Tracking Sensors in Workplace Present Productivity Data & Privacy Issues

Big Brother invasion or simply big business? You be the judge.

As more and more employers ask their employees to wear tracking sensors on their clothing (yes, it’s just what you think it is to track your movement), they’re actually compiling compelling data in the process.

According to a piece in The Wall Street Journal, researchers found that productivity surged at one specific tech company when workers ate at tables designed for 12 people instead of four.

In another situation, a bank call center moved to group breaks instead of individual ones and productivity increased by 10 percent.

In even another scenario, a consumer products company examined data to conclude that three to four people met in rooms that were technically built for eight to 10 people so the company constructed smaller meeting rooms.
Essentially information compiled from tracking devices provide information on how employees interact and you guessed it — work. Sometimes it’s less obtrusive; sensors which may be placed on office furniture can record how often teammates get up from their desks, hold meetings and even talk with other teams.
So, if you ask a company that implements such devices they may say it’s important data and helps drive productivity and consequently revenue. Ask an employee on the other hand and you may get a different story.
Would you like to wear one of these devices so your boss can track your move throughout the day? We didn’t think so.
As pointed out in the piece though you may already be wearing such devices and you’re just not aware of the information contained therein. For instance, corporate ID badges used to gain access to a building and then particular access on a floor can provide data in terms of timing and location.
Dave Lathrop, director of workspace futures and strategy for Steelcase, Inc., explained to the Journal, “Gathering big data about human behaviors can be a sensitive topic.”
Not only are their privacy concerns to mull over, employers have to realize once they get data they’ll need to do something with the information they’ve gathered.

In some instances, employers aren’t the only ones to have access to information. In some cases, employees may get a report on their group’s interactions (sans names) and individuals can see their own data.

As for the good news? Typically individual names aren’t on reports so it’s not like a manager has access to data from a specific person on their team (in case you were wondering about perhaps taking one too many coffee breaks throughout the day).