When the NBC television show ‘Get Smart’ debuted in 1965, a shoe phone seemed like alien technology. Today, it’s hard for most people to imagine their day-to-day lives without some sort of wearable technology i.e. a smart watch. While the advantages of ‘wearables’ in everyday life seem to outweigh the disadvantages, these technologies bring a certain amount of risks and privacy concerns to the workplace. While it can be argued that such technology boosts productivity, the distractions that accompany these devices could prove costly unless proper measures are taken.
Benefits of Workplace ‘Wearables’
Wearable technology has greatly enhanced workplace productivity and safety measures across countless industries. Through the connections of this technology with an organization’s internet network, wearables can send real-time data, monitoring and up-to-date reports from the employee to the main office or computer recording the data. A great example of the benefits of wearables can be seen within a warehouse, where the primary job function is the shipment of products. Wearables allow for the optimization of GPS tracking and tagging scanners, essentially expediting that organization’s products fulfillments and shipments.
When we talk about workplace safety, it is no secret that healthy employees cost less in the long run. Common wrist wearables help ensure the health and well-being of a workforce by monitoring stress levels, heart rates, alertness, physical demands and risk perception. Looking at larger wearables such as hard hats with sensors or glasses with heads-up displays, organizations are able to monitor employee-to-machine interactions in addition to machine-to-machine interactions on jobsites, helping to mitigate workplace accidents. Through analysis of the employee’s health and their proximity to large equipment, organizations are able to better manage their employees by putting them in a better position to finish their duties, with less risk.
Distractions and Privacy Concerns
While the health and efficiency benefits of wearable technology seem to be a no-brainer, the implementation of these devices as well as the ‘buy-in’ from employees, is never that simple. Worker privacy becomes the main issue. While most people have no issues monitoring their own health and heart rates, the thought of an employer having all of this information can be unsettling. Additionally, questions arise around what precautions, if any, will the employer be taking to safeguard this personal information?
Distractions also become an issue. With the attempt at safety comes non-stop alerts and updates. For successful safety analysis, wearables must constantly monitor the employee, usually providing real-time updates through vibrating, buzzing or beeping noises that the employee did not have to manage before. Think of a teenager at the dinner table with a phone that keeps going off. Although the issue seems small, overtime these alerts become a major distraction to productivity.
Best Practices for your Business
With anything in the workplace, having an open and honest dialogue with your employees is always the best course of action. First off, when introducing wearables to your employees, make sure you are transparent about what information you are collecting. Secondly, make wearables optional. Initially allowing those who are skeptical to opt out of wearing such devices, usually gives those same people a chance to step back and hear the pros and cons from the employees who did choose to wear them. Lastly, as with anything involving data, make sure you are protected against security breaches and hackers. Such attacks on personal information can make a company liable for identity theft or other legal issues. Be aware of your responsibilities and contact your insurance provider to discuss what policies you have in place in regard to privacy, security and data. With proper implementation and extra privacy precautions, workplace wearable technology can greatly benefit any organization.
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