Wearable Technology and the Workplace

We’ve gone from computers that filled entire rooms to desktop computers, then to portable laptops, cell phones with rudimentary Internet capabilities; to sophisticated smartphones, tablets, and now smart watches and other “wearables”. Technology is continuing to turn ever more personal.

It’s pretty clear that this wearable technology is here to stay. A report from market intelligence firm Tracticta predicts that 75 million wearables will be deployed in the workplace by 2020 (with smart watches making up the majority).

While we already have a clear idea how wearables will be employed in everyday life, how this influx of smart wearable technology will change our experience at the workplace is still a little cloudy.

Here are some ideas:

Track fitness to cut down on health care costs

It’s no secret covering employees’ health care policies costs businesses thousands of dollars a month. But what if there was a way to incorporate a wearable to help cut some of that cost by making employees healthier? Jiff, a wearable startup has raised just shy of $26 million to expand their enterprise in the health care portion of the wearables market.

The plan is simple: encourage employees to adopt healthier behavior by giving them incentives to do so. An example: credits toward the health savings accounts used to pay deductibles. Companies that use these programs often provide wearables to their employees or let them choose to opt in with their own devices. The platform is already available to more than 300,000 employees at such firms as Qualcomm, Activision Blizzard, and Henry Schein.

Streamline communication

Wearable devices, like the Apple watch, empower users to communicate with minimal interference in the workplace. A simple vibration signals that an email has been received or a workplace goal has been met allowing an employee to stay connected without a laptop in hand or having to check their smartphone (research shows on average we check our smartphones 150 times a day). While managing the work-life balance could be tricky here.

In certain work environments where hands-free activity is necessary, the option to eliminate unnecessary devices could be extremely beneficial. For example, consider emergency room doctors or first responders.

Employee recognition and feedback

Goal-setting apps such as BetterWorks, allow for business to better connect and engage with employees through the use of employee review. Regular real time feedback is highly motivating for employees (generating higher-levels of employee engagement) and enables managers to closely monitor employee performance.

Track physical movement in unique environments

“While it may pertain to only a small fraction of the market, it’s worthwhile to note how wearable devices could improve safety, collaboration, and data collection in unusual physical work environments,” writes John Rampton, a Forbes.com contributor. “In particular, health care, military, and industrial sectors may benefit the most. These devices can track the position of employees or soldiers and provide real-time data to remote (or on-site) locations and data centers.”