Employee data can be used forever, but treat it with care

If you happen to meet Kevin Ellis, the 58-year-old boss of PwC UK, take a look at his right wrist.

In it, there will almost certainly be one of those fitness watch devices that people use to see how fast their heart rate is and whether they walk on both Tuesday and Monday.

In this case, it is a Garmin Vivosmart 4 track and Ellis keeps her seat belt fastened in bed, in the bathroom, and of course when you’re jogging to hit her goal of 600 “intensity minutes” per week.

“The only time I take it off is to recharge it,” he said the day before, adding that he thinks most of his board on the accounting team has also used the devices. . “I’m not asking the board to do that,” he said. “Everybody cares.”

Well, they probably are, since Ellis’ Garmin doesn’t look like it.

This is one of 1,000 fitness trackers that PwC gave its staff in the UK last year, after the first Covid incident began, to test an algorithmic system like some. other system.

Think of it as a “Fitbit on steroids”, he says Rob McCargow, Director of Artificial Intelligence at PwC UK. Unlike other digital “wearables” that simply give numbers to their users, Garmin data is routed to a platform designed by PwC in conjunction with Analysis of IHPA company that has worked with Formula One racing and other elite sports organizations eager to improve performance.

The platform also collects data from watch users’ time sheets and work schedules, as well as the results of psychological and cognitive tests. When all of this is fed through an algorithm, the system must give each user a better idea of ​​their sleep patterns, stress levels, and general health.

McCargow said personal data is only available to Garmin users. But it is anonymized and compiled to show managers how the entire organization is performing.

For example, it was revealed that sedentary behavior at the company increased by at least 25% after the start of the shutdown. (A smaller pilot before the pandemic allows for comparison.) Worker stress levels also decreased after pubs reopened and increased during peak performance reviews, which can reinforce efforts to distribute workload more evenly throughout the year.

Surprised? Maybe not. But as more and more companies experiment with hybrid ways of working, PwC believes there is growing demand for tools like these that can monitor employee health in real time and see if the implementation Does signing up for a meditation app really make a difference? Difference.

“I can see clients seeing this as a way to engage employees, who want to emphasize that watches are not mandatory,” says Ellis. “We’re not talking about some sort of Big Brother surveillance.” PwC what be censured last year for developing a facial recognition tool that can track financial services employees working from home. But his new system is intended to expand. There will be 5,000 more fitness watches coming soon, and demand will skyrocket: employees bought last year’s 1,000 Garmins in less than four hours.

However, it is difficult to be completely convinced of this type of platform. Technology in the workplace is not necessarily bad if implemented well, and a company as large as PwC has the potential to use it to the benefit of its workers. But there’s no guarantee that your client will. A few days after speaking with Kevin Ellis, it was reported that spyware created by an Israeli company that was supposed to fight terrorism was being tracked on the phones of dissidents and dissidents. journalist.

In addition, digital slings have become increasingly tight for some workers where one recent report it has been called the working age of the Amazons. Research by the UK’s Future of Work Institute said: “The techniques and tools of the concert economy have far outstripped live production.

“Algorithmic systems are being used across the economy to control fundamental aspects of work,” he warned, undermining efforts to improve health. Supermarket workers and truck drivers have been hardest hit by this change so far. But for lawyers and accountants, too, the biggest risk they face is not being replaced by machines, but being treated as they are.

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Twitter: @pilitaclark | Employee data can be used forever, but treat it with care


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