Your boss just gave you a pretty wristband. It reveals what mood you're in

Is Moodbeam a demonstration of human sensitivity? Or a typical tech alternative to simple human communication?


So much feeling on your wrist.

Screenshot by ZDNet

I tell my boss what I'm feeling all the time. My boss tells me to shut up and get on with it.

That's because my boss is me and I'm both highly moody and highly intolerant.

You might think, though, that working from home doesn't make it so easy for bosses to judge the moods of their employees.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams have their joys and purposes, but the screen is still a barrier, as well as a facilitator.

So some bosses are, apparently, turning to Moodbeams. Sadly, these aren't laser pulses sent magically from an employer's cranium into an employee's.

Instead, the Moodbeam is a wristband, given to you by your boss, that allows you to communicate your feelings instantly.

The creators explain that it "allows you to capture your feelings, at the touch of a button." Feelings are so elusive, you see. And button-touching is how we do most things these days.

Moodbeam Central adds that this is a joy for bosses too because it means "measuring the happiness of your people and teams every day."

I find myself measuring my worries.

Perhaps I'm still a little jaded after discovering just how much of employees' activity Microsoft Teams measures on a daily basis. I worry, though, that giving your employees a pretty wristband isn't the first secret to emotionally intelligent management.

Of course, employees aren't forced to wear these things. Looking at the Moodbeam, I fear it would clash with my eyebrows, my T-shirts, and my home décor. 

The idea, though, is that you press the yellow button on the band when you're happy and the blue one when you're not. Any time. All the time, if you like.

Meanwhile, your boss is sitting there watching the colorful patterns emerge. It gives an entirely new meaning to witnessing the blue screen of death.

Moodbeam's co-founder, Christina Colmer McHugh, explained it like this to the BBC: "Businesses are trying to get on top of staying connected with staff working from home. Here they can ask 500 members: 'You OK?' without picking up the phone."

I can see that. However, I'm not sure it's such a pretty picture. Doesn't it encourage employees to, well, express their feelings a little too readily, a little too often, and perhaps, importantly, a little too insincerely?

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More than one employee will surely be tempted to express their unbridled happiness at least once a day. Or once an hour. And think of the manager's psyche, as they watch their employees kvetch in real time and really bright colors.

Worse, the wristband gives you automated prompts. Isn't that like getting 20 emails a day beginning: "Hi! Hope you're well"?

Then there are the inevitable tech-world attempts at quantifying everything. "Share and compare Moodbeam scores across the organization," whispers the company.

It's also true, though, that some managers are emotional dolts. They really, really need to be told when their charges are losing emotional charge. Moreover, some people aren't so good at complaining face to face, so a little button might be a good way for them to confess their misery.

I wanted to give the Moodbeamers the benefit of human kindness, but then I saw a Moodbeam YouTube video.

The woman running the Zoom meeting holds up her banded wrist and cheerily beams: "Everyone wearing their Moodbeams?"

I'd rather be wearing a turquoise tutu. And, wait, this looks remarkably compulsory, doesn't it?

I can only leave you with one final disturbing thought. You'll be wondering if your feelings will be personally identifiable or, to use the upliftingly obfuscatory term, anonymized.

Colmer McHugh told the BBC: "We moved away from anonymous to identifiable data after trials found that people do want to be identified."

Does that make you miserable?