Ross: Tracking employees’ vital signs at work via privacy pods, what could go wrong?

Apr 1, 2024, 6:12 AM

privacy pods...

Rendering of a privacy pod in an office space and how it would function. (Photo courtesy of Hush Office)

(Photo courtesy of Hush Office)

I saw a Bloomberg story about the latest innovation to reduce your stress level at work: Privacy pods.

“Employees returning to offices have flocked to phone booth-like privacy pods to make phone calls or just get a bit of quiet,” the story read.

Yes, employees – we’re sticking with the open office that all of you hate, but now, we will let you hide in privacy pods when you’re tired of overhearing everybody else’s personal business.

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According to Bloomberg, these privacy pods are among the fastest-growing segments in the office furniture market. And they are so popular that one privacy pod-maker came up with an even better idea — to embed the privacy pods with sensors that can track the pulse and breathing of the employee in the pod to detect early signs of stress as a way of preventing burnout and reducing office turnover.

The sensors are actually embedded in the seat of the pod so that while you’re enjoying your complete privacy, your butt is sharing your vital signs! Now that is progress. Nothing says privacy like a privacy pod that listens to your butt. I bet many of you are feeling more relaxed already just knowing that this technology exists.

However, the more immediate question is: How do we deal with stress while we’re waiting for our new pods to be installed?

That gave me an idea. I was thinking that, as a stopgap, bosses could use highly sophisticated sensing devices called “ears” which are pre-installed at birth, and which can sense when employees say things such as “this job is driving me nuts.”

So, by listening to employees, a boss could then figure out who needs help.

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Now I don’t want to get in the way of progress — and I’m the first to admit that IF the human butt can make phone calls, why not let it share your heart rate with the world? – but the idea that something called a “privacy pod” would be collecting data from your rear end is yet another good reason to stand at your desk.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Tracking employees’ vital signs at work via privacy pods, what could go wrong?