PwC has released details of a study it conducted into whether employees would be willing to let employers monitor data collected by wearables.
The study drew upon 2 283 South Africans who were evenly split between males and females. Unfortunately further information about the demographics wasn’t revealed beside the fact that 51% of the respondents were between the ages of 25 and 34.
The specifics concerning the wearables included in the study were also not revealed.
The survey found that 72% of respondents would be willing to use a wearable provided by their employer and allow them to collect the data. When respondents were told that this could practice could be beneficial to them this number jumps to 87%.
Unfortunately, who the respondents were and whether they were aware of what the implications of sharing data are, was not revealed. We were told the survey was conducted online which leads us to believe that at least some of the respondents understood the implications of sharing data.
During the presentation, PwC People and Organisation Leader, Barry Vorster spoke about the benefits of wearables.
“The manufacturing sector could place screens around the workplace to warn an employee of an increased heart-rate or stress levels,” Vorster said.
That’s all well and good but when the discussion shifted to location based tracking we started to shift in our seats a bit.
We know where you are
During his presentation, Vorster did mention that we are being tracked by companies such as Google everyday of our lives when we use services like Google Now, or Waze.
But that’s neither here nor there. Google telling me that my commute to work is an hour and my boss being able to take me to task for stopping off at the pub every night after work are two very different things.
Simply put, what I do after work is none of my employer’s business unless I am clearly recognisable as a part of that company.
For this reason, there must be clear lines drawn outlining what an employer can and cannot monitor.
Take an incident that happened earlier this year. Journalists at the Daily Telegraph arrived at work one morning to find wireless motion sensors fitted to their desks. Management at the paper said the sensors were fitted to make the building more energy efficient.
There was the potential for the Daily Telegraph to monitor how long employees spent at their desk and take action, but the sensors were removed shortly after employees began complaining.
Now, this is at work and people had an issue, imagine if you were called into the office on a Monday morning to be asked why your heart rate had peaked so much over the weekend, you know, while you were at that party, doing questionable things.
There is a brightside, we promise
Now I’m not saying that employers are evil and want to pack themselves into every facet of your life because I don’t think that’s what they would do with this information. But that doesn’t mean the potential isn’t there for abuse.
As Vorster explained, location data gathered by employers could be used to figure out if an employee would be less stressed if they could work more flexible hours, avoiding peak-hour traffic.
Similarly a company could monitor stress levels and make adjustments to the working environment.
What this study does reveal is that the concept of wearables issued and monitored by an employer, needs to be approached with caution.
Before companies start gathering data and dishing out smartwatches and activity trackers, regulations and legislation need to be put in place to protect both employers and employees.
Just as an employer wants to keep its staff healthy and functioning properly, employees should be able to conduct their private lives, in private.
More specifically, the scope of the data an employer is allowed to gather and the times when that information can be gathered needs to be addressed.
Until all of that is done, I am not prepared to let my employer into every facet of my life.
While I’m at work you can monitor what you want with my consent but as for checking my heart-rate on the weekend while I’m enjoying a few beers, that data is mine, and mine alone to enjoy.