The grocery store chain Tesco has come up with a new way to guarantee employee productivity: mandatory tracking armbands. Bloomberg Businessweek:
The armbands, officially known as Motorola arm-mounted terminals, look like something between a Game Boy and Garmin GPS device. The terminals keep track of how quickly and competently employees unload and scan goods in the warehouse and gives them a grade. It also sets benchmarks for loading and unloading speed, which workers are expected to meet. The monitors can be turned off during workers’ lunch breaks, but anything else—bathroom trips, visits to a water fountain—reportedly lowers their productivity score.
You may think it sounds vaguely menacing and dehumanizing, but you’re probably going to be seeing a lot more of this kind of thing, especially when it comes to penalizing specific behaviors. For example, as pot legalization gains momentum nationally, employers will likely respond by ramping up drug testing (which is already a common practice in many large companies). Private pressure against pot use will replace criminal sanctions.Or take health care. If health insurance continues to be tied to employment, we could see employers and insurance companies partner to achieve ever-more precise premium pricing based on employee behavior. Every time a worker takes a smoke break, or eats something unhealthy, or drinks a big soda, he could see his employee contribution to health insurance adjusted correspondingly. Backers of such a system would present it as both a requirement of fairness (the person making riskier choices should pay more) and as a practical way of helping control costs by penalizing costly behaviors.This Tesco story may horrify you, or it may leave you relatively unperturbed. Either way, we are probably going to see a lot more of this kind of thing.