A Fife man has spent £60,000 inventing a device that moves a computer mouse so it appears home workers are always online.
Mark Magnante, from Aberdour, believes his Wee Shoogle device can help people achieve a better work-life balance.
He said many home workers want their status to be constantly online when using applications like Microsoft Teams and Slack.
But some programmes categorise a person as ‘away’ if mouse movements aren’t registered every two minutes.
When a mouse is placed on the Wee Shoogle device it gently moves the mouse so it appears users are always active.
Online status being monitored
Mark, who works in IT, said he got the idea when working in open plan offices in the public sector.
“I would be speaking to colleagues and they would turn round and shake their mouse,” he said.
“They knew their online statuses were being monitored.
“I realised there was an issue around people who felt the stress and pressure of being seen as inactive.”
This issue is now exacerbated by millions of people working from home.
He claimed employees not shown as being online first thing in the morning was considered by some managers as the equivalent of being late for work.
It was a particular problem for parents doing home schooling.
“In the office you can go for a coffee or have a chat with a colleague. It isn’t seen as not working as you are visible.
“That’s not possible when working from home and balancing the challenges of home life at the same time.”
Brexit and Covid delays to Wee Shoogle
Mark started developing the idea prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. He designed several prototypes to make sure it would work with different types of mouse devices.
He wanted to manufacture in the UK but costs were prohibitive. Therefore, the device is made in China.
The name came from a colleague saying they needed to give their mouse “a wee shoogle”.
Just as he was ready to go to market with manufacturing, marketing, branding and packaging organised, Brexit – combined with the impact of Covid on travel – threw a spanner in the works.
“Initially it was only going to cost 90p per unit and a few days to fly the Wee Shoogle from China,” he said.
“The cancellation of commercial flights from China meant I had to look at shipping instead. Meanwhile shipping fees have gone up 10-fold in that time.
“It costs £6 per unit to transport from China and then they are then sitting for months in customs waiting to be checked.”
The manufacturing and shipping cost have resulted in Mark invested around £60,000 on the business.
Now he is fully stocked, he is selling the product through Amazon. He has sold 90 units, priced at £32.95, in the past three weeks.
He says other uses for Wee Shoogle were to stop screensavers activating and to enable overnight rendering of large files.
“The next stage is to get the product in front of retailers, increase our visibility and encourage more impulse buys,” the inventor added.