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NextGen Magazine


Office Chair Can Alert HR When You're Not at Desk

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jan 12, 2021
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How much does your office furniture really know about you? While the question might seem strange, as furniture generally tends not to know that much, the development of smart cushions that can track and transmit data on its users means the answer could be "more than you think," according to the New York Times.

The cushions were developed by a tech firm, Health Boost IoT Technology Company, for the purpose of collecting health data on sitters. They monitor heart rate, posture and other information with the goal of say, prompting workers not to slouch. The point is to reduce workplace fatigue and promote employee health. But managers at Health Boost figured out another use as well: determining when employees are not sitting at their desk.

The Times cites Health Boost workers whose supervisors used the data to do things like question the length of their breaks or the times they leave the office, and to threaten to cut annual bonuses in response. This has made the ostensible health tool just one more component in a growing office panopticon enabled by digital tracking that brings Taylorism into the 21st century.

While, generally, the data is supposed to be anonymous, the consent form workers signed to get the smart cushion said that some individuals would occasionally be able to access the raw data to ensure the integrity of the data collection. The company's CEO defended managers accessing the data, saying that human resources has a responsibility to keep an eye on staff members' health.