Don't answer out loud if you're reading this at work, but how do you feel about employers using sensor-bearing armbands and other "wearable" tech to monitor employee performance?
According to the Washington Post, business is booming for companies that manufacture such equipment. Some devices are focused mainly on safety and time-saving movements; but a growing number of them "spy" on employee actions, with a "guilty until proven innocent" mindset where incompetence and laziness are concerned.
The pros and cons on the Post website "comments" section were pretty well balanced, with the supporters of wearable tech stressing that there are a lot of employees who simply won't work without extra surveillance.
True enough. When I was fresh out of college, I worked at a factory. One of my second-shift co-workers had a nightly ritual. He would turn off his machine, saunter over to the water fountain, read all the bulletins on the office window, scrutinize his reflection in the office window for wrinkles and moles and such, enjoy a leisurely bathroom break, check for new bulletins or facial anomalies, get another long drink of water and restart his machine. Lather, rinse, repeat. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I understand that at his funeral, his relatives had to open and shut, open and shut the casket. ("Doesn't he STILL look natural?")
Tech supporters say if police officers can wear body cams, stockboys should have no objection to wearing a chip. But not many warehouse workers shout, "I swear I thought the box of fragile wind chimes was pulling a .357 Magnum on me!"
Skeptics of the trend point to potential discrimination against minorities, an erosion of privacy and a worsening of friction between management and labor. Corporate executives try to allay morale issues with a policy of "Trust but verify." Of course they're attempting to evoke warm memories of Pres. Reagan; but Reagan never followed that philosophy up with, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall but quit tearing off so many squares of toilet paper!"
Some hourly workers would feel better about the whole thing if top executives were required to wear monitoring devices to prove their productivity -- buying congressmen in bulk, demolishing widows' homes with fuel-efficient bulldozers, etc.
I can just imagine a CEO caterwauling, "A three-martini lunch seemed to upset some of the rabble, so I've increased productivity by adopting a St. Bernard with a keg. But I caught that ungrateful mutt chewing on my golden parachute! The sacrifices I make for this company!"
Theoretically, the monitoring programs will generate a higher profit margin, making more money available for rank-and-file workers. But wouldn't you know it, the guy in charge of making sure the money trickles down is on the longest leash of all. ("Anybody seen Charlie? No, wait -- he died two, three years ago, didn't he?").
I hope companies don't think technology is a cure-all. Employees already submit store-bought, drug-free urine samples, so it's only a matter of time before someone starts hacking the devices to make performance look better. ("Have you seen these metrics on Connelly? Should we promote her -- or stock up on kryptonite???")
I guess we'll have to see how all this plays out. I'll try to focus on relishing the irony of the whole situation. Companies that manufacture items such as recliners, hammocks, hot tubs and widescreen TVs shouldn't be lecturing ANYONE about BEING PRODUCTIVE.