Sales reps, don your badges. We'll be watching you

Pharma reps have been known to chafe at time-logging rules. Keeping a journal of office visits and sample hand-outs can be such a pain--and shouldn't results speak more loudly than hash marks on a sales-call report?

But what if sales reps wore tracking sensors instead? That's exactly what a small group of Cubist Pharmaceuticals ($CBST) sales and marketing employees did. For an internal study about employee interaction, they donned badges loaded with sensors, The Wall Street Journal reports. For four weeks, those badges collected data on their movements, voices, conversational patterns, and whereabouts.

At the end, all that data was crunched together with their email traffic and weekly survey results. The conclusion? More face-to-face interactions led to higher productivity. And some employee habits--such as spending lunchtime solo--interfered.

So, as the Journal notes, Cubist rehabbed its uninviting cafeteria to encourage workers to eat together. It also cut down to one coffee station and one water cooler for sales and marketing people, and added an afternoon coffee break for everybody. Mission: Encourage chatter.

Obviously, wearing an electronic tracking device makes manual record-keeping unnecessary. It's easy for a company to know where an employee is and what he or she is doing. But then again, it's easy for a company to know where an employee is and what he or she is doing.

At least one Cubist employee said wearing the tracking badge wasn't too Big Brother-ish--and that he learned something about himself from the study. We wonder whether everyone would say the same if sensors were used routinely--and given the information-gathering capability, companies will be tempted to do so. "Do you really want your employers following around what you are doing? It's a creepy way to work," an employee advocate told the Journal. What do you think?

- read the WSJ piece