but will they interact with them? Will they give out friendly, sage advice to help the staff wrap up their projects quickly and efficiently?

The apparent absence of any way for the drones to actually help overtime-working employees seems like a pretty major oversight. Generally speaking, people who’re doing overtime in Japan aren’t doing it because they want to, but because they feel like they have to. Unleashing drones at a certain time each day, like they’re a time-limit enforcer in a video game, doesn’t seem like it’ll do anything except ratchet up pressure on workers to finish their assignments by the standard quitting time…but if that’s something they could do so easily, they wouldn’t be doing overtime in the first place.

So while T-Frend might indeed be a viable office security system, it doesn’t seem like it’s really going to help with the problem of overworked employees, since it sounds like it’ll reduce their options to either working twice as hard during their already too-busy day, or having to hide under their desks as they do overtime.

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