Companies tend to embrace technology the same way your parents do — slowly, and rarely to the benefit of the people who rely on them. But if you thought escaping your mom’s discovery of the poop emoji was impossible, corporations have taken things to new extremes that are going to make work inexplicably even more miserable.
#6. Eye Tracking Physically Forces You To Watch Training Videos
If there’s one thing that will make a worker’s skin crawl more than seeing the roaches in the break room fridge, it’s employee training videos. These videos can cover everything from fire drill plans to sexual harassment, featuring out-of-work actors, painful dialogue, and outdated hairstyles all wrapped up in a soundtrack that was composed on a broken Turbografx-16.
“Thanks to those hotsy-totsy suffragettes, you may notice some new faces around your office’s laudanum station.”
Traditionally, the only way employees could survive was to reduce their metabolism until they reached a hibernation state. These days, many companies direct their serfs to a webpage that hosts all the videos and slideshows on it for you to review at their leisure. And by “review at their leisure,” we mean they can start the video and then go take a dump and play that game Kate Upton’s boobs are selling.
Some companies, however, wised up to how much we hate watching local actors make terrible puns about the office dress code, and are now putting their employees in the digital equivalent of a Clockwork Orange chair. A feature on many phones and tablets now is “eye tracking,” which utilizes the device’s camera to figure out where you’re looking, and can do things like scroll web pages. Alternatively, if you’re the type of boss who hates happiness, you can use it to pause training videos when employees look away from the screen.
“Excuse me. My soulless, ever-watching digital eye is up here.”
A group of Stanford students got together and developed this “smart pause” feature, and have been marketing it to companies so that they could make sure that employees were actually watching their training videos and not fucking around on comedy websites instead. Mindflash, the company that markets this technology, claims that in addition to acting like a teacher who can “wait here all day,” companies can use it to identify where the boring parts are and try to spruce them up so that watching training videos is less of a Sisyphean task.
Somehow, we get the feeling that if they haven’t updated their video since 1992, they’re not going to start now.
#5. Security Badges That Can Tell When You’re in a Bad Mood
It’s impressive what computers can predict with seemingly miscellaneous information, such as how your shopping list can be an unintentional pregnancy test. Businesses are now trying to get in on the fun by using various pieces of data to highlight productive employees and spot patterns that indicate things like employee theft.
“Every time Chad works a shift, all the Real Housewives box sets are stolen … but what does it all mean?”
A company called Sociometric Solutions wants to take that even further and turn your ID badge into a Sims diamond. By equipping your badge with some microphones and enough sensors to make James Bond pee his pants, employers would be able to monitor things like who you’re talking to, in what tone, and where you’re spending your time in the office. They can even monitor your posture, on the off chance your boss went to etiquette school in 18th-century London.
When corporate higher-ups start analyzing that data, they can detect all sorts of patterns that might have been invisible otherwise, such as who is effective in personal interactions and who truly has their heart in their work. So if you’re having a shitty day and haven’t plastered a big enough grin on your face, the badge will pick it up and know you’re pissed, like a monochrome mood ring that lets you into the break room.
“Sorry, my grandma is in the hospital, I’m having a rough time with it.”
“The computer says your body language means you have a scorching case of herpes.”
And while we’re talking about predicting behavior …
#4. Companies Can Detect If You’re Planning To Quit
Unlike its delicious fruit-based cousin, employee turnover is an expensive pain in the ass, costing businesses roughly one-fifth of what they were paying the old employee just to find a replacement. Two weeks’ notice is rarely enough time to interview, hire, and train a new guy. And even if it were, that piece of rump roast fresh out of college (who hasn’t been through the corporate meat grinder yet) probably isn’t going to be as productive as the person who left.
So what is a business to do? Well, the obvious solution is to be a business that people like to work at, and that doesn’t necessarily mean giving cashiers six-figure bonuses. Wegman’s, a grocery store chain based in upstate New York, has as many low-paying, unskilled labor positions as Walmart, yet an employee turnover rate of only 4 percent compared to Walmart’s 44 percent. Wegman’s is consistently rated as one of the best companies in America to work for, so Walmart decided to model their business after Wegman’s and capture that je ne sais quoi that keeps their employees from revolting.
Though to be fair, a revolution in Rochester would be like invading Russia in winter. It’s not going to work.
Psych! What they really did was pour a shitload of money into data analysis to determine when employees are likely to quit so that they could head it off before someone got more than their feelings hurt, presumably by having your replacement ready before you even have a chance to choreograph your “I Quit!” musical number. A whole host of factors, from personality tests to the number of shits you’ve taken on your manager’s desk, can identify potential flight risks.
Volometrix is a company that specializes in finding employees who would seemingly rather have a raccoon give them cataract surgery than spend another minute employed with their current company. They use things like what optional work functions you attend, and even who you talk to and for how long, to determine who’s about to quit. It might sound like arbitrary nonsense, but they are able to spot employees about to jump ship up to a year before they do. And considering it typically doesn’t take a year to update your resume and find a new job, that means they know you’re going to quit before you do.
“Congrats, the job is yours! Also, we’ve already started looking for your replacement.”
#3. Your Boss Can Track Your Whereabouts 24/7
Whether you like your boss or not, most people agree that when you’re off the clock, that time is yours, and you want some space from the big cheese. That’s what Myrna Arias told her boss when she discovered that an app installed on her company phone was tracking her movements all day, every day. Arias claims that she was fired after uninstalling the app.
Her former boss naturally claims that wasn’t why she was fired. But, curiously, he totally admitted to monitoring employees during off-hours, even going so far as to joke with employees about how fast they had been driving. Arias alleges that when she said that the invasion of privacy was illegal, her boss told her that she should deal with it, and also to slow down, because she was driving like a bat out of hell on Cherry Street.
“You drive an Optima. Slow your goddamn roll.”
Exactly why a boss would want to keep tabs on his employees all day, every day is a bit of a mystery. Sure, seeing whether they visit rival employers would be one reason, but that only represents a small percentage of what makes up most people’s boring, average lives. Maybe it’s as simple as wanting to contribute to the office gossip by tracking who is fucking who on business trips. Or maybe your boss has a vested interest in your children’s soccer games. There was a lot of money riding on that Grasshoppers game, alright?
#2. Fitness Bands Will Wreck Everyone’s Health Insurance
America is so fat that when we haul ass, it takes two trips. Since over one-third of our population can be re-classified as evolutionary antecedents of the Teletubbies, we’ve been increasingly turning to technology to help us shed pounds, including things such as video games, exercise apps, and more questionable dietary information than late-night infomercials could ever hope to offer.
“Herbasila kick-starts your metabolism by attaching to delta brainwave receptors, converting trans fat into rainbows! Tap to buy now!”
Products like like Fitbit track your movement and heart rate to determine how much exercise you’re getting. It’s a neat way to to find out what little things you can do each day to improve your fitness. It’s also a great way for your insurance company to decide how much to charge you. Insurance companies typically use generic data like height and weight to try to determine the odds of you getting all sorts of expensive health problems in the future. But if everyone had a Fitbit strapped to their person, the company suddenly knows exactly how many trips you make between the couch and fridge, and how winded you get bending over to pick up your keys.
Businesses are on board with this, because health insurance is the most expensive employer-paid benefit. So if they know who to give the stink-eye to on Doughnut Friday, they can potentially save themselves money in the long run. While fitness bracelets are still relatively rare, companies are already moving toward this insurance model by offering tiered healthcare. Everyone would start in the lowest category, but if you quit smoking, lose weight, and lower your blood pressure, you could move up into higher levels, which have lower co-pays and deductibles. It’s like a healthier and more irritating version of Candy Crush.
“Stop sending me invites, Phyllis! If I wanted the damn gold level, I know where to get it!”
Where this gets scary is when employees don’t do these things, in which case they’ll get hammered with huge spikes in premiums. Cleveland Clinic employees were threatened with up to 21 percent increases if they didn’t join the hospital’s wellness program. And if they did join but failed to meet their goals, they still got health-smacked with a 9 percent hike in their insurance costs. At Penn State, professors and other university employees had to fill out a health risk questionnaire that wanted to know if they had gotten divorced or were likely to produce any expensive offspring in the near future. Employees who didn’t fill out the form were fined $100 a month until somebody presumably reminded Penn State that they really didn’t need any more bad press, and the administration canned the idea.
#1. Companies Will Give You Implants
Most health insurance won’t cover the most, uh, normal kinds of implants. No company wants to pay to put something unnecessary inside the bodies of its employees. On a very related note, here’s a company offering implantable RFID chips to employers.
“Using our ‘applicator,’ the process is over quickly and efficiently.”
A group of Swedish computer nerds have created an RFID chip that’s the size of a grain of rice (or a moderate zit, once implanted) and can be injected into your hand. Once you’ve been chipped like a Labrador with a poor sense of direction, your body becomes your ID badge. With a wave of your cyborg hand, you can buy stuff from the cafeteria, access the copier, and even open doors. Why this is an improvement over the time-tested method of sticking your badge in your front pocket and pelvic thrusting towards the sensors is unclear, especially considering ID badges are cheaper and don’t have to be cut out of you if you ever decide to quit.
The current chips are only RFID, which means that they only work in close contact with sensors, so your boss can’t track you once you leave the building. However, the company is already promising increased functionality and features, and since GPS tracking chips are currently available for dogs, it’s only a matter of time until your boss starts sending out meeting notices for the “Chips and Salsa Team-Building Funday!”
“ATTENDANCE IS MANDATORY”