You might want to consider gifting your team Apple Watches for the holidays—because wearables at work are the next big thing.
And unlike some tech trends, this one will likely have really positive implications. When used correctly, wearables enable you to optimize the workplace for your team. That means higher productivity, increased teamwork, better communication, and ultimately, more employee engagement.
First, let’s explore some of the ways companies are already using wearables. Then, we’ll cover what you need to know before starting your own wearables program.
Case Study #1: Deloitte
Prestigious consulting firm Deloitte gave out “smart badges” to volunteer employees. These badges kept track of their wearer’s tone of voice, body language, how often they spoke in meetings, and how often they left their desks.
That’s a lot of data—twenty gigabytes per week, to be precise.
Each employee had access to a dashboard that tracked individual and performance. This information allowed people to quickly modify their behavior; for example, if you see that you haven’t been contributing enough in discussions, you can immediately start talking more.
The badge experiment also helped Deloitte. Data showed that having light-filled work areas made employees leave their desks less frequently, thus improving productivity.
Case Study #2: Oracle
Last year, each member of Oracle’s Applications Communications and Outreach’s team got a FitBit Flex. This unobtrusive band tracks your daily steps, energy expenditure, distance, and activity time, as well as your sleep quality.
Employees could choose whether or not they wanted to wear the device. But those who opted in loved it, reporting that it gave them extra motivation to be active.
What does this have to do with work? Well, healthier employees are happier—and research has shown happy employees are critical to your organization’s success. (After all, the happier they are, the more productive, engaged, creative, and persistent they are.)
Plus, showing your employees you care about their well-being is great for morale.
Case Study #3: Tesco
At a Tesco distribution center in Ireland, employees wear armbands monitoring what products they’re picking up and giving them tasks.
This makes the job much easier. Rather than checking boxes and consulting lists, employees can move effortlessly from assignment to assignment. The armbands also estimate how long each task will take and keep track of one’s location inside the massive facility.
Employees get real-time feedback as well, so they know when they fulfilled an order correctly or if they should speed up.
Case Study #4: Hitachi
In February 2015, Japanese tech company Hitachi developed the Hitachi Business Microscope. Employees wore the devices around their neck like lanyards.
Every time they came into contact with another coworker, both gadgets would activate. For the duration of the interaction, their Microscopes tracked face time, body, and behavior rhythm data.
Hitachi has a proprietary formula that quantifies a group’s happiness level based on physical movements. So, with the data from the wearables, the corporation could keep track of how happy their team was—and make adjustments if needed.
Choosing Your Wearable
The wearable you pick will depend on your goal.
If, like Deloitte, you want to help your employees learn more about their work habits and how they can improve, go with a smart badge, like the one Humanyze sells.
Or perhaps you’d like to improve communication and efficiency within your team. In that case, opt for a smart headset, such as Glassup,
If you can’t find the right device, don’t worry. New enterprise wearables are coming out every day, which means even if there’s not the perfect option for your company right now, there probably will be soon.
Implementing Wearables in Your Office
Although wearables have proven benefits, they’re still very new—so it’s understandable that your employees might be suspicious.
Three of the four case studies cited above used volunteers. We recommend following suit and giving your employees a choice whether or not to participate in a wearable program. This will make people feel more comfortable; plus, as time goes on and your experiment is successful, many of those who were initially wary will change their minds.
You should also think about giving incentives. For example, maybe every employee who agrees to use a wearable gets an extra couple days of vacation. Alternatively, tie the reward into the wearable program itself. Let’s say that you’re handing out FitBits—give a prize to the five most active people.
Clarifying the mission behind the program is also important. Your team members will be much more enthusiastic about putting on a tracking device if they understand exactly how it will help them. If you’ve got the resources, put together a presentation and onboarding process, with plenty of time to answer questions and concerns.
Dealing With Privacy Concerns
One of the biggest concerns employees will be grappling with? Their privacy. According to the 2014 report, “Wearables at Work”, 44% of U.S. adults believe privacy could be an issue.
Address their concerns by giving an in-depth explanation of what data will be collected, how it will be stored, who will have access to it, and who owns it.
If you’re transparent, employees will be much likelier to trust you with their information.
(And if you really want to be on the safe side? Check with a lawyer about your wearables program.)
Like all technological advances, adopting wearables requires some foresight and caution. But the benefits are numerous. What do you think? Will you give your employees wearables?
About the Author
Aja Frost is a freelance writer who covers career, lifestyle, current events, and social justice. Say hi to her on Twitter.
Tags: HR Tech, Wearables