Let’s face it, we’ve all had our fair share of lazy days at the office.
Maybe you watch a few too many YouTube videos at your desk, or take more trips to the nearby coffee machine than you really need. Until now, that’s all been considered to be a little bit of innocent slacking — everybody does it. All you had to do was occasionally glance over your shoulder to make sure your boss wasn’t watching those cute cat videos with you.
Unfortunately for employees everywhere, that’s all about to change.
High-tech workplace ID badges are a thing now, and they were already implemented by Deloitte in St. John’s, Newfoundland, according to the CBC. These badges are unsettling because they aren’t just a keycard with your face on them; they essentially track everything you do. They measure the tone of your voice and how often you contribute in meetings. With its embedded accelerometers, they can also track how often you leave your desk, and even your body language. (Straighten that spine!)
Before you panic and close all non-work related tabs on your computer, there are some details about these badges that make them not quite as creepy as they sound. The devices don’t actually record conversations or things like how many times you go to the bathroom. Most of the data is also stored anonymously, so your boss won’t necessarily know that it was you who slacked off for three hours yesterday. Right now the badges are being used to paint an overall picture of how employees are fitting in with the workplace, balance group discussions and to determine what can be done to improve performance.
“[The devices will be able] to show you — here’s what the people who get promoted do…here’s what the top performers do, here’s what the happiest people do — and show that change over time and how your behaviour is changing over time, Humanyze CEO Ben Waber told the public broadcaster.
That said, this is only the beginning. Humanyze is the company behind the Deloitte badges in the Maritimes, and Waber believes they will soon become ubiquitous in the workplace.
It might sound like a farfetched idea, but it’s already happening. Japanese conglomerate Hitachi already developed a device that can also measure behavioural and location data of employees (it collects data 50 times per second!). Seattle-based VoloMetrix also offers a range of products and services centered on “people analytics,” with products that can analyze customer-employee interactions, or others which scrape the address and subject lines of employee emails to help determine how workers are spending their time and with whom. (VoloMetrix, by the way, is already used by big-name companies like Facebook, L’Oréal and Qualcomm. So don’t think they’ll be going away anytime soon.)
While the technology is being used innocently enough today, there are some obvious reasons to be concerned about the future. This kind of a growing market could inspire competition that may not hold people to the same kinds of safeguards.
In other words, get those YouTube video views in while you still can.