The Quantified Worker
Dr Phoebe V Moore is Professor of Management and the Futures of Work at the University of Essex Business School (Colchester, UK) and Senior Fellow at the International Labour Organization (UN, Geneva).
Moore is a globally recognised expert in digitalisation and the workplace. Her most recent book The Quantified Self in Precarity: Work, Technology and What Counts (Routledge 2019) is a ground-breaking piece, analysing the use of wearable tracking technologies in workplaces and the implications for human resources and working conditions. Moore is a policy advisor and commissioned author who works with several institutions on the integration of big data, artificial intelligence systems, and old and new technologies into workplaces and spaces, and the risks and benefits these pose for working people. This includes, in the European Union, the European Safety and Health Agency and the European Parliament; and internationally, the International Labour Organization and the OECD. Moore is currently a policy advisor for the Chartered Institute for Personnel Development (CIPD) Responsible Investment in Technology Project Advisory Group and has reported here on her recent European Parliament report:
Some of my speaking engagements
Twitter handle: @phoebemoore
Phoebe V. Moore, Routledge 2018.
Humans are accustomed to being tool bearers, but what happens when machines become tool bearers, calculating human labour via the use of big data and people analytics by metrics?
The Quantified Self in Precarity highlights how, whether it be in insecure ‘gig’ work or office work, such digitalisation is not an inevitable process – nor is it one that necessarily improves working conditions. Indeed, through unique research and empirical data, Moore demonstrates how workplace quantification leads to high turnover rates, workplace rationalisation and worker stress and anxiety, with these issues linked to increased rates of subjective and objective precarity.
Scientific management asked us to be efficient. Now, we are asked to be agile. But what does this mean for the everyday lives we lead? With a fresh perspective on how technology and the use of technology for management and self-management changes the ‘quantified’, precarious workplace today, The Quantified Self in Precarity will appeal to undergraduate and postgraduate students interested in fields such as Science and Technology, Organisational Management, Sociology and Politics.
Financial Times, 30th March, 2020, Andrew Hill and Emma Jacobs
I spoke to Emma about my research on the workplace and technology. I note that digitalisation has entered the workplace like notother time in the contemporary Covid-19 moment.
The consequences of full-scale shifts in many industries to ‘home working’, which actually means in most cases, ‘online working’, are to be seen. However, as my research indicates, as tracking and monitoring of workers and work itself increasingly shifts online, it becomes ever more important to pay attention to exactly what work and what aspects of work are measured, how work is measured and what is at stake for those who are measured.
Kevin Sneader, global managing partner of McKinsey, did not expect to spend part of this year on the consulting firm’s “Dog Blog” forum, where staff are alleviating the stress of enforced remote working by showing off their pets online… In Germany, clusters of parents working for Unilever, the consumer products group, have set up a virtual childcare system, where one of the group tends to the others’ children online while the rest get on with their work. TED, the organiser of conferences and webcasts, has set up a virtual space where staff can work “alongside” each other — “separately, but not alone” — in an effort to replicate working in a coffee shop or a shared office. TED suggests breaking for five minutes every hour for activities such as “jumping jacks or push-ups” or “1-minute pep talks”.
This is part of a new daily series enabling you to interact with FT writers and editors on what to read, watch, eat and drink under lockdown — and how to tackle your garden, home and finances ..Others, like Headspace, the mindfulness app, recognise that normal outputs will have to be altered. Rich Pierson, the CEO, says, “if you’ve suddenly got children at home with you all day, it’s going to be extremely difficult to maintain the same level of productivity as you had going into the office all day . . . [we’ve adjusted] our expectations around productivity”. The lockdown has made some types of interaction more efficient. The HR director at a law firm says annual pay conversations have been easier as everyone can assemble on a call, rather than having to accommodate different work patterns. .. Matt Dean, co-founder of Byrne Dean, a workplace consultancy that works with financial services and law firms, says this is a big opportunity for leaders to show their human side. “Everyone is facing the same foe, there is something obvious and pressing that we can connect on and be human with each other about.” He suspects, however, that some of the more “emotionally repressed” partners at law firms might struggle to step up. Such a quick shift from the office to home raises concerns about where an employer’s responsibility to its workers becomes intrusive, says Phoebe Moore, associate professor of political economy and technology at Leicester University. Technology is a “great avenue for surveillance. In the home working environment it starts at the beginning when you open your laptop. As you’re managed remotely, the employer can work out when you start. Once these enter the home, the private-public workspace collapses”.
I was the invited expert with knowledge about women working in STEM and ICT, to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’s Europe Regional Consultation: Women’s Human Rights in the changing world of Work consultation, convened by the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice, on the occasion of its 25th session, Geneva, 13 June 2019 10:00am – 18:00pm. This is my talk.
How is technological change impacting on women’s experiences of work? (e.g. increasing access to ICTs, robotics, machine learning, automation)
Find links to my slides and ILO ACTRAV commissioned report here
This report was commissioned by ILO ACTRAV to inform discussions for a new Labour Standard at the International Labour Conference 2019. The new Standard, now in place, focusses on the risks of violence and harassment against workers, in both traditional and digitalized workplaces.
I also regularly contribute to the International Journal of Labour Research, ACTRAV’s international journal. (See more information about my work with the ILO below.)
Here are some of the points I made:
Dr Phoebe V Moore’s report was commissioned by the European Union Agency for Safety and Health at Work EU-OSHA to write the report ‘OSH and the Future of Work: Benefits & Risks of Artificial Intelligence tools in workplaces’.
Dr Moore launched this new report at the EU-OSHA headquarters in Bilbao, Spain, 14th February, 2019.
Phoebe V Moore, Social Europe blog.
Control panels are the obvious place to run operations centrally. The control rooms of Star Trek’s fantastical Enterprise (and the hub of the actual Project Cybersyn under Chile’s radical president Salvador Allende) in the 1960s and 70s were however operated by humans with relatively primitive technologies.
Today, much of the work of the people we imagined in these rooms—the bouffanted women in silver A-line dresses and men in blue boiler suits pushing buttons to operate the manoeuvres of galactical imperialism—is done by computers. But what will happen when the proverbial windows looking out to the galaxies only display a cadre of robots and the control panels’ blinking lights are the only reflective glimmer?……
Her work was cited in the ILO ACTRAV report that was published after this expert meeting ACTRAV (2017) on page 109, where Moore’s research for the BA/Leverhulme project is used in a case study. ACTRAV is the Labour Bureau of the ILO and this report feeds into discussions for a new labour standard or convention, entitled ‘Violence and Harrassment Against Women and Men in the World of Work: Trade Union Perspectives and Action’.
Dr Moore’s article, ‘The psycho-social impacts of technological change in contemporary workplaces and trade union responses’, co-authored with Pav Akhtar, has been published in the ILO ACTRAV’s International Journal of Labour Research on a special issue on this topic.
Dr Moore was commissioned to write a large discussion paper entitled The Threat of Physical and Psychosocial Violence in the World of Digitalized Work, which highlights the ways in which new technologies are being used for management purposes in the workplace today as professional environment that comprises factories, streets but also homes. This includes the ’gig economy’, automation practices and algorithmic management, people analytics, computerisation, wearable tracking. ACTRAV commissioned Dr Moore to carry out this research because of her recognized expertise in this field.
The paper is part of a research package prepared under the auspices of ACTRAV ahead of the first discussion of a proposed labour standard on “Ending violence and harassment towards women and men in the world of work” at the ILO’s International Labour Conference in June 2018.
(Companies) should be wary of wading in too deep without limits or safeguards — of “surrendering power to numbers”, as Leicester University academic Phoebe Moore puts it. That is not just because of the nascent threats from regulators or trade unions. It is also because of what they might lose: the subtle flexibility of human judgment; decisions tempered by empathy or common sense; the simple ability to sort a problem out by sitting down across a table and talking about it. Companies remove the “human” from human resources at their peril.
“People go into higher education not just for the teaching part – they do it because they’re researchers; because they are socially active,” says Phoebe Moore, professor of political economy and technology at the University of Leicester, where David Willetts who oversaw the implementation of the Browne Review in 2010 has just been made chancellor. “If you’re talking about technology and STEM subjects, these people are genuinely creating the future.”
Transparency is crucial in forming [a wearables in workplace] strategy’, says Phoebe Moore, an academic who works with multinational companies and unions to devise codes of conduct about their data gathering practices. She adds that often workers do not realise the extent to which they are being observed, from their emails being read to voice and motion technology being used to analyse how great a contribution they make in meetings. Ms Moore recommends that employees are involved in the process of formulating a data policy and that the guidelines are very clear in stating why data are captured and what they are used for. “Communication [with staff] is very important,” she says. “Who owns the data? Who stores it? Can it be sold?”
Businesses are looking to technology to measure workers’ activities, creating a more productive and efficient workforce, says Dr. Phoebe Moore, a senior lecturer at Middlesex University in London who has done extensive research on the subject.
The growing initiative, called the “quantified self at work” or the “quantified workplace,” comes in many forms, Moore says. In some cases, businesses equip employees with wearable sensors that track their movements and speech patterns. Through data analysis, employers then look for trends and make adjustments aimed at boosting performance — perhaps, by redesigning office spaces to encourage communication and collaboration.
In other instances, companies use gamified, goal-setting apps, which provide a central dashboard for managers and employees to track and discuss their progress.
According to Moore, one popular way for businesses to implement the quantified workplace is through corporate wellness programs that outfit workers with fitness trackers, measuring the distance they walk each day.
…balance is just what companies should strive for when pursuing the quantified workplace, Moore says: “The ideal scenario is one that benefits both the workers and the people who run the company.
2020 The Quantified Worker and Artificial Intelligence, on Prof Peter Bloom’s podcast series.
2018 AI and the Future of Work, NESTA The Innovation Foundation
2017 ‘The Algorithmic Self at Work’, NUI Galway ‘Algocracy and the Transhumanist Project’ talk
2016 ‘The Quantified Self at Work’, Cambridge University CRASSH Ethics of Big Data invited research seminar talk
2015-18 Executive Board Critical Political Economy Research Network (CPERN). Elected member.
2014-15 Executive Board British International Studies Association. Elected member.
2011-14 Convenor for International Political Economy Group Dr Moore created a new website and was responsible for the managing and updating, budget, organised several events and helped with events organised by members, managed the email list and mentored junior researchers.
Book Prize Judge: Dr Moore was the judge on the IPEG Book Prize panel (2011 – 2014)
IPEG Discussion Paper Series: Phoebe was the Editor for this series (2007 – 2011)
Convenor for the Conference of Socialist Economists (CSE) South Group
Work in the Global Economy Editorial Board 2021
Capital & Class Senior Editor. Editorial board member since 2006
Globalizations Editorial Board member since 2013
ESRC Peer Review College member since 2012
Advisory and consultancy roles:
Dr Moore has provided paid consultancy for businesses interested in her research on the quantified self at work
Dr Moore is on the steering committee for a group organised by the Institution for Engineering and Technology that is looking at creating a code of conduct for Industrie 4.0 business strategy (2016+)
Dr Moore worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Training for the Trainers programmes in Ankara and Sarajevo presenting work on employability and UK education policy (2008 – 2009)
Phoebe presented research to the Korea Research Institute of the Korean Ministry of Labour on employability and UK education policy (2009)
Recent panel/stream organisation
2017 Organising Team IIPPE/CPERN as the CPERN Executive Board member and network liaison
2016 Section Co-Chair ‘Mapping Alternative Routes out of Capitalism’. International Initiatives in Political Economy, Lisbon (with Dr David Bailey)
2016 Symposium ‘Surveillance at Work’, International Labour Process Conference, Berlin (gained book contract with Dynamics of Virtual Work series edited by Prof Ursula Huws and Prof Rosalind Gill)
2011-14 IPEG Convenor. Dr Moore organised and helped colleagues organise several workshops and conferences in this role