INSIDER FEATURED ARTICLE
JPMorgan Chase started tracking what we do during the work day. We're stressed, exhausted, and scared to talk about what's going on.
By Jenna Gyimesi
- Last month, Insider learned about a tracking system at JP Morgan called "Workforce Activity Data Utility."
- Many employees are scared that all their activities are monitored although they're unsure of what's being tracked and by who.
- This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a JPMorgan Chase employee, as told to Jenna Gyimesi.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a JPMorgan Chase employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their career. Insider has verified their identity and employment. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
As of publishing, the JPMorgan Chase employee has since left the company.
I've worked at JPMorgan Chase for 15 years, but I'm looking for a new job because I feel betrayed by a company I put my whole heart into. I won't buy into a system of fear.
The bank is tracking office attendance and collecting data on our daily work.
I don't think it's safe for me to return to the office
In April, JPMorgan Chase sent out a letter saying that most workers need to return to office on a hybrid schedule.
But I think it's too risky for me to return to work right now. I have a young child who is too young to be vaccinated, and I don't want to put her at risk by riding public transportation and then exposing myself to COVID-19 in the office.
I haven't returned to the office at all yet, and I don't plan on coming in.
But the bank is tracking attendance using ID swipes. They know exactly who's coming in, when, and how frequently.
I've even heard of people offering to take each other's key cards into work to swipe in for coworkers to get around the system. Normally, people are very compliant in this industry so it's very surprising for me.
And that's not all — a program called "Workforce Activity Data Utility" can track how much time we spend on Zoom, writing emails, and talking on the phone.
I've heard that they're tracking our mouse movements as well, and I know some colleagues have downloaded mouse jigglers to keep their mouses moving throughout the day. This hasn't been confirmed, but we're not sure exactly what they're tracking and why, and that's what's upsetting.
It truly feels like Big Brother is watching us
Many companies track data, and I understand that I work in a highly regulated industry. The real problem for me is who can access the data — we fear our managers can look at it at any time.
Human resources is fine, but direct managers should not have access to our personal data. It's uncomfortable when someone you have a personal relationship with can pull up extensive information about you, and I've distanced myself from anyone I think may have access.
When employees first found out about the tracking, we felt panicked. We started questioning if we did something to deserve this when we hadn't. The hardest part for me was seeing all of my colleagues go into fear mode.
Our work culture has changed for the worse
It now feels completely different than what it was before the tracking announcement, and I'm noticing we're making a lot more mistakes and that our quality of work is going down.
I used to ask people for things or favors and people would say, "No problem." But now, colleagues are saying no. For example, people used to volunteer to give presentations to move their careers forward. But now it's like, "Ugh, I have to give this presentation and I shouldn't have to." The tone has completely changed.
People seem much crankier and stressed — especially middle managers. They have to fight the higher ups who are making the policies and fight the employees who are pushing back.
I'm also noticing burnout symptoms like exhaustion and anger. But people are obviously afraid to talk about it on professional channels.
Over Zoom calls, people have started mentioning that they'll be offline for 5 or 10 minutes later that day and that their mouse will be idle for that time. I think that's ridiculous — everyone is allowed to take a ten minute break without reporting it to the team.
I felt I was taken off the VP track for pushing back
I've made it very clear to my boss that I do not plan on coming into the office. I felt that they were immediately disappointed, and I got the sense that this might end my career growth. They argued that my reasons for refusing to come into the office didn't make sense. Someone mentioned they were afraid this would affect my bonus and performance, and that while I had been on a VP track, that was now out the window.
I remember feeling so betrayed at that moment. I said that I understood because I didn't know what else to say. I've heard people say that companies never reciprocate loyalty, and I always knew that in my head, but not in my heart. I feel like they proved it to me that day.
I don't want to spend a majority of my time in fear — that would have a substantial negative impact on me. So I started looking for a new job right after that conversation.
Even if my child were to get vaccinated right now, or even if they told me I could work from home indefinitely, I don't think I could stay. My view of the company has changed, and I'm not sure I can ever trust a company again the way I trusted Chase.
I feel the new policy might backfire when it comes to building a diverse workforce
Right now, no one has been disciplined for not coming in or for not being online. So we're uncertain about what the new policy means or how the data is actually being used.
But certain people have conditions like ADHD that make it extremely hard to concentrate in the office. Their one-size-fits-all approach neglects the diversity that we have here. They're going to end up with an office that is way less neurodiverse.
Studies show that diversity in the workplace is important for the success of the business. Diversity is what makes us strong. And I think different background, and work styles are essential or we will make judgments based within our own paradigms. That's not good for anyone.
Policies like these only drive away diverse workers.
If any JPMorgan Chase executives are reading this: Please give us a chance to do what we do the way we're best at doing it.
A JPMorgan Chase representative told Insider in a statement: "It's difficult for us to comment on anonymous anecdotes and circumstances. That said, we know there are employees with unique situations which is why we have worked to address and accommodate those who need it – and will continue to do so. There's no doubt remote work and increased flexibility are here to stay, but in-person interaction is important for creativity, culture, and training, among other things. We have a wide range of roles and job functions across the bank and flexible work arrangements that both support our employees and best serve our customers, too."