Would you let your boss track your every move?

 
Elliott Haworth
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How much information about your private life is too much for your employer to know? (Source: Getty)

After drinking a tad too much, you flop into bed in the early hours.

You rise for work on time, just about. You freshen up, in an inebriated stupor, stumble hastily to work, and mumble your way through the morning, hungover. By lunchtime, you think you’ve got away with it, but your boss thinks not. Your frequent extracurricular behaviour has been flagged up by HR.
Perhaps you shouldn’t have agreed to be monitored as part of that “workplace wearable” scheme.
Or perhaps you shouldn’t be out drinking heavily on a work night.

There was a time when the only thing your boss would know about you was whether you turned up, did any work, and whatever else you told him. But fleeting are the days of the punchdown clock-card and water-cooler chat. Even call and email monitoring is old hat. The next generation of employee monitoring is data driven.

Data drive

Some businesses, including a major UK bank and reportedly parts of the NHS, are fitting their employees with wearable tech that monitors how much sleep they have, how well they work with colleagues, their body language and tone of voice or emotions – for 24 hours a day.

The tech, one of many similar devices increasing in popularity, is called a “sociometric badge,” made by US tech unicorn Humanyze. The badge is the size of a credit card and worn on a lanyard around the neck. It features a microphone for real-time voice analysis, a tracking device, a bluetooth sensor to scan for proximity to others and an accelerometer to monitor physical activity. Combined with email and phone data, when mined and analysed, the badge creates a rich tapestry of useful data about an individual.

Of course there are ethical implications with the devices; the droll recital of Orwellian similitude; the wails of neo-luddites, blissfully unaware of the influence data already exerts on their lives. Your boss can’t force you to be tracked and doesn’t own the data. You do.
In firms trialling the devices, 90 per cent of those offered partook willingly.

Evolution

Without sounding too Silicon Valley, inch by inch we tread closer to the ideal of the augmented human, and the notion that we can overcome the current limitations of the body through technology. Human capital is a business’s most valuable asset, and understanding its actions, movements, and interactions can highlight inefficiencies you wouldn’t otherwise notice.

Improving your bottom line with software like Salesforce – charts and data about employee conversion rates, leads and performance – is fairly standard practice. But analysing the humans behind the numbers can lead to greater comprehension of the minutiae of activity in your business.

It’s a natural evolution, digital self-improvement, and not something to be feared. The most successful sports teams have used data for decades to improve team performance. Why should it be any different for business?

For example, our heady friend at the start of this article: he doesn’t sleep enough, drinks too frequently, fails to interact well with others, and exercises only when he’s late to work. Is that the sort of person you want on your team?

Conversely, if someone is working deftly, out-performing others or interacting well with colleagues, analysing the data they produce can glean a coherent understanding of best working practices to increase productivity within your business.

When approaching the job application of the future, the idea of bringing a data CV isn’t so farfetched. If you are proud of your work, you would say so in your physical CV. If you are proud of your performance, you might wear your sociometric badge like a medal.

Elliott Haworth is business features writer at City A.M.

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