What if Your Boss Tracked Your Sleep, Diet, and Exercise?

I wrote for Wired:

Inside most companies, the typical health and wellness program includes regular blood pressure checks, a list of fresh foods for the office fridge, and some sort of exercise guru who shows up every so often to tell people they should work out more. If you’re lucky, you might even get some coupons designed to encourage healthier eating — and cut company insurance costs.

But at Citizen — a Portland, Oregon company that designs mobile technology — things are a little different. Employees at the company are now uploading data on how much they exercise, what they eat, and how much they sleep to a central server, as part of an effort to determine whether healthy employees are actually happier and more productive. The ultimate aim is to explicitly show employees how they can improve their work through better personal habits.

This system is called C3PO, short for “Citizen Evolutionary Process Organism.”

“We didn’t think we’d stick with a normal corporate health and wellness program,” says Quinn Simpson, who helped develop the system. “We’re already data visualizers. We already do quantified self.”

Kickstarted by Wired’s Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly, the quantified self movement aims to glean more insight into our general well-being through statistics. Typically, this is a personal undertaking, but the same ideas are now moving into the business world. Chris Dancy, a director in the office of the chief technology officer at BMC Software, tracks his life in an effort to prove his worth to employers, and now Citizen is taking things even further.

Full Story: Wired Enterprise: What if Your Boss Tracked Your Sleep, Diet, and Exercise?

I think it would be pretty interesting to participate in something like this, but like many others I worry about what it would be like if there were either mandated or if there was just social pressure to participate. At the moment the Citizen folks are doing this mostly for fun, and as I should have made clear in the article, the only data they have is what you share. You could put completely false information into RunKeeper or a diet tracker.

But at companies like Whole Foods, which offers its employees discounts for having a lower body mass index, things can get Orwellian quick.

1 Comment

  1. If they were genuinely trying to make this into a useful study, the data would be anonymous rather than linked to specific employees, one would think? That would partially alleviate the privacy concerns and increase the likelihood that participants won’t simply game the system for benefits.

    (Unless the goal is to apply more control over employee habits and lifestyle, in which case anonymity would be completely the wrong way to do it.)

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