Wearables at Work: Can Wearable Tech Improve Job Performance?

2nd June 2015

Wearable technology is beginning to make waves in a range of industries and while it is a relatively new medium, the potential benefits of workplace wearables are already being considered. We take a look at how these innovations could be implemented in the office.

Hi-tech Glasses

Smart glasses and augmented reality headsets are already one of the most marketable types of wearable tech, with companies like Google, who released the unsuccessful Google Glass, Oculus and HTC already investing a lot of time into virtual reality technology. While there are obvious developments to be made, smart glasses could work well in a range of workplaces.
The benefits for smart glasses in the workplace include:
• Unified communication source: Staff have the opportunity to be present on the same plaftorm company-wide and converse with anyone in the business from the comfort of their desk. Conversations could also be recorded, making them virtual meetings with recorded minutes.
• Encourage workplace collaboration: If a member of staff wants to discuss a work issue with a colleague, they can do it quickly even more simply – and visually - than with current smartphone technology.

The cons of smart glasses are:

• Harder to switch off: Some employees may find it hard to switch off at the end of the day and differentiate between work hours and personal time if they are wearing their work tech on their person.

• Possibility of misuse: Smart glasses in the office could be misused as it may be hard for managers to know whether they are only being used for work!

Fitness Trackers

Fitness trackers like FitBit have taken the world by storm, giving athletically-minded people, or those just trying to build a healthier lifestyle the opportunity to track their heart rate, blood pressure and calories burned. This type of wearable could be used in the workplace to help promote a healthier environment, some pros include:

• Managers can identify stress points: Management can use fitness tracking data to identify which areas of the working day are causing the most stress by looking at employee heart rates. Not just that, but they can also distinguish when employees get tired and disengaged, thereby improving energy levels and morale.

• Employees feel better: The most important part of using fitness trackers at work is that employees feel their health is a priority to their employers, giving them permission to concern themselves with improving their health for the benefit of the job.

Although the potential for fitness trackers at work seems overwhelmingly positive, there are a couple of downsides:

• Employees may feel lack of privacy: With management being privvy to what used to be personal data, employees may feel as though they are being monitored to an unnecessary degree which can breed paranoia.

• Unheallthy employees could feel singled out: Those who struggle with maintaining a healthy lifestyle may feel unnecessary pressure to improve in order to be considered healthy enough to perform their job, which can lead to negative pressure and difficulty fitting in.

Smart Watches

With the release of the Apple iWatch, businesses can implement a whole new type of communication, one which is right there on an employee’s wrist. This gives companies a new way to communicate and a sense of immediacy which can allow workers to notice and solve problems quickly and have a wealth of knowledge in front of them at all times. Workplace smart watch advantages are:

• Immediate contact at all times: Workers can see emails, messages and calls from wherever they are, even during meetings. Employees can also take notes and transcribe messages without needing to bring extra tech to every meeting.

• Promotes tech-savviness: Employees who use smart watches are more likely to be able to embrace other new types of tech. Training employes in the latest mediums gives them a better knowledge of the ever-changing world of technology and decreases the fear which can surround new platforms.

In terms of the negatives, it is the work/life balance which comes into question again:

• Employees may lack distinction between work and home: With the connection to work right there on their wrist, employees may feel obligated to have their smart watch connected at all times in order not to miss any work-related issues.

• Smart watches may distract from traditional communication: Although smart watches offer new types of communication, they could distract from more traditional and personal forms of dicussion which may lead to decreased interpersonal skills.

Wearable technology in the workplace is something that many businesses cannot avoid, and nor should they, as new tech offers new ways of building businesses and work relationships. As with any advancement, it is the way it is implemented which will decide how the benefits are reaped.

"Employees may feel lack of privacy: With management being privvy to what used to be personal data, employees may feel as though they are being monitored to an unnecessary degree which can breed paranoia."