• September 13, 2016

Wear and Win: Health Wearables in the Workplace

Wearables will soon change how we work and how employers deploy workers.

Technology has been measuring worker productivity for some time now. From GPS systems and activity timers tracking delivery truck drivers to software like Time Doctor monitoring office productivity, optimizing the time spent at work is firmly entrenched in our work psyche and spaces. But those efforts are only the beginning of what’s possible through wearables.

Chris Brauer, a senior lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, runs experiments with wearables in workplaces. He predicts a future in which managers have dashboards that display real-time employee biometrics such as sleep quality that are leading indicators for performance. As such, wearables can become a predictive tool and possibly also a prescriptive one, reports Sarah O’Connor in her article in the Financial Times.

As a predictive tool, employers can see how productive an employee is likely to be in different situations given the condition of his or her health parameters. As a prescriptive tool, the employer can see a list of suggested actions to take to improve the employee’s productivity that could range from giving the employee time off to actually requiring the employee get more rest or eat healthier. While there are some obvious legal and privacy issues to work out before worker data can be collected and analyzed to that degree, there’s no question that such information could be very helpful to employees and employers alike.

Improving Workplace Performance 

It’s a proven fact that productivity suffers when employees take on too much work after their peers have been laid off—but so does the employee’s health. If data from wearables indicates employee exhaustion, accidents and errors at work can be avoided; productivity can be increased through appropriate work re-distribution; and the overworked, stressed-out employee can get some much needed relief.

Employees also often grumble about meetings that accomplish little other than keeping everyone from finishing their work. With data from wearables, employers and employees can easily see all those meetings and their impact on actual productivity. Again, employees may see relief from a long-standing irritation.

Context-aware devices can also perform as personal assistants for employees to improve productivity and overall job satisfaction. This set of wearables can automatically pull documents for a meeting, make scheduling changes, guide employees on the most direct route to their destinations, provide prompts and alerts, and generally assist in improving productivity and reducing time lost to mundane tasks.

Eventually, they’ll also go beyond that to monitor an employee’s health and need for sick leave, or to predict future productivity based on a variety of analyses, such as cumulative stress or the stress level of a single day. They can also prompt the wearer to do various things to improve mood and overall work experience.

“Real-time insights and analytics delivered by wearables can even trickle down to the on-boarding process, allowing organizations to easily help employees better integrate into the company with orientation and training manuals preloaded onto a wearable device. Given the competition that many tech giants face in attracting and retaining top talent, ensuring that the employer/employee relationship starts off on the right foot can go a long way toward ensuring employee retention,” reports Chris Bruce in his TechCrunch post.

The possibilities of improving employee productivity and work experience are almost endless, though implementing wearables will inevitably lead to some battles over privacy and ethics. Whatever happens, one thing is for sure: Work will never be the same.

Like this story? Read more about improving employee productivity.