High Tech Wearables Watching How You Work

Anonymised data – better for business

There are numerous ways that your boss can monitor you in the workplace. Employers can track phone calls, emails and online usage to keep an eye on the people that work for them, and this is nothing new. However, outright spying on employees isn’t going to help business owners improve relations and the way that their company runs. Thanks to Humanyze, tracking employees just got far less intrusive and far more useful. The Boston startup has created an opt in ‘Sociometric Badge’ which collects data about the whole workforce and analyses it to recognise important trends. This represents a key development in wearable culture, and signals yet another change in working environments. Could these badges enable ethical workplace monitoring, and how will this impact the workplace?

The ‘Fitbit for your career’

The issue with using tracking devices, at work or otherwise, is that it can impinge on personal privacy. For many people, the idea of wearing a device that constantly analyses your actions and then stores data about your life is an unwelcome one. However, consumers are becoming more and more accustomed to wearables, especially when they are promised that their data will remain private. Ben Waber, CEO of Humanyze, describes the Sociometric Badge as a health tracker for work. It allows the worker to check their own productivity, but doesn’t send an individual’s data to employers. What is does do is collate data into graphs which show general activity. For example, how often do teams communicate? This protects individuals from scrutiny whilst gathering important information about general productivity.

The use of tracking devices is one of many changes happening in the working environment. Digitalisation has both enabled and necessitated a more collaborative approach that relies on communication between teams. The 3D printed ‘office of the future’ in Dubai, for instance, was designed specifically to encourage collaboration and teamwork. From advanced robotics to Artificial Intelligence, technology is now an integral part of many business processes. Whilst many people still turn up at a physical office or site, a growing number of employees now work remotely. This means it’s all the more important for business owners to keep an eye on in-house workers and see how they are coping with new business strategies.

How will employee monitoring disrupt workplaces?

Wearing an ID badge could go one of two ways. In an ideal world, it could improve productivity by putting light pressure on teams and might encourage employees to work harder so they don’t let their colleagues down. On the other hand, it could validate employees who perhaps don’t work as hard as they should by distributing the blame. It’s easy to imagine office workers donning the tags, but they could be used in essentially all industries to explore efficiency and effectiveness. Bosses and management teams could even use the trackers to test out different strategies or ideas in the hope of discovering the best behavioural results. Workers don’t necessarily need to be human, either. The Sociometric Badges could also be fitted to intelligent machines and cobots.

Unfortunately, these trackers may present a cybersecurity risk. Water Holing attacks target companies via their employees, which will be even easier to do if each worker is kitted out with a company integrated device. Despite the potential issues, these badges offer employers a huge opportunity to delve deeper into worker analytics and use this data to inform management decisions. Understanding your own business is obviously vital to its success. This is probably why Humanyze is already working with various corporations, including Bank of America.

Additionally, the software could encourage the rise of wearables by making consumers feel more confident about data privacy. Humanyze has proved that employers can gather data about their employees without impinging on personal privacy or alienating their workforce. By pursuing an opt in service, the startup has insured itself and clients against challenges over data usage. Realistically, it’s still likely that workers will be reluctant to wear trackers. Even if personal data is protected, it can still be off putting to feel monitored. Even so, wearables are becoming part of everyday life like never before. In future, it might be just as normal to turn up to work and put on a tracker as it is to wear a suit or uniform.

Could you improve your business’ processes and productivity with tracking devices? Will workplace wearables ever become commonplace? How might employees react to opt in services? Share your thoughts and opinions.