Impact of Wearables on the Workplace of the Future

January 13, 201711:11 am1280 views

While it might only seem like yesterday when Smartphones and tablets made their way into the workplaces, however today you can witness a sea change with many sporting fitness tracker when they exercise, or taking pictures from their smart glass, and even managing daily schedules using smart watches.

In some ways, wearable technology has taken over functions initially done by PC and smartphone. This has undoubtedly revolutionised the pace of our daily lives. Culling through informative sources, we hereby present an insightful read on the impact of wearables on the workplace of the future.

Despite this new breakthrough technology, wearables seem to own a secured spot in the lives of people. High market demand for wearable devices to track and measure, could be a good barometer to prove this notion.

In Asia Pacific alone, wearables do have a strong basic customer base which continues to grow rapidly, however at a much slower pace than its European or American counterparts. Wearables such as smartwatches and health fitness trackers still dominate the best-selling products commonly used by people. Statistics indicate a noteworthy increase in sales revenues from 3.7 million in 2014 to 11.6 million in 2016.

Based on a survey conducted by PwC, while health and wellbeing continues to remain the primary reason why people purchase wearables such as FitBit and Jawbone, also the growing social recognition of sporting wearables technology such as Google Glass and Apple Watch is predicted to be a game-changer in the workplace.

The same survey further found that 49 percent respondents believe, wearables will help improving efficiency and increasing productivity. So it is not surprising that 67 percent or 2 in 3 respondents want their company to pay for wearable technology to support their workings.

See: Japanese company replaces office workers with artificial intelligence

From an HR perspective, the use of wearables such as activity tracking devices could be an alternative for employee wellness initiative programs. Nowadays, since more and more employers are encouraging their employees to wear trackers for various objectives, one of them being to increase employee’s physical activity.

The logic is simple – Managers want their staff to get out and exercise more, as a part of healthy lifestyle. When employees are fit and energetic, they will be more eager to work, this in turn will increase productivity, morale, and work satisfaction.

Additionally, the sensors implanted in the tracker allows HR professionals to monitor employee’s heart rate, stress, and fatigue level. This feature is extremely beneficial to eliminate the risk of accidents caused by over exhaustion while working. For example, if a heavy equipment operator on duty is known to have high level of fatigue, it could be dangerous if he continues working on the site building for long hours. Therefore, when employers are informed beforehand through use of wearable devices such as tracker, they could prevent worst-case scenarios by delegating the task to someone fit and healthy, while allowing the former to rest before resuming work.

With all these advantages, there accompanies downside to use of wearables in the workplace as well. Two major issues include data security and privacy breach. Wearables such as fitness tracker can record unlimited amounts of data, to include personal information and sensitive data which should not be accessed by just anyone.

Also leaders should pay careful attention to setting clear boundaries between public and private information that can be accessed by the company. Sporting trackers, employees can feel stalked or spied by the employers. Employers could also misuse the information obtained from wearable technology to track and monitor employee’s work excessively, which makes them tied and inflexible instead.

So the question remains, can the advantages of wearables outweigh its disadvantages? It depends on how the organisation can leverage on the efficiency of wearables, while fixing some of its foremost gaps. Leaders should also upgrade workplace policies to introduce data protection act that governs BYOD and use of wearables in the workplace. Also implementation and usage of wearables, in and out of the workplace should be monitored to maximise on efficiencies.

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