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The impact of wearables in the workplace

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If designed appropriately, a wearable policy can help employers have greater engagement from staff, and greater understanding about the health of employees

Similar to the impact of IoT on machines, can wearables improve productivity in the workplace? While this is still a nascent trend, there is already evidence that wearable technology will help in improving safety, productivity and collaboration. A case in point is the Tata Group, which has created a safety wearable watch for the factory floor worker that will display important information about the worker’s vital signs such as body temperature, pulse rate or excessive gas in the environment, which can be harmful to the health of the worker.

While Tata has developed a wearable device for factory floor workers, the same concept can be used in every workplace with customization. For example, Bank of America placed wearable sensors in the ID badge of its call center employees to measure how its employees interacted socially. The bank analyzed the data which led to a surprising finding. The more the employees interacted, the better was their productivity. The bank then introduced a small coffee break as part of the daily routine. The result – productivity improved by more than 10 ten percent.

Besides productivity, wearables can be used to improve the health of employees, and track the stress levels of people. This can have a long term effect, as companies can save money by having more productive employees, and even reduce cost of providing medical healthcare. A case in point is Autodesk, which distributed Fitbit units to its staff to encourage a healthier lifestyle.

Wearables are predicted to have a huge impact, if one looks at statistics provided by independent research agencies. Gartner predicts that by 2018, two million employees will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment. This is applicable for people employed in jobs that can be physically demanding. Similarly, researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London, found out that employee productivity was boosted by 8.5%, while job satisfaction was boosted by 3.5%, by using wearables.

That said, it is important that employees see wearables as a tool that enhances their productivity, and not as a tool that intrudes on their privacy. Employers too have to ensure that they use data in an aggregate form for analysis, and not track individual patterns.

If designed appropriately, a wearable policy can help employers have greater engagement from staff, and greater understanding about the health of employees. Workplace policies can then be redesigned, which can only lead to greater productivity.


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