Workers today are increasingly being handled as robots. The data revolution that has led to unprecedented efficiency in businesses’ digital operations has become applied for their human workforces. From clocking toilet breaks into measuring keywords and mouse clicks, from quantifying customer service workers’ vocal stress to tracking real-time movements of their workers, businesses are treating their employees like disposable robots which can be nudged towards ever-greater efficiency before being run into the ground and lost for a brand new replacement. Where’s the breaking point?
The identical digital surveillance state that tracks us online has increasingly come for the workforce. In the place of tracking, moderating, mining and manipulating us to get monetization, organizations are instituting Orwellian surveillance workplaces developed to eek every ounce of productivity potential from the employees, leaving them utterly tired and in a continuous state of anxiety about being replaced.
The gig market has been especially aggressive in using gamification and behavioral profiling to push its employees to their breaking things, manipulating them to setting the organization’s profits before their own self-interests.
Warehouse workers are now able to be tracked in real-time, utilizing digital surveillance not only to quantify how many boxes they package or items they pick, but how many hand moves it takes them to do so, allowing organizations to extract efficiencies much in the bodily motions of the human body.
Even office employees are no more resistant, with firms tracking the number of keystrokes they form, just how many times they use the restroom and that they spend their time speaking with. Many Silicon Valley companies locate restrooms, break areas and other areas such that employees will need to maneuver keycarded doorways, ensuring employers know where they’re at any moment. Many use phone-based beacons to keep real time logs of where every worker is at any given time and how they spend their times. Even some government agencies are currently turning into these location monitoring to keep tabs not only just on how much time employees are spending in their desks but who they meet with during the afternoon, identifying workers who are spending too much time with individuals outside their groups.
To be honest, none of these practices is new. Companies have strived to wring performance out of their operations and”efficiency managers” were all the rage three-quarters of a century ago as companies leveraged then-novel tabulating procedures and system study to see their workers much more as robots than humans.
Digital technology has merely accelerated this trend also made it possible to track a company’s whole employee footprint in real-time at unprecedented resolution.
More importantly, it’s made it feasible for algorithms to handle workers, eliminating empathy and common sense and focusing exclusively on profit.
This administration mechanization has collaborated with an economic period where firms have had the best hand over their employees, allowing them practically unfettered liberty to roll out these new clinics without any fear.
As firms treat their workers more like bots, it eliminates the serendipitous discovery and creativity that emerges from getting the time to think and out of interacting with others across the company.
Firms once invited their employees to interact, creating shared spaces that were common and in some cases even scattering divisions to ensure they mingled with different groups to seed new ideas. Creativity was invited and lots of businesses offered applications that allowed workers to test out new ideas with all the firm’s blessing.
Instead, companies today are increasingly going from the opposite way, returning to an era where workers were seen as worker bees anticipated to sit in their cubicles or perform spaces and perform their assigned jobs with maximum efficiency, wasting no precious time on alliance or thought.
It has a chilling effect on creativity. It’s no coincidence that several of the exact businesses which have so publicly embraced surveillance direction are the ones which have fought in the last few years to innovate.
Where’s the breaking point be? At what stage will employees say enough is enough and rebel?
Could it be that in a globalized economy in which companies can but shift tasks anywhere on the planet, that employee privacy and rights are destined to become simply a quaint memory of a new age? Or as the market improves, will companies be made to scale back their performance ambitions?
Putting this together, firms are leveraging the same surveillance state that tracks us online to track us in the office, turning to calculations to observe their workforces in real time and continuously nudge their workers towards maximum efficiency at the expense of innovation and creativity.