A test run of employee-monitoring wearables by the accounting firm Deloitte, in its office in St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador, yielded positive results. In conjunction with switching to an “open concept” office design, Deloitte invited employees to wear ID badges with embedded microphones and accelerometers. The badges tracked conversations and movement around the office, generating as much as four gigabytes of data a day from each employee. The data indicated how often employees engaged co-workers in conversation, tracked their body language and how frequently they moved around. In return, employees received daily updates on their office behavior, including advice on whether they were speaking enough at meetings or demonstrating leadership. According to the company, the tracking program successfully motivated employees to improve their behavior and tracked performance, while confirming their preference for the new office design.
Unlike a similar program of Hitachi in Japan called “Human Big Data,” Deloitte made the project optional, guaranteed participants anonymity, and agreed by contract that the data remained the employee’s personal property. Whether Hitachi’s mandatory program will survive the new amendment to PIPA coming into effect in Japan remains to be seen. In the meantime, the Deloitte experiment shows that with proper attention to privacy concerns, wearable technology can be effectively introduced into the workplace.