In the workplace of tomorrow, your boss will have many new ways to look over your shoulder. A new service industry is emerging, aimed at helping companies better monitor their employees in order to craft new policies that will boost efficiency and productivity. The New York Times reports:
Ben Waber is chief executive of Sociometric Solutions, a start-up that grew out of his doctoral research at M.I.T.’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, which conducts research in the new technologies. Sociometric Solutions advises companies using sensor-rich ID badges worn by employees. These sociometric badges, equipped with two microphones, a location sensor and an accelerometer, monitor the communications behavior of individuals — tone of voice, posture and body language, as well as who spoke to whom for how long. […]
For example, the company studied workers in Bank of America call centers and observed that those in tightknit communications groups were more productive and less likely to quit. To increase social communication, the shared 15-minute coffee break was introduced to the daily routine. Afterward, call-handling productivity increased more than 10 percent, and turnover declined nearly 70 percent, Mr. Waber said.
The bad news is that in the workplace, the Age of Big Brother is here. New software, cameras, and data tools enable companies to keep track of everything their employees do.The good news is that this kind of assessment technology, even if (as it ought to be) it is limited to protect privacy rights, means we are one step closer to ending the tyranny of the modern office and the soul killing commute. Software this good can monitor workers sitting at home or at a cafe table at Starbucks. An age of telecommuting and distance working beckons.And one more piece of good news: the analysis of work productivity data is likely to uncover the incompetence of many managers and the enormous waste of time that both government and corporate bureaucracy inflict on the economy. The better we understand productivity, the more productive we can become. And the better we get at identifying what really works, the more we can clear away the obstacles and the roadblocks and progress toward getting more done in less time.