Big Brother – appearing in a workplace near you, shortly
Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical well-being and competence. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure.
According to reports in various newspapers, Microsoft has filed a patent application for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. The system could also automatically detect frustration or stress in the user and trigger management intervention. Physical changes would be matched to an individual psychological profile based on a worker’s weight, age and health. If the system picked up an increase in heart rate or facial expressions suggestive of stress, it would tell management that help was needed.
Ben Willmott, CIPD Employee Relations Adviser said: “The health and well-being of employees is being taken increasingly seriously by good employers. But gadgets and software are no substitute for good line management. Our research shows that where individuals feel they are under excessive monitoring or surveillance they tend to have a negative attitude towards their employers and that organisations that seek to monitor their employees excessively are unlikely to create a work environment that encourages trust, loyalty and commitment.” The Information Commissioner strongly criticised the potential of the system for “taking the idea of monitoring people at work to a new level.”