When you think about wearable technology, do you think about smart watches and getting those daily steps in? Wearable devices have a multitude of capabilities, including but not limited to providing navigation, acting as a communication device, and (as many of us know) acting as a health and fitness tracker. We’ve accepted the use of wearable technology in our personal lives. But using wearables, and the data they provide, has become a trend in the workplace as well. A 2015 Robert Half Technology study shows that 81% of the CIO’s surveyed believe that wearables will eventually be commonplace in the workplace.
So, how and why are they being used in companies now? Productivity, safety, and overall employee health are the most common reasons.
Productivity: The use of wearables can enhance worker productivity. Devices can help monitor and report employee stress. When an organization recognizes a period of stress, they can address it before it results in employee burnout. Smart glasses, like Google Glass, can allow workers to record and access data more efficiently. There are even manufacturing industries who have begun using exoskeleton vests that have been shown to help alleviate worker fatigue and injury.
Safety: In the safety realm, wearables include “smart” personal equipment. There is technology that are able to monitor a worker’s vital signs in order to determine if they are too tired to perform safely and effectively. Hard hats can be equipped with sensors to alert users to the presence of danger, whether that be a physical obstacle or the presence of toxic gasses. When data is collected and analyzed, companies can make the changes necessary to provide a safer work environment.
Preventative care and reduced health care costs: A recent headline claiming “sitting is the new smoking” made global news and sparked interest in employees setting up notifications about when to take breaks and meals rather than sit for too long at their desks. By encouraging a healthier lifestyle, employers hope that reduced healthcare costs will follow. Carewise Health recently offered a wellness program to clients. Workers were given a Fitbit to use. Carewise found that those participants who were actively engaged in the program had increased healthcare costs of only .7% each year, compared to a 24% rise in costs of those not engaged in the program. Also, using the data from wearable devices can help organizations negotiate better rates from insurance providers.
As with any new technology implementation in the workplace, there will be challenges. Companies need to assess whether or not these technologies will better their business and how it will impact the organization as a whole. Because many wearable devices collect and report data, organizations need to be aware of the potential security risks, have a policy in place to address proper use and privacy issues, and listen to employee concerns regarding confidentiality of personal data.