Does Wearable Technology Have a Place in the Digital Workplace?
Wearable technology is not new in the workplace. Numerous brands have used wearable devices for practical and wellness initiatives in the past, and many used the idea during the pandemic for tracing and social distancing purposes.
Others, like Walmart, use smartphones to help workers plan their work and overcome challenges.
There are many reasons why a company would want to integrate wearable technology to the employee experience strategy, including the fact that employees seem to be enjoying the concept (more on that below). But is it right for your brand?
Here are some considerations.
US Consumers Embrace Wearable Technology
Wearable devices is a fast-growing market. The pandemic gave it a massive boost, and today more than one in five Americans use fitness trackers or smartwatches daily.
One of the main factors slowing its adoption is the price tag. Pew research has shown that household income is a primary factor in determining who is using wearable technology. Those earning more than $75,000 a year are considered more likely to use wearable technology. The research, however, did not find that age, gender or ethnicity had much impact on whether or not a person uses the technology.
All of this helps demonstrate that not only is there great interest in the technology, but also that removing the biggest barrier to entry (i.e., price) can fuel the market's growth and adoption rate even faster. In other words, employers considering integrating wearable devices to their workforce management strategy don't need to overthink whether employees will find the idea interesting.
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Wearable Technology to Support Wellbeing
Digital workers are prone to sitting in front of a computer for long periods, whether they are working in or away from the office.
While some workers have reported that working from home is better for their wellbeing, with greater opportunities to take breaks, make time for walks and outings, or even just move from desk to couch to table to restaurant, for instance, there remains some challenges to facing a computer screen for the better part of the day.
According to the employees participating in RSPH's research, some of the common challenges with the digital workplace include:
- Feeling socially disconnected (67%)
- Exercising less (46%)
- Developing musculoskeletal problems (39%)
- Experiencing disturbed sleep (37%)
The good news is wearable technology can help in many ways with these challenges.
For instance, employees can use wearable devices to track their physical activity during the day and receive notifications for when they need to get up, stretch and move. They can also use the devices to take mental breaks, even if that means taking 2-3 minutes to get a glass of water or a cup of team to reduce their stress level.
The technology is also a great way to monitor and improve posture to prevent musculoskeletal problems. "I have a lower back issue, and the reminders to stand up and walk around for a few minutes in between meetings have helped keep me active," said Shane Hampson, senior SEO manager at Waco, Texas-based Neighborly.
There's an assumption that wearable technology is irrelevant to the workplace, but employers looking to invest in wellness and wellbeing programs may look to the devices to potentially support their efforts.
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Other Uses of Wearable Technology
The productivity paranoia is real among employers reluctant to embrace remote work. Wearable technology can help.
For instance, wearables can be programmed to send reminders of approaching deadlines or upcoming client meetings. This capability can help employees keep up to date on priorities when working remotely.
Wearable technology can also improve companies' ability to act in real time on data. As values are being monitoring, the technology can nudge an individual when it reaches a certain trigger and a decision or action must be made.
It can also keep employees informed by providing them with access to RSS feeds, news websites and other online sources of information, said Census CEO Boris Jabes, and be used to access specific building areas.
Overall, Yanis Mellata, co-founder and CEO of Kosy, said wearable gadgets improve efficiency by making it easier for workers to execute their tasks, regardless of their physical location.
Related Article: Bridging the Productivity Paranoia Gap
One of the biggest challenges for wearable technology — and most technology for that matter — is privacy. This may be particularly apparent when an employer provides wearable devices to employees to track activities like sitting and standing.
Protecting employees' privacy is fundamental for employers, and even more so when the technology enables them to monitor not just the work being accomplished but also their location, their movements and even their food consumption.
Some employees may not want to share this information with their employers, and employers will have to abide by the constraints of the law on that front. So, organizations seeking to implement wearables for all the benefits they have to offer should first ensure they are implementing processes and procedures that protect the data, the company and the employee in accordance with current rules and regulations — local and abroad.