WeWork's Creepy New Strategy Might End the Workplace As We Know it
WeWork says this technology will help make the workplace more collaborative, productive, and engaging. It also might give you the creepsRead full story
There is a big question here: do we understand what all the data mean? In much analysis there is correlation, but not explanation. So even if we don’t think this is creepy, there’s a concern about how the data are used, especially as it might relate to assessing individual productivity or activity. It could lead to a new iteration of Taylorism and ‘scientific management’ (from the early 20th century)—too much focus on the observable data, without enough thinking about the human needs and what really drives productivity.
Beyond this macro concern, questions should be asked about boundaries, accountability, responsibility and transparency. Some attention to the utilization of assets could help efficiency, but, as several have noted, individual tracking doesn’t make sense and could erode privacy and, ironically, productivity. Further, deanonymization could be a problem, in that anonymization is not always as robust as it is thought to be—in datasets that are thought to have unidentifiable individual records researchers have been able to identify individuals.
Finally, a comparison to Google/Alphabet-Sidewalk Labs project in Toronto’s Quayside seems appropriate—greatly increasing data collection for the stated purpose of efficiency, but with unclear consequences for social dynamics and privacy. While not everything new should be feared, the dynamics we’re seeing with respect to social media in the last few years suggest that we don’t have the ability to know all of the implications of broad system changes ex ante, so some caution and thoughtfulness seem warranted.
We are facing into a customer conundrum this year across industries - opt for suboptimal service or give up your data to gain an ever increasing edge on experience. The only way to get over this barrier is total transparency and customer control of their own data with the ability to switch bits on and off as they see fit and be able to understand how this might impact the services we enjoy such as optimised workplaces, uniquely tailored medicines, perfectly brewed coffee or the comfiest of sneakers made just for you - the choice has to be ours!
As with every other data-harvesting service out there, whether or not it’s “creepy” is the wrong question. The creepiness depends on how the data is used and what protections are in place to prevent uses that would lead to discrimination against people. The reason we worry about creepiness is that clear standards for what rights and protections people should have around the use of their data simply don’t exist in the US, so everything rests on the practices of the companies. Curious to know what limits GDPR places on this type of data use.
The opportunities and risks from doing more surveillance will inevitably lead to worse outcomes for individuals unless we embrace a new technical and ethical paradigm based on clear rights - and controls - over data by people. History shows it’s just a matter of time until the best intentioned companies, organizations and governments abuse new forms of power unless kept in check from the start. This has unlimited potential for harm otherwise.
This is about gathering data to measure and optimize productivity. Worker bee takes on a whole new meaning with the analytics data to back it up. Imagine defining a model for what a super-productive worker acts like, and then being trained for and/or measured against it.
We need to have a nationwide conversation about data, surveillance, and the rights of humans in a world where corporations have shown no awareness that there should be limits on their behavior.
I agree this seems creepy on the page....but I'm sure I've read about major firms like Deloitte and Unilever performing similar types of studies to prepare for 'hotdesk' swapping and other 'future of work' trends.
Personally? I just sit at my desk all day so this seems like a bit of a solution in search of a problem.
Beyond creepy. It's not where your head is that is important, it's what's going on inside it. There is a lot of good thinking that goes on in non-meeting rooms!
Are we ever not a statistic? I am not a robot to be optimized. And I don’t buy into this being “the workplace of the future”. These are nothing but control mechanisms. And we should not be okay with companies tracking our every move.
Companies of the future are in tune with the needs and wants of people.
If this is done overtly, they will have a hard time finding and keeping employees. If done covertly, they could be liable for lawsuits claiming invasion of privacy. Either way, BAD idea!
Actually, we need reliable data on how office space is used. And none of this is as creepy as the many invisible ways employees can be monitored online.
Google analytics of office space. Most offices are trying to do the same thing. They are just internally and not in this scale. I want the same thing for the housing market.
The data privacy wars come to workers’ rights. Qualcomm and United Healthcare launched a program with Samsung and Garmin wearables to reward employees for walking. But where are the lines with age, disability or obesity discrimination? Or what happens when data like this is used to cast prejudice against employees? What if the data reveals a pregnancy to HR, as last year when a woman’s Fitbit told others in her workout group she was pregnant before she knew?
NYC just announced a Chief Privacy Officer to monitor and protect citizens in an era of cameras, AI tracking and others. We need these in companies. All for creating positive outcomes for workplace cultures, but not at the expense of personal dignity and discrimination.
If you want to reach Bob from partnerships with that Salesforce message, we'll get you the multimedia space at the beer taps he frequents around 5pm. There will be a significant surcharge if you want the spot in stall three in the bathroom he visits every afternoon, but you can't beat that one for viewability.
Let me save WeWork some money and time..
out for lunch,
Clearly a data play. I think the goal is to become the go-to data source for softer employment stats. We are currently in a wework. Makes me think twice.
Not sure I see this as creepy. No worse than the people who walk round the office checking how many people are at their desks or in meeting rooms
Totally creepy- and very “Big Brother” but if we are being honest- aren’t we just a little curious what the data will show?
Makes perfect sense. Very smart in fact. Don’t see why this creepy when every other app is asking for permission to allow the “location service” even when they clearly don’t need it. This at least, serves a clear legit purpose constrained to your workplace.
I don't know if I would consider this "creepy", but spatial analytics is responsible for how much more uncomfortable commercial airlines are these days and how a ridiculously small apartment can be considered a two-bedroom by developers and realtors. In the end it just means cramming more people into less space for more money and less investment. A win-lose situation and it's easy to identify the losers: WeWork customers.
I think this makes a ton of sense as long as it isn’t used to track who’s in the office at what time and how many breaks they take etc.
In the way it’s being described, to see where people congregate and what rooms are booked the most often, bravo.
On a related note, Bloomberg terminals can track when an employee badges in, leaves, how many times they leave and while it’s useful to see if a colleague is actually in the building, it feels very big brother-y.
There’s myriad of essays written about robots eventually taking over our jobs. As far as I’m concerned when things like this are implemented into the workforce we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference either way. Employees are already trained to leave any discretion behind. They follow scripts that disregard the nuance of specific customer needs. If a computer tells them something can’t be done they refuse to look for an alternate solution. Not to mention the younger they are the more they’re willing to shut off their brains and repeat the company policy in lieu of being a decent human being. Whatever WeWork claims it is it wants to be it’s pure garbage in my book. Destined to keep us slaving away into our eventually penniless graves.
This idea of monitoring people in mass quantity to gain aggregate data insights and perspectives is a tricky one. I’m wondering if the benefits outweigh the costs, and if technologies like these might turn employees into robotic like drones. I think some confusion and imperfections in a workplace can lead to good things, like a laugh.
I do see the value of this technology applicable in areas like school and college campuses, where school authorities can track and study how groups are relating with each other or using various amenities.
This article purports to tell us what to think ("Frankly, it's creepy") based on thin reporting and a shallow-at-best dive into the tracking system and the relevant issues. It even dumbs down the very idea of analytics ("ana-what?"). I'd like to see a smarter, more informative take before I start forming an opinion.
Creepy or otherwise, is it even necessary? Aren't there other areas better served by investing resources to improve business outcomes?
"Google analytics for space," if you didn't see this coming, you weren't paying attention.
Why is WeWork valued so greatly? It is and always has been a data company disguised as Coworking. People thinking their leases and spaces are the business model, have been missing the big picture.
It definitely sounds like solution in search for a problem. But I guess that’s our culture has come to with the advent of Internet and its AI. We’ve moved from physical to totally abstract productions...
It’s interesting that they’re so focused on productivity from a spatial relations perspective when the majority of people find WeWork to be one of the more UN-productive places to work. I had a private office there at one point with my team and ours was sandwiched between two other offices with only glass partitions separating us. We could hear conversations ALL day and we all ultimately decided that the white noise of an open air office was less of a distraction.
Makes plenty of sense for WeWork. For the record, they were already using similar technology (if not the same one) in some of their buildings, so it stands to reason they would go and acquire the startup altogether.
The main reason the acquisition happened was to live into the promise that we work is more than just a real estate company with tenants. They need to start adding value outside of common places with free coffee.
I wonder how many of us do some real quality thinking in the bathroom. Maybe some technology upgrades there!
Hmm. Optimizing the workspace isn’t necessarily creepy. It’s just the extent to which one is comfortable being the subject of surveillance. At the end of the day, don’t use WeWork if you’re not comfortable being a product. It’s the same choice over and over again, just as with Facebook, and all other services.
Give this a year. It will determine nothing of value.
Your mommy should have such technology! Do the stop viewing with the restroom? Who monitors this stuff. Office movement police...
Do they make adjustments for people knowing they are being watched? This seems an effort of little if any purpose...
It is a trade-off. I know of corporate offices with lots of remote and travelling workers, and with work-from-home Fridays, where officespaces are truly ghost-towns for good parts of the week. Lots of wasted space. But, there needs to be privacy measures built in which are more concrete than just good faith honor code assumptions.
Even though it's not designed to be personal it's probably not designed to be anonymous remember when your medical records were private. Were not even allowed privacy in our own bodies. Our society has degraded to a point where our government and corporations didn't get rid of organized crime they took it over. Another subsidized extortion tool to fear. I apologize for such a bleak portrayal. I guess people need an oppression cycle every few hundred years to keep war profitable
This definitely reads 'big brother'-ish. However, I think the usability (safety of all involved/affected) depends on the drill-down capabilities beyond general locations of people provided to employers.
In Canada Prime Minister Trudeau is introducing a universal payment plan to eradicate any robot replacement of jobs, and hopefully use it as a great way to cut duplication like Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan, and is to be developed so no Canadian will fall under the poverty level. No immediate need for tax increases, but in time there won't be a choice except an eventual tax increase. If our oil, and many other resources remain strong then enough revenues will be generated to pay for the program. The less dependence on America with regards to selling our non-renewable resources at world discount prices the better. America is way too unstable for Canada to rely on economically, so more deals with China's very stable economy is much needed. China has vision and we need to pay attention. China is totalitarian, but it's also the purest form of capitalism we have on earth. Human Rights must be recognized in China with practice on the governments behalf, but I'm sure Chinese government at present doesn't want human rights slowing down the waking giant. Trump could learn a lot from China if he fully understood the position of President. Personal gain and ego satisfying by this President is racking debt like a Titanic iceberg.
Industrial engineers developed the concept of optimized layouts for reduced cost and improved productivity 100 years ago. Gathering data will make it more precise, but seriously, it will not change our lives. Remote working or telepresence will be really important.
Just remember that different people work well differently, so their patterns may not all match up. Some people are the Deep-divers, some people are the Connect-across-ers and some people are the Optimizers helping the team do their best work. Those are different skills that have different looking work patterns.
Personal and sensitive data is what these big companies rely on to get people to spend and make them bigger and richer., ultimately they control peoples’ mind without even peoples’ knowledge most of the time.
Ha! Creepy or not, Inc’s editors sure got some smart and thoughtful people to read this article and then spend time either perusing the Quartz comments or writing one (obviously, me too). Ahh, the nonsense we spend time thinking about.
everytime I read about another optimization attempt I wonder about how we have lost so much faith in humanity. An optimized space does not been a good space. The pantheon was not an optimized space, but it is epic architecture. Why do we choose to limit ourselves to a world that can only be measured through what we can quantify through data. To do that is to miss what it means to be human. We are not machines, we need more ways to celebrate the human experience that cannot be measured.
This article is framing it wrong. It is useful for some businesses. Less useful for others. Creepy for some. Because the service exists doesn't mean its necessary for all.
Funny that this article is in a thread with another one about collecting data is a misleading project. What’s the point of that data if came with my CFO for a meeting and had 25 people on call with us... But great ambitions!
Data is the future. Wework is looking to dominate the workspace data game. Soft Bank’s backing is helping the company push itself into the future.
The biggest issue about security on the net is there isn't any because the internet was prematurely released on account of the 'mighty dollar'. Had the internet been thoroughly coded we wouldn't be in the whirlwind of unloyal people conducting business righteously as it's happening now. One thing gets said out of a man whom made X money and the story gets built around a lie which makes for good people to get caught up in the lie making 'cool-aid' out of orange juice when it all could have been ran so smoothly.
A bit creepy but maybe useful?
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