Employee Fitness & Surveillance

So, here’s a bad idea – employers microchipping employees to monitor their activities.

It sounds futuristic and somewhat unlikely. And yet it’s already happening. Research has shown that many employees are keen for their employers to take an active role in their health and wellbeing (61% in this report). This has translated in some cases to large companies (including Barclays, BP) providing wearable fitness trackers to employees to encourage healthy activities.

The risk here is that employees don’t realise how much sensitive information they are sharing – about their location, rest breaks and hours that they’ve worked. The cost of each chip is between £70 and £260 per person so it’s not hard to see how companies that do pay that expense might be seeking some form of financial benefit that justifies the investment.

It’s not an idea that’s entirely new. Henry Ford had a Sociological Department which would monitor workers. After making unscheduled calls on employees, the rewards for any that failed to meet the standards came in the form of lower wages.

So it’s not hard to see that story being repeated just over a century later. As The Economist points out:-

“It seems reasonable for companies to expect some level of economic return on any wellness programme that they provide. But the trade-off should not be too blatant. Making employees fitter so you can work them a lot harder seems rather like drilling your infantry on an assault course before sending them to face the machine guns. A better impact on morale (and thus productivity) might occur if workers felt that their managers had a genuine interest in their welfare.”

Something to think about before you start giving the log-in details to your Fitbit account to your HR Department.

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