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January 14, 2016

James Bond technology in the workplace

Injecting nanotechnology into the blood stream to track where someone is and monitor his or her physical and mental state—how science fiction is that? In the latest film, James Bond is injected with this smart blood, so that everything he does is monitored, meaning he can no longer prowl around unnoticed. That’s not really an ideal situation for a spy, even if his employer does benefit greatly from this technology. It sounds like a vision of the future, but in today’s workplace, employees are increasingly being monitored through all sorts of analytical tools. One might ask, how desirable is this?

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Who’s doing what
Today, it’s possible to track the behavior of employees through all sorts of sensors in the office, the telephone’s location or the wording used in emails. These HR analytics are intended to reveal the habits of exemplary employees—to uncover the secret of what makes a perfect employee.

But is an employee’s productivity the sum of his or her mood, physical condition and the number of steps he or she takes during office hours?

While it’s an opportunity for employers to create more value from employees, how do the employees benefit in terms of this evolution? That has become the central issue now that more and more companies are applying big data analysis to the work of their employees.

Naturally the doomsday scenarios associated with collecting personal details are already predictable. The employer wants the employee to work better so that he or she becomes more productive, but in reality people certainly don’t want to relinquish all their privacy voluntarily.

Taking a different approach
So, as an employer it’s better to take a different approach and look at the opportunity from a different angle. Inspired by the Quantified Self movement in which people measure their own health and performance, the term Quantified Workplace has arisen. How do you create an environment in which employees are healthier, more productive and more involved in the duties they are performing?

Ability to function optimally
Alongside performance data, you can also measure a variety of personal data, such as stress, movement, heartbeats, sleep or social interaction, with specific objectives in mind. It’s no longer about checking up on people to force a change in their productivity. Instead, it’s about measuring what conditions are needed for them to be able to function optimally.

For example, consider where someone performs best—with which people, at what temperature, or during which working hours. Peak moments become visible. Using these insights, employees are most productive when they choose their best environment to focus and manage the moments they need to recharge.

Agile workplaces were devised to let people work more flexibly and efficiently with a focus on cost-savings and more efficient use of space. Now that we are in a better position to consider how people  feel, it becomes possible to offer each employee the ideal place to match his or her style of working.

Therefore, opting to set up Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the working environment based on what actually makes employees and processes more productive is what really adds value to the organization. The smart blood technology from James Bond may still be a bit too futuristic, but the concept is certainly a good example of where I think the workplace is headed.

By Blom, Geert-Jan Blom
Business Consultant Planon Netherlands