Big Brother’s Smart Work Desk is Watching You

As more devices and appliances in the home are becoming digitally dependant, new advancements are just as likely to start appearing in your workplace too. Meet the brand new smart work desk.

Known as the second-biggest office furniture maker in the world, Herman Miller have recently launched a brand new furniture line, entitled Live OS Smart Furnishings. This new range of office furniture is paired to sensors (that are purchased separately) that can be placed anywhere in the workplace and are capable of tracking health habits and productivity levels. When these new smart work desks were implemented into office environments, Herman Miller concluded that they were able to reduce extended periods of sitting by almost 40% on average. But how do these desks work and could they pose potential privacy concerns?

Can A Smart Work Desk Be Too Smart?

Adopting a recent inclusion in a majority of workplaces, the smart work desk is a sit-stand desk at heart. The difference comes from sensors that track sitting habits and personal seating preferences through surveillance tracking. The smart work desk is able to monitor your keyboard inputs and mouse clicks, along with providing ergonomics data on how often you stand and sit. Additionally, the desk can provide a gentle vibration to alert you as to when you might have been sitting for an extended period and is able to calculate your height to adjust your stance when using the desk accordingly.

If the above sounds alarming to you, then you’re certainly not alone. Dr Mark Bender, Director of Ergonomics at Texas A&M University explains the common reaction people have had to the smart work desks. “It’s kind of Orwellian – you think, wow, they are tracking all this stuff on me. Does that mean I’m going to get fired? It’s a normal human response”

A Danger to Personal Privacy?

Could these new smart work desks lead to employees feeling a loss of their personal space? Possibly. Dusty Duistermars, Senior Managing Director at commercial real estate firm Newmark Knight Frank provides some insight on the effect the new desks have had on his workforce. “It’s kicking out more data than what my team needs. “Companies can lose track of who sits where or how often employees work from home. A sensor provides a watchful eye” Further commenting on an advantage the new smart work desk may hold to businesses, Duistermars suggests that “A part of it is looking at ways to save money. This product will provide the data that will see if that is actually possible.”

Whatever the controversy may be surrounding the introduction of smart work desks to workplaces, it could prove to be a hot topic for years to come, for both businesses and employees alike.

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Sam Rose