The smart office chair: The ‘spy’ at work?


Smart offices will constantly monitor employees, capture data and determine how productive the workforce is. 

Whether robots completely take over the workplace or not, organisations will soon turn humans into robots, because technology will allow them to do so.

This is not an overstatement! Capturing data for every moment that an employee spends in the workspace can equate humans with robots.

Smart office is the next big thing, which will be able to capture data and translate how productive the workforce is. This implies employees will be under constant monitoring.

A chair developed by the American furniture manufacturing company, Herman Miller, ‘Live Aeron’, is the world’s first connected office chair. It not only captures ergonomic data on people’s posture when sitting, but also analyses and delivers an easy-to-follow plan for them to achieve their activity goals.

There are discreet sensors on the desk that are able to record space utilisation data, how long a worker spends at the desk, and the optimal height for the person using it—while sensors on the chair can detect and help correct posture.

These chairs are connected to a smart desk and Live OS, the digital platform with which it will be synced. It will capture when a person moves or stands. Now, for this furniture brand, the intention is to provide ergonomic advantages and create an environment to encourage health-positive behaviours.

Greg Bylsma, president, Herman Miller North America, says in an official communique, “The users benefit from an enhanced work experience and businesses benefit by better understanding the utilisation of their real-estate footprint.”

These workstations will allow companies to gather information on their employees’ working habits, such as the times at which workers are most productive, and, if working in desk-flexible environments, where in the office they prefer to sit or the places they tend to avoid.

These smart chairs are also able to tell when an individual is going to the printer or the restroom and when she/he is likely to sit down again upon returning. The trick is in the smart chair’s sensor, which measures the angle at which a seat is swivelled.

These smart desks and chairs will also be able to monitor and capture data on employees’ health and wellbeing. This can also mean a breach of privacy for workers.

However, on the positive side, organisations will be able to manage their employees well in the gig economy.

These live products are equipped with technology that is continuously connected to the cloud using a secure cellular network, independent of an organisation’s Wi-Fi. This implies that companies will be able to capture data even when people are working from home, provided they get the technology installed there.

Besides, for a company with many part-time employees who share desks or come in at different hours, this Live OS-equipped desk and chair will immediately self-adjust to match an employees’ pre-set preferences, once they’ve signed in.

The setups can also automatically log employees’ hours and also tell colleagues whether someone is in that day, that minute or not. It will also be able to capture valuable information, such as whether certain employees have logged into their desks for several days or not, or which global satellite office they are visiting.

Herman Miller’s tagline for the new furniture is very interesting — “Get to know your office as you’ve never known it before.” This simply means that bosses will now obtain a new layer of knowledge about their workers.

Companies are now looking at adding features, such as smart lamps and smart window shades to smart workstations. What next?


  1. This is scary. Am reminded of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times wherein a machine was pilot tested whether it could feed employees the ‘right’ quantity at the right time and wipe their mouths as well.
    Too much monitoring! Can only hope that technology adopted by companies will not seep in people’s bedrooms now.

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