Tracking Space Utilization While Respecting Employee Privacy: Modern Workplace Practices and Balance
As office dynamics evolve to accommodate the greater demand for workplace flexibility, the workplace ID is increasingly being used in companies’ data strategies. Notable players like Google and Meta Platforms are leveraging badge systems to enforce their teams’ alignment with company return-to-work policies and monitor in-office employee activity and productivity. Other industry heavyweights including Amazon and JPMorgan Chase are adopting similar workforce management strategies.
While the argument and economic need for occupancy and utilization data is not a new one, genuine concerns linger around the extensivity of data being collected, as well as how to protect employee privacy, prevent the potential infantilization of employees, and increase corporate-level empathy to resistance to pervasive surveillance. The fact that companies can delve into intimate data sources such as IP addresses and occupancy sensors  concerns many, and many companies are attempting to influence the sphere and magnitude of “workplace monitoring” with their varied and diverse approaches to data collection.
For example, in addition to Meta Platforms, Google, Amazon, and JPMorgan Chase, TikTok has implemented an internal tool called MyRTO, which reportedly tracks badge swipes and additionally asks employees to explain their absences. The company reports they do not require explanations for all absences but do encourage employees to explain non-attendance to specific activities, such as client meetings . On the opposite end of the spectrum, AllState stresses the importance of making the strategy about space utilization, not activity. In reference to their space utilization reports, AllState’s chief human resources officer, Bob Toohey said for The Wall Street Journal , “You know what I do with that report? I read it. I don’t then take the report and start calling people...The only reason we do that is to understand: What’s the utilization of an office? Do we need more space or less space? It’s not to check on employees.”
What seemingly emerges is a conflict of employee and employer interests, with many companies searching for ways to avoid alienating their workforce while still collecting the cost-saving data they need. But between employer and employee viewpoints lies an intersection of interests that allows employees to eagerly and confidently use the spaces provided to them without fear of intrusive tracking and employers to maximize their space usage based on real numbers.
The key to striking a balance within this complex terrain? Companies should enable an experience that allows employees to feel capable of working in a non-structured, remote environment and still build culture, community, and collaboration. Providing spaces that are user-friendly, tech-enabled, comfortable, secure, and accessible becomes essential. But comfort isn’t the prevailing “why”. Teams need diverse and flexible ways to collaborate and generate energy between themselves, while still being able to take care of their responsibilities outside of work, while employers need to know how their spaces are being used to make the strategic real estate decisions best for their growth and alignment.
The need for nuanced solutions becomes evident. PowerBx offers not just surveillance, but a compassionate approach to space management and hybrid work activation. In a landscape marked by a lack of information on office utilization, PowerBx's comprehensive solutions foster trust with employees through workplace technology. Technologies such as meeting-room booking tablets might provide IDs obscured to the general public; desk-scheduling spot pucks may simply indicate occupation status and not individual IDs, ensuring productivity in the ever-evolving world of work. While just a handful of examples, these nuanced changes can allow companies to find the harmony between tracking space utilization and providing a productive, secure, environment for employees.
References:1. Cutter, C., & Chen, T. (2023, September 25). Bosses Aren’t Just Tracking When You Show Up to the Office but How Long You Stay. The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/lifestyle/careers/attention-office-resisters-the-boss-is-counting-badge-swipes-5fa37ff7?mod=Searchresults_pos6&page=1