30391747_sTechnology is rapidly becoming a part of every type of work we do, every day and everywhere. Headsets, barcode scanners, and smart badges have been in use for some time, but research firm Tractica says devices like the Apple Watch, smart glasses, wearable cameras, and smart clothing will be part of the workplace by 2020. Look for devices like posture monitors, 3D trackers, and recognition applications such as fingerprint, facial, and voice recognition technologies to take care of common workforce issues.

 

What Employees Think About Wearables

Employees are optimistic about wearables at work according to a survey by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated. Almost 75 percent of adults worldwide see potential workplace benefits from wearable technology, and about a third of them have no concerns about privacy or data security of wearables at work. The survey showed that those who use wearable technology at home are more positive about using wearables at work.

Cornerstone OnDemand’s “The State of the Workplace Productivity Report” reports that more than 50 percent of U.S. employees would use wearables to do a better job, and think wearables will become common in the workplace. Their willingness to use wearable tech at work is dependent on incentives to do so such as monetary bonus, extra time off, and flexible work schedule.

 

Experiments in Wearables

Financial Times’ employment correspondent Sarah O’Connor is participating in a workplace wearables experiment, and ponders how wearables at work could benefit workers by improving health and safety. She wore a sleep tracker, a fitness tracker, and a mood ring to share data with her boss for a week to help her employer try to figure out if the data would be beneficial to the company.

O’Connor said she liked using the wearables at first, mostly because of the novelty and some altruism to her employer. She felt like she was doing a good thing, but soon tired of the constant tracking and started to feel self-conscious and stressed about what the data showed about her and how her employer would interpret it. People she’s talked to about the experiment expressed some concern about why employers would want to have their workers use wearables. O’Connor also discussed the enormity of the big data and how to interpret it. This is also a concern commented on by Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte. He feels that it will take a lot of accurate analysis to get more than just patterns out of the data collected with wearable technology because people are complex.

 

Where We’ll Use Wearables for Work

Wearables are showing up in work environments including warehouses, the service industry, and in office environments, to improve productivity, safety, and employee health and wellbeing. Enterprise software giant SAP is using head-mounted display-based applications for their warehouse pickers and field service technicians to reduce errors and improve safety. British airline Virgin Atlantic gave upper class staff devices like smartwatches, heads-up displays, and other devices for a trial period and found that they helped employees provide the best service to the airlines’ best customers. Office workers are wearing Fitbits to monitor and improve health and raise awareness of healthy habits.

Business use and benefits of wearable technology goes beyond workers and extends to customers. Disney’s MagicBand is a bracelet for Walt Disney World guests to use for easier, more enjoyable access to the amusement parks, hotel rooms, restaurants and stores in Disney parks. GE’s CFO Ken Bowles uses a wearable device for constant access to important management metrics. Wearables have productive applications in the healthcare environment to improve access in sterile conditions and give physicians and healthcare workers more productive mobility without having to return to office equipment like desktop computers.

Glancing at a smartwatch or accessing data with connected eyewear instead of opening a laptop mean quick and discreet access when and where it’s needed. Salesforce Global Director Lindsey Irvine ponders that unobtrusive nature of wearables while gathering and delivering useful data to make the workforce faster, better, stronger, and more profitable. The potential for profitability with wearables is huge, and Irvine says access to the right data at the right time will drive the best (most profitable) business actions and activities for workforce, management, and customers already starting to use them.

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