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Home / Questions / LEGAL/ETHICAL CHALLENGE Tracking Sensors Invade the Workplace: Devices on Workers and Furniture...

LEGAL/ETHICAL CHALLENGE Tracking Sensors Invade the Workplace: Devices on Workers and Furniture...


Tracking Sensors Invade the Workplace: Devices on Workers and Furniture Offer Clues for Boosting Productivity108

Does face time matter? What about in call centers? Bank of America (BoA) wanted to answer these questions. To do so, it asked about 90 workers to wear badges with sensors to measure their movements and conversations. They found that the most productive employees were members of close-knit teams and spoke frequently with their colleagues. What did they do? For one, BoA scheduled group rather than individual breaks. This boosted productivity by at least 10 percent. Many companies are now using similar technology to collect real-time data. Sensors are fastened to furniture or worn on lanyards to measure how often employees get up, where they congregate, and with whom they communicate. These data are then used to structure the environment and modify policies to facilitate work, interactions, and communication. Some see this as a new tool to foster collaboration and productivity. Cubist Pharmaceuticals, like BoA, found positive correlations between employees’ productivity and face-to-face interactions. In particular, it found that social activity dropped off significantly during lunch time, as many employees retreated to their desks to check e-mails, rather than chatting with one another. The company then decided to make its once-dingy cafeteria more inviting, improving the lighting and offering better food, to encourage workers to lunch together, instead of at their desks. Kimberly Clark Corp. also used this technology to learn that its employees commonly met in groups of 3 or 4, but did so in conference rooms designed for much larger groups. It reconfigured its meeting spaces. Putting badges on workers is just the beginning of a broader trend, researchers say. As companies rethink their offices, many are looking into “smart buildings,” wired with technologies that show workers’ location in real time and suggest meetings with colleagues nearby. But there’s a fine line between Big Data and Big Brother, at least in the eyes of some employees, who might shudder at the idea of the boss tracking their every move. Sensor proponents, however, argue that smartphones and corporate ID badges already can transmit their owner’s location. As a result, many such studies allow employees to opt out. They instead wear “mock” sensors so others don’t know whether they are participants or not. Legally, current sensing technologies don’t seem to violate employment laws. “It’s not illegal to track your own employees inside your own building,” says Dr. Ben , CEO of  



Jul 22 2020 View more View Less

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