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You might be close to your manager. Perhaps he or she asks about your weekend, or where you got that delightful shirt with the bird print.

But what if your boss knew how much you slept each night, how often you got up from your desk during the day, or how many times you picked up your smartphone?

Researchers at Dartmouth College helped to create a system that monitors employees by recording their physical, emotional, and behavioral states at all times. The system is comprised of three components: a smartphone app, a wearable fitness tracker, and a Bluetooth beacon that sits on a desk or is attached to a keychain.

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“These sensors would add to evaluation systems that oftentimes are survey-based and may be biased,” said Pino Audia, a professor of management and organizations at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, who worked on the project. “Supervisors may remember only certain things. When you have data, it may have less of a biased feel to it.”

The smartphone tracks physical activity, location, phone usage, and ambient light.

The wearable fitness tracker monitors heart functions, sleep, stress, and body measurements (like weight and calorie consumption).

Location beacons placed in the home and office provide information on time at work and breaks from the desk. If it feels like a lot, that’s because it is.

Project leaders say the system could develop into either a service for people to track their work habits or for companies to evaluate employees.

“At that point, there is more uncertainty about whether and how this may take shape,” Pino said. “Clearly, companies are already monitoring a lot of behaviors. What’s different is that we are taking into account what doesn’t happen in the office, like sleeping.”

Audia said some people might find the collection of such data invasive, but added the goal is to remove personal bias from managerial evaluations. He suggested that companies could make the monitoring optional.

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“It raises questions of ‘Could this be excessively intrusive?’ ” he said. “It’s kind of a double-edge sword. It may be perceived by an employee as an intrusion, but you also might have more evidence of the good work they are doing.”

Other institutions that contributed to the research: University of Notre Dame, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Washington, University of Colorado Boulder, University of California Irvine, Ohio State University, University of Texas Austin, and Carnegie Mellon University.


Ysabelle Kempe can be reached at ysabellekempe@gmail.com.