Would you want a wristband that shares your feelings with your boss?
“I know how you feel”. How many times have you heard this from family, friends or work colleagues? No doubt a lot, and sometimes it is difficult to gauge if the individual in question was simply rattling off a stock response to an uncomfortable or even unrelatable situation, or actually being genuine. But what if this was not the case? What if, for example, you were having a bad day at work, and your boss actually knew how you felt?
Wearable tech has been a growing trend for some time, with the Apple Watch being the most dominant example. We have grown accustomed to sharing our heart rate, weight, eating habits and other fitness metrics with tech firms, and are frankly comfortable with doing so. But now you can buy a wristband that allows your employer to monitor your emotional state – and this begs the question: is this suddenly one step too far?
This year a BBC news story1 reported on a new product, aptly named Moodbeam. Consisting of two buttons (yellow, blue) that can be pressed to reflect the corresponding mood of the employee (happy, sad), the solution offers managers insights into how their employees are feeling via an online dashboard. With Covid-19 lockdowns and subsequent culture shifts to home working, mental health in the workplace has deteriorated. In fact, 60% of adults reported their mental health had worsened during the 1st lockdown according to UK charity Mind. The time-consuming nature of initiating and maintaining conversations with your entire workforce through traditional means such as phone, email, or Teams chats, combined with the increased urgency to monitor workforce mental health, has driven companies to consider new ways of engaging with employee well-being.
However, this technology raises interesting, and difficult, questions. To what extent should employers be responsible for their employees’ happiness? Most progressive employers recognise both that they have duties of care to their employees, and also that a happy employee, one who feels valued and supported, is much more likely to be productive. Despite this, should you immediately be on the phone if one of your team presses the sad face button? Equally, there is balance for any individual between asking for help in relation to a specific challenge and the need sometimes to not allow personal life to interfere with work.
There are also non-representation and non-participation risks. Employees, particularly of the introverted type, may choose to hide their unhappy mood and click ‘happy’ to avoid potential hassle. Alternatively, they may for whatever reason opt out of wearing the wristband or even wear the wristband but never press a button or press it too infrequently for the data to be meaningful. This also raises larger questions around if opting out of wearing the wristband would impact an employee’s performance, and where this fits on the invasion of privacy scale.
Wristbands that relay your mood might be a fad but they are part of a wider trend of both employers being more interested in understanding the emotional state of their people, and of using technology to try and measure this. Finyx for the first time have started to include requirements around measuring user well-being into our sourcing materials for a range of technology solutions from operational policing systems to financial services applications. Whether it is comfortable or not, we are all going to need to adapt to a world where employers and employees share more with each other than a payroll number and a regular 1:2:1.
I don’t know about you, but I know how I feel about all of this. Happy, boss.