I am going to hold my hands up and say I’m pretty obsessed with Screen Time. I have even got to the point where I’m looking at how much time I’m spending on Screen Time on Screen Time. #sendhelp
For those with way more exciting lives than me, Screen Time might’ve passed you by unnoticed. Allow me to explain... It’s Apple’s attempt to help you cure your iPhone addiction. It shows you how long you spend on your phone every day, by app or category, how many notifications you get, how many times you pick up your phone (eek) and then allows you to set usage limits. It can even black out certain apps on request at specific times to help you cut back. Healthy stuff.
Everyone seems to be jumping on board with tracking, especially since wearables came into the picture making it easier than ever – whether it’s automated like Screen Time, or requires input like leading fitness app MyFitnessPal. In our personal lives we’re tracking health, wealth, fitness and food. Meanwhile, tracking at work is being met with uncertainty, fear and even outrage. When The Daily Telegraph introduced sensors in 2016 to monitor space usage in its offices, with the goal of reducing its real estate footprint and lowering costs, it was forced to remove them a day later due to widespread unrest among the staff, who “resisted Big Brother-style surveillance in the newsroom.”
In light of this contrast, I decided to take some of the leading personal-use tracking apps and make up some work-life equivalents, to see if it relieves the Big Brother burden a bit...
MyFitnessPal ... MyOfficePal
MyFitnessPal from Under Armour is pretty straightforward – it tracks food and exercise to help you achieve your lifestyle goals. You plug in what you eat/ what sport you did but it also connects to other apps like ‘Health’ for your daily steps so some of it is automated.
The MyOfficePal tracks your skills and activity goals and shows you that ‘you are what you... learn’. This app allows you to track the learning courses you take and the activities that you carry out day to day, as well as your effectiveness at completing these activities. It shows the impact of training on your ability to carry out your daily tasks.
Moodkit ... ControlMyEmotions
Moodkit is an app that allows you to track your emotional state day-to-day. It helps you keep a check on unhealthy thinking and promote higher wellbeing by becoming more aware of your individual stressors.
ControlMyEmotions tracks your emotional response to work activities, environments and colleagues by monitoring peaks in stress and encouraging you to log any external cause for the peak. The app will analyse the data and make recommendations for better working practices and communication tools to help you have a happier, healthier day at work.
Screen Time ... WorkTime
Screen Time is the best thing ever. (I’ve already explained what it does – pay attention).
WorkTime is a straightforward app that monitors what you do on your work computer day to day. It allows you to block certain tools, e.g. email, for specific periods throughout the day to allow you to concentrate deeply on a specific task.
The thing is, this isn’t ground breaking stuff. The ability to do all of this exists – obviously, because it’s being used by millions of people in their personal lives. There is a huge amount of benefit to the worker from becoming more self-aware at work. Just as there is in our personal lives with tracking apps.
One review reads: “MyFitnessPal gave me a wakeup call to the way I was eating and made things clear that I needed to change.” For the fictitious MyOfficePal, one could just as easily read: “MyOfficePal made me realise that the trainings I was doing weren’t helping me achieve my career goals. Now I’ve got my development back on track and I’m confident that my learning is helping me get the job I really want.”
There’s plenty of research to prove that tapping into employee data can help organisations predict the risk of burnout. This could lead to a much-needed reduction in work-related ill-health. Today, the average worker spends 30 days at work underperforming due to ill health – clearly there’s a problem that needs to be solved.
It’s all about perception. As soon as the control is taken out of our hands and it’s our employers monitoring us we don’t like it. We become sceptical and we become blind to the benefit to the individual. There’s a clear onus on employers to make the benefits of workforce monitoring clear to workers. But there’s also a shift in mindset needed from each employee. Data already drives hundreds of our day-to-day decisions (which route should I take to work?, which date should I go on?, which film should I watch?) and overall the sentiment is we’re living in fantastic times.
Let’s open up to the idea of data helping us find the best ways of working. We’re due an overhaul in the way we get to work – for the sake of our health, productivity and work-life balance. Becoming more self-aware of our activities at work and using insights from this data to ensure we’re working effectively has got to be a good thing.
I’m addicted to Screen Time today. Let’s see if I’m addicted to WorkTime tomorrow.
I’ve recently wrapped up a piece of research on the use of employee data to transform the way we get to work. Read on here...