Holland’s biggest* department store is affectionately saluted in ‘The only thing I miss is Hema’** a book telling the stories of various Dutch expats around the world.
Now Hema (the Netherlands’ equivalent of Debenhams or Macy’s, I suppose) has introduced a system whereby employees who wish to report sick for duty must crawl from their beds, get their computer started up, log-in to a secure Hema website and answer up to 60 questions about their condition.
Apparently employee absence due to sickness has fallen by 50% since the poorly shop assistants were given the choice of undergoing this online operation or showing up to cough and wretch through their day at the cash register.
Although I shift uncomfortably in my chair at the thought of our beloved internet being used for extra control of people, as opposed to promoting their liberty, I predict certain useful applications of the Orwellian technology.
For example, Hema’s sickness questionnaire could be adapted into a Microsoft-style ‘help’ section. A little paper clip (wearing a white coat and with a stethoscope) could come tapping on the screen and say ‘It looks like you’re throwing up! Would you like some help?’
If NHS Direct could be brought into the partnership, and some powerful corporation found to sponsor the scheme (that is, put the workforce in a financial thumbscrew) we could have sick employees logging in and then being guided through medical procedures they need to perform on themselves to get fit for work and back to whatever coalface the economy needs them to be scraping at.
I am also developing some ideas for using the internet to help keeping track of our pupils. Our school is full of wonderful people and it hurts me personally if even one student or teacher cannot come into school.
* Or that might be Vroom en Dreesmann. Never mind.
**= ‘Ik mis alleen de Hema’