We live in an ever-connected world, one where our privacy and protected information are more readily available than ever. It can feel scary. In the age of Alexa listening in on private conversations and Google’s advertising being so spot on it’s borderline frightening. It’s normal to feel skeptical of technology, even healthy. You’re protective of your private information, and you should be. What shouldn’t scare you? Workplace sensors, and here’s why.
A Little Misunderstanding
Most technology is designed to make our lives easier or to make it more efficient. To do that they use artificial intelligence to learn our patterns, track behavior and monitor our use to make better predictions in the future. Just take an iPhone for example. A new phone out of the box has factory settings, but over time it learns all about you. It starts recommending the right words when you mistype a text and suggests directions to your last location in maps when you’re away from home. While you do give up a certain level of privacy for this, you gain convenience, accuracy, and ease of use.
It’s important to note that workplace sensors are not the same as workplace surveillance.The issue here is that people automatically assume sensors in the workplace work the same way their personal devices do. When you purchased your iPhone you gave it access to your information and also gave consent for it to access data like contacts or your address. Workplace sensors don’t have this same privilege. While we can’t speak for any monitoring software your organization chooses to install, a sensor at your desk isn’t telling your boss how often you, John Doe, are not there. It’s telling your boss desks in the marketing department always have vacancy. It’s not telling him this vacancy is because Hayley is working from home or Tiffany is always in a huddle room hosting meetings. Let us explain.
What Workplace Sensors Are Actually Tracking
Workplace sensors like those from VergeSense and CoWorkr are anonymous and are unable to detect individual faces or people. They can only detect motion or occupancy. And when used with iOFFICE, the information they gather is used to track and report on the space utilization of a building. That’s it. This information is used to better understand how a workspace is being used, so management can make more accurate decisions on creating a better work environment and eliminating any excess space or expanding. This data can help improve your overall employee experience, productivity, and satisfaction at your job.
Here are a few simple examples of how workplace sensors are actually beneficial for the average worker:
If a company implements sensors at each desk and conference room seat, they can track how their employees are using each type of space. If a workplace manager notices that only 60% of desks are being used at any time, maybe their workforce needs fewer desks and more conference rooms. Or if desk usage is at 100% maybe they need to add more open seating to accommodate.
Sensors are also used to track the frequency of use, for example, in bathrooms. Previously, facilities managers might have been instructed to schedule cleanings four times per day, which may or may not have been enough. With sensors located at the entrance of a restroom, managers can see how many bodies entered and can schedule cleanings to be requested once a set cap has been reached.
Many companies are trying to reduce their energy usage for cost savings and to minimize waste. Sensors can help with this too. Motion detection can trigger lights to turn on as people walk into a room or air conditioning unit temperatures to adjust automatically. This helps prevent lights being left on overnight or AC units running when no one is using a particular space.
If your organization has started installing sensors or beacons at your workplace, it’s a reason to celebrate. This means your workplace manager is proactive in creating the best work environment for you and your colleagues. This means they want to improve the employee experience, to ensure you're productive while at work and happy. And that is something not to fear, but to smile about.