Three inevitable impacts of wearables in the workplace

The modern workplace has been invaded by tech trend after tech trend in recent years. Just a little over half a decade ago, it was Bring Your Own Device. Now, it’s wear your own device.

The wearable tech revolution that started with health and fitness tracking has spilled over to various other industries. Just recently, for instance, Adobe pointed out that wearables can potentially disrupt the travel industry. Meanwhile, the workplace is already experiencing what Adobe has predicted for travel.

Essential reading: Best fitness trackers and health gadgets you can buy today

Wearables are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, and they inevitably impact organizations and how they do business every day.


Complementing work-life balance for employees

In PwC’s Consumer Intelligence Series, the professional services firm explored “connected living in a wearable world,” delving into consumer insights, use trends, and impressions regarding wearable technology. Unsurprisingly, health and fitness remained the primary motivator respondents cited as the reason they use wearables.

This reasoning also had significant implications for how organizations delivered work-life balance to their employees.

PwC’s report recounted how a tech company offered employees a subsidy covering the cost of a smartwatch. The company’s employees can track their activity with the smartwatch and convert these into points, which can then be used to redeem merchandise or donate to charity.

It’s an ideal example of putting wearables to work to benefit both employer and employee. In the above case, the company translated the smartwatch investment into reduced costs for employee health care, time off taken for sick leaves, and even improved productivity. The employees, on the other hand, had more motivation and a better means to track their health and fitness while either rewarding themselves with merchandise or helping a charity.


Influencing, tracking and increasing productivity

The same PwC report also noted majority of respondents wanted wearable tech at work, and their primary motivation was to be more efficient. Companies can undeniably benefit from wearable tech – they can be used for tracking workforce movements and logging time, for instance.

Volkswagen put together an avant-garde application of wearable tech to drastically increase workforce productivity. In 2015, after a three-month pilot phase, they rolled out 3D smart glasses as standard equipment for factory workers at one of their plants. Through their glasses, shop-floor employees received all the information they needed in their field of vision, such as part numbers and storage locations.

Indeed, depending on the wearable in question and the work involved, there are multiple ways an organization can adopt the wearable tech trend to its benefit. Best of all, wearable tech — and the providers offering them to organizations as part of their business model — is cost inhibitive.

Now that the topic has drifted to cost, it’s time for the final, inevitable impact that workplace wearables will have on organizations today.


Companies will be requiring and paying for wearables!

As early as 2015, Gartner predicted that some companies will be requiring their employees to wear health and fitness tracking devices. Come 2018, according to Gartner, some two million employees will be outfitted with wearable tech as a requirement.

Of course, the research and advisory firm tempered its prediction by indicating that professionals with dangerous or physically demanding roles will comprise a majority of these two million employees. In other words, first responders, paramedics, and firefighters, among others — and that makes sense, since wearable tech can help monitor heart rates, respiration, and overall stress levels for the employees’ own safety. Gartner added that critical job roles — airline pilots, industrial workers, and political leaders, for example — would also benefit from wearable tech.

The PwC report on wearables indicated that not only do respondents want wearable tech in their workplace, but most of them (67%) expect their company to pay for the tech as well.

Now, extend this concept further and it’s plain to see the direction the trend is heading. For organizations, the advantages are obvious:

  • Track employee activities and complement time logging
  • Monitor stress levels and reduce healthcare costs
  • Complement work-life balance through policy implementations
  • Potentially increase productivity through augmenting current employee capabilities and improving efficiency

For employees, since the advantages are clear to see, wearables are well on their way to becoming standard issue, required and paid for by their organizations.

And all this started because consumers wanted to track how many steps they’ve taken. Indeed, all of this continues to be fueled mostly by the way wearables promote better lifestyles in general. The simple fact that wearables help promote healthier, better lifestyles is already enough reason for organizations to seriously consider how to incorporate wearables into their daily operations.

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Oliver Threlfall

Oliver Threlfall is the CEO of TechLoc, a provider of innovative assets and workforce management technology for businesses. Techloc asset tracking and business systems now has three international offices in the US, Canada and Australia and continues to roll out all over the globe. A Biology major at Deakin University and a born entrepreneur, Oliver also founded Steamatic, a leading cleaning and restoration firm servicing Australian businesses and families.

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