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Is your employer tracking your every move?

Tue, 02/11/2014 - 4:20pm
Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor

Your employer probably isn’t tracking your every move just yet, but with new technology from Hitachi it might not be that far down the road. Obviously, there are ways for employers to track your productivity now whether it’s cameras or looking at your internet logs, but it’s really time consuming and not very informative for most employers. 

Hitachi has created a sensor technology that would be placed in a small card, like an employee ID badge. When the sensors come within a predetermined distance of each other, they recognize the other sensor and record the face time, body and behavior rhythm data to a server. So, basically, these sensors allow your company to track where you are in the office, who you’re talking to, how long the conversation is and how animated you are while you’re talking to that person. Plus, it tracks how much time you spend outside of your assigned cage, er, cube. Moral of the story, you better step up your pep in that employee meetings and quit moving around so much.

While I may be A-ok with Disney tracking me, I’m not so sure I’m okay with my employer doing it. For one thing, if Disney starts getting creepy, I can opt out and for another, the Disney experience was beneficial to me while this just seems like an easy way for employers to track their employees like children. Frankly, when you're going to refer to a technology as a "business microscope," I don't think anything good is going to come out of it.

See: Why I'm A-OK with Disney tracking me NSA-style

I understand that employers have a vested interest in how much work employees are doing and making sure they’re not talking to friends for 90 percent of the day. But I also don’t think that tracking production via numbers is the best way to handle that for most jobs. It requires a more nuanced, human approach and it requires the managers to actually do their jobs by watching what the employees are doing and making sure they are turning in quality work. The numbers don’t leave a lot of room for interpretation or explanation.

I can only speak from personal experience, but when we’re in production for print I spend a lot of time out of my chair talking with our art editor or production manager and sometimes I need to talk to accounts payable or our administrative assistant. When we record the Engineering Updates it’s usually an hour or so out of my cube. Heck, sometimes I just need to get up and do a lap around the office (for some reason this helps me with intro paragraphs so I don’t question it.) Obviously this technology is designed for specific situations, but it still gives me the heebie-jeebies to think about potential uses.

Now, all that being said, outside of an office environment, there are some places where this could be beneficial if used correctly. For example, Hitachi claims that when used for 10 days in a retail store the company saw a 15 percent improvement in average sales per customer. Now, it must be noted that the increase wasn’t do to micromanaging, but rather paying attention to the data and re-positioning employees to maximize efficiency. 

The office example the company offered is lackluster at best. According to Hitachi, two companies merged and weren’t interacting very well. After using the tracking data, a manager realized he wasn’t talking to the new employees very much and cited that as the problem. Frankly, if a manager is unaware  he or she is ignoring half the team, I’m not sure the problem is the employees.

At the end of the day, there is some convincing data about utilizing this technology in very select environments, but for the most part it just encourages paranoid employees, micromanaging managers and an overall bad moral within a company.

 Is this something you’d be okay with at your office? Leave your comments below!

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