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Would You Trade Privacy for Increased Productivity (and a Chance at a Raise)?

We all know that our employers can read our work email and monitor our internet use at the office, but is there a line? One company suggests that monitoring your every move, conversation, and emotion at work could help increase your productivity and even help you get a raise — well, that is if you are identified as top “emotional athlete” based on your biometrics.
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Image Credit: BAMCorp/Flickr

If this sounds like something straight out of Minority Report to you, then you’re absolutely right — but it could also be your very near future. Here’s the scoop on the “Big Brother” technology that could be coming to an office near you.

The Lanyard That Listens

Humanyze is an employee analytics company based out of Boston that has created a lanyard badge that monitors and records your every move and word around the office.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

“Each [badge] has two microphones doing real-time voice analysis, and each comes with sensors that follow where you are in the office, with motion detectors to record how much you move,” reports The Washington Post. Before you start thinking that no one’s thinking about your privacy, Humanyze assures you that your bathroom time is off limits for monitoring. What a relief, right?

If it makes you feel any better, Ben Waber, chief executive of Humanyze, assures users of the device that conversations aren’t recorded word for word, so your superiors and employer won’t necessarily know what (or whom) you’re talking about with your coworkers. Instead the device records how you say it (i.e. your emotion/tone). Most importantly, it’s not the employer that decides who wears the device and who doesn’t, that’s strictly up to each individual employee to decide.

People Analytics, Yea or Nay?

Are you still on the fence about this “people analytics” technology? Let’s take a look at a Bloomberg report that explains how said technology played out in the real world.

With permission from executives of an unnamed global investment bank in New York, MIT finance professor Andrew Lo set up monitors in a conference room to evaluate how 57 stock and bond traders (who willingly participated in the study) reacted to market volatility during a simulation of a “typical” day of trading. The participants wore wristwatches that housed sensors that measured pulse and perspiration and “were given a $3 million risk limit and told to make money in markets including oil, gold, stocks, currencies, and Treasuries,” according to Bloomberg. The findings were quite interesting.

Lo found that “there’s a sweet spot for emotional engagement: too much, and you’re overly aggressive or fearful; too little, and you aren’t involved enough to care.” Top traders who fared well, the “emotional athletes,” seemed to deal with volatility quite well.

“Their bodies swiftly respond to stressful situations and relax when calm returns, leaving them primed for the next challenge,” says Lo. The traders who didn’t do so well seemed to let their mistakes get the better of them and they weren’t able to shake the emotions, even after the situation had subsided.

In the case of the trading example above, it seems that understanding the emotional state of a trader throughout the day is actually beneficial, not only for the trader’s well-being, but for business as well. For instance, the sensor wristwatches worn by the participants in Lo’s study actually warned traders when their emotions were getting to unstable levels so that they could step away from their desks and cool off. Likewise, the wristwatches “could also be used to screen hires to find those whose physiology is best suited to risk-taking.” When you put it that way, monitoring your biometrics and keeping your emotions in check at work may not be such a bad thing — for productivity’s sake, y’know?

Tell Us What You Think

Would you agree to wear a sensor badge at work? Share your answer with our community on Twitter and let us know your reasoning. You can also leave your comment below. We’d love to hear what you have to say about this new, controversial technology.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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