Wearable technology started out as a means of tracking and monitoring personal health and fitness. From the simple pedometer through to the more advanced Fitbit-style models available, this phenomenon has exploded in the past couple of years – going from a personal gadget to becoming adopted in the workplace to boost employee productivity, health and well-being. So what benefits can you enjoy as both an employer and employee? We’ll discuss workplace benefits of wearable technology before taking a look at how varying sectors and industries can take advantage of this technology, and what to consider if you’re planning to introduce it to your office.
Top benefits of wearable technology
- Hands free
There’s no need to delve into your pocket or your bag to retrieve your smartphone or your laptop. With wearable technology, you can receive data on the go – so a mere glance at your wrist is all it takes to review what’s been sent to you. This can be really useful in a client meeting, speeding up the time it takes to locate any given document.
Investing in apps specifically designed for business use leads to more efficient working on an employer and employee level, boosting revenue and increasing revenue as a result. Such apps can be used to improve everyday business processes, such as transactions and stock control.
For employees working in high-risk roles, safety is always the number one priority. Where do wearables come in to safety? Some devices can be set up to monitor risks and alert the user of potential dangers before they happen.
- Operational efficiency
Improve the efficiency of your business’ operations and streamline logistics with the latest wearable gadgets. Distribution centres can make use of armband-tracking while handheld scanners with built-in GPS help employees to determine the fastest delivery route.
- Health monitoring
As we mentioned above, the majority of wearable devices are designed to allow the user to monitor and keep track of their health and fitness. Introducing such wearables into the office helps make employees aware of their personal physical and mental health via a combination of stress monitoring, heart rate monitors and sleep monitoring technology. As a result of this awareness, employees are encouraged to be proactive about improving their health, giving them improved motivation and boosting their productivity levels, as well as their health.
From an employer’s point of view, gathering anonymised health data on the company as a whole can help ensure more effective strategies regarding employee health are developed and implemented. After all, a healthy workforce reduces the number of sick days.
PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) found that sickness absence levels are higher in the UK than in Europe, the US, and the Asia-Pacific region. With such statistics, it’s easy to see why many employers are seeking to introduce health and fitness monitoring into the office.
In addition to benefitting from a reduction in the number of employee sick days, it’s been found that the healthier the workforce, the more productive. According to a report entitled ‘Healthy Work Challenges and Opportunities to 2030’, healthy employees are three times more productive than those in poor health.
The statistics – how employees view wearable technology
It’s easy to see the benefits of wearable technology in the workplace from an employer’s point of view – but what do employees think of this new technology?
In January 2015, PwC conducted a survey of 2,023 working adults in the UK. The results showed that over 50 per cent of respondents would be happy to wear a company smartwatch if it meant the data was used to improve their wellbeing at work. For example, a thorough analysis of how stress levels, working environment, and work hours impact their overall health, would be enough for many to happily adopt workplace wearables. Others said they would wear a fitness tracker if they were given incentives such as free gym passes or health screening.
The main finding to come out of the survey was that employees, understandably, want to feel as though they will benefit from workplace wearables as well as their employers. Even more so if they are allowing their employers to access data relating to their personal fitness and health.
Goldsmiths, University of London, conducted a survey which reported an 8.5 per cent increase in productivity, as well as a 3.5 per cent boost in job satisfaction – evidence which suggests wearable technology is a win-win situation for both employers and employees.
Data gathering and popular wearables
Harris Interactive found that wearable technology provided three main benefits in the workplace: improved safety, increased efficiency and boosted productivity.
In fact, 48 per cent of people surveyed had a positive view on workplace wearables, claiming the most beneficial were smart headphones, arm-wrist devices and smartwatches.
Wearable technology and workplace sectors
Key benefits: enhanced retail experience for customers (improved customer service, faster purchasing and apps to reward customers when they’ve made frequent purchases).
Not only could wearables enhance the level of customer service provided by retailers, they can also be used to help customers pay for their goods faster, and gain access to special offers.
Customers nowadays are used to shopping on their smartphones and often use social media to check product reviews before buying. Introducing wearable technology could serve as part of this omni-channel experience.
- Entertainment, communication and media
Key benefits: another means for consumers to view advertising.
The popularity of social media has exploded in recent years – and with that has come the need for consumers to have constant access to their profiles and to games and entertainment. Wearable technology is simply another device from which they can access what they want.
From an app development and advertiser’s point of view, it would be worthwhile using wearables as another platform to gain more customers and increase company revenue.
How wearables are currently benefitting businesses – case studies
While there are many benefits to different sectors adopting workplace wearables, there are some companies who have already taken the plunge and seen tangible results.
The online retailer distributes GPS tags and handheld scanners to staff who work in the warehouses. This helps them determine the fastest delivery route for both collecting and dispatching goods, meaning they can make more deliveries per day, increasing overall company revenue while enhancing the consumer experience.
- eBay and BP
Both eBay and BP have introduced an optional programme where willing employees wear fitness wearables to track and monitor the overall company health. As a result, each company has benefited from fewer sickness absence days, reduced contributions to workplace health insurance policies, as well as increased motivation among their workforces.
- Rio Tinto
Rio Tinto (Hunter Valley, Australia) gives truck drivers a safety wearable called ‘SmartCap’. It may look like a regular cap but it has been designed with in-built sensors that are able to detect the wearer’s alertness. As a result, the company has seen fewer accidents related to driver fatigue.
Supermarket giant Tesco has invested in tracking armbands for their employees who work in the Irish distribution centres. These allow staff to track goods efficiently across almost 10 miles worth of shelving – without having to manually mark clipboards. The tracking devices also benefit managers by giving them an accurate estimation time of completion.
What to consider…
…if you, the employer, want to introduce wearable technology to your workplace: firstly, devise and implement procedures to ensure that employees not only fully understand how their personal data will be used but also to prevent such data being used against an employee unfairly.
…if your employees want to bring in their own wearable technology: remember to consider privacy issues and security. Any device brought into your office can easily be hacked, so be sure to set up certain firewalls and security measures to prevent data theft.
It’s also a good idea to limit your employees’ access to sensitive company data to reduce any risk of compromise. If you’re collecting personal data from your employees, make it anonymous so that it avoids putting unnecessary stress or pressure on your workforce.
Looking to introduce wearable technology to your workplace? Browse the full collection available at BT Business Direct today.