What would happen if companies had access to their employees’ health data?

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    Companies are increasingly concerned about the health of their employees. Therefore, some use digital tools to ensure their well-being at work. But some are concerned about the abuses this could cause.

    Finnish company Framery Oy markets soundproof booths that allow employees to make calls or participate in video conference meetings away from the hustle and bustle of open space. But Framery Oy engineers have found an innovative way to differentiate these closed spaces from others on the market. They equipped the cabin seats with sensory sensors that monitor the vital signs (breathing, heart rate, etc.) of those who use them.

    Soundproof cabins with many benefits…

    These new soundproof booths are not yet on the market, according to Bloomberg. But Framery Oy managers are convinced of the benefits that companies could obtain from it. “The idea of ​​being able to have an early warning signal about the climate prevailing in an organization is quite interesting. Companies only conduct employee engagement surveys twice a year. What if we could alert them sooner?“Samu Hällfors, CEO and co-founder of Framery, told the news site.

    The idea seems appealing at a time when employee mental health is a major concern. Stress, anxiety, depression, exhaustion… Psychological problems currently affect 48% of workers in France, of which 17% at a very high rate, according to the latest Empreinte Humaine barometer published by OpinionWay. Despite the magnitude of the phenomenon, workers believe that the measures adopted by companies to prevent psychosocial risks are not enough.

    A violation of privacy?

    Therefore, we might expect them to be satisfied if their employer monitored their mental health. However, specialists are concerned about how they would use their employees’ personal data. “It’s one thing to share your heartbeat with your doctor, but it’s a violation of privacy if your workplace knows about it. I don’t see how this won’t end up having an impact on an individual level.“Kirsten Martin, a professor of technology ethics at the University of Notre Dame, told Bloomberg.

    In fact, aren’t companies likely to be more hesitant to grant a promotion or salary increase to an employee who is experiencing psychological difficulties? Will you collect your employees’ health data to ensure their well-being or to make them more efficient at work? And, above all, how will they react if one of them refuses to allow their superiors access to their medical data?

    Special legal protection

    For now, all these questions remain unanswered. But they pose the risk of corporate intrusion into employee privacy. Because, if the company must ensure the good health of its employees, it cannot monitor it as it sees fit. During the Covid crisis, the CNIL recalled that “Data relating to a person’s health status are, in fact, subject to very specific legal protection.“and that they”In principle, the employer is prohibited from prosecuting them.“.

    French companies will therefore run the risk of not being able to install Framery Oy’s new cabins when they hit the market, but companies in the rest of the world will be able to do so. However, they will have to question the benefits they will obtain from it and, above all, ensure that they do not invade the personal lives of employees. It is up to them to listen so that their employees feel comfortable enough to come to them in case of psychological difficulties.

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