Today it seems like everywhere you turn someone is sporting the newest wearable technology. From apple watches to fitbits and beyond there are more people buying into the need for such technology. The PwC report, The Wearable Life: Connected Living in a Wearable World, stated: “By 2020, more than 75 million wearables will permeate the workplace, according to research firm Tractica. The adoption of wearable devices has more than doubled since PwC’s 2014 survey. 49% of the 1,000 survey respondents, all based in the U.S., own at least one device. This is up from 21% in 2014. Fitness devices are among the most popular, with 45% of respondents saying they own a fitness band. Other wearable devices, 27% have a smartwatch, 15% possess smart glasses, 14% have a smart video or photo device and 12% wear smart clothing.” This number is predicted to grow especially in the millennial generation.
How does this technology affect the workplace and how can businesses benefit from it?
Increase in Workplace efficiency
Wearables can help track an employee’s productivity, help with scheduling and even promote wellness, therefore, decreasing the number of employee sick days.
“49% of those surveyed saying that they believe wearable tech will increase workplace efficiency.” Companies have begun to encourage employees to wear fitness trackers as part of optional corporate wellness programs. Workers can share their hours of sleep or step counts with their employer or health-insurance provider, which can help the employer get preferential terms on employee insurance.
Many wearables can track productivity when programed with what activity the wearer may be doing. Being able to see the location of the wearer can allow one to know where the employee spends most of their time. It can also allow for easy location and quicker communication.
67% of consumers said that employers should pay for their device if data is used by the workplace. Despite this view, workers do have concerns with the use and abuse of tracking an employee’s every move. These devices all have location settings included along with their primary functions. Employers would have access to the whereabouts of their workers the entire time they are wearing them, which would keep your employees on track and allow a boss to know who isn’t doing their job, but it also impedes on certain privacy boundaries.
Some wearables also track vitals and would allow the employer access to personal health statics. This could influence a decision of who to promote in a high stress job, by going on their health statics versus their quality of work.
Then there is the legality issue of how to compare productivity of a healthy worker to one who has a disability. A company would have to define several standards to make sure they were with in compliance with the disability acts standards.
Overtime is also an aspect that can be measured as well. With the new laws for overtime pay an employee could use their device to show their overtime. While this may end up being a good way to track such things, it also opens up the door for those who would manipulate it.
Setting Up Positive Standards
For some, wearable technology is likened to 1984’s Big Brother so it is important to come up with clear standards. Once an employee can see the benefit of such things they will be more likely to accept it. Whether the company is using Fitbits to track personal health and productivity or using Google glasses to help an employee to multitask, the lines of privacy should be well known. Companies’ need to set up times and places where such technology is used or not allowed. For example having Google Glasses only in the office area and creating a tech free break room may help employees feel less tied down to the tech. Restricting use to a certain number of hours is another way to keeping the boundaries between work and private time.
I realize most the standards and boundaries I have discussed are more about limiting use, but the reason behind this is the easy addiction such technology can inspire. We only have to look at our cell phone for evidence of this. For those who introduce wearable technology into the workplace you have a responsibility to your employee to keep their health and mental well being in mind.
Fitness devices can be a wonderful way to help keep your employees healthy, but understanding what is ideal for one person can be too much or too little for another is imperative in having balanced expectations. Defining these standards will be a challenge so keeping the actual person in mind is key. Wearable technology may be a way to track statistics of a person, but it also will force you as the boss to understand the personal health and well being of each of your employees. It will actually make your understanding of your worker more personal.