Risks and benefits of wearables at the workplace


Wearable technology offers various new opportunities to monitor human activity and improve productivity, efficiency, connectivity, health, and wellness. Wearables can strike out many potential benefits in the workplace, and they can be a valuable tool in a workplace to monitor and refine the wellness initiatives of the employees.

One of the benefit of wearable technology is active monitoring by taking advantage of the data delivered by wearable devices. For example, many wearable devices can be used for tracking physio-social stress (stress about the job) and physical stress (working hard with the equipment) or tracking the physical activities of the worker.

With those data, employers could actively assist their employees by discussing the issues or creating physical activities. This will help employees to relieve stress, tension and live physically and mentally fit.

According to a University of London study, employees are, on average, 8.5 percent more productive when using wearable technology and 3.5 percent more satisfied with the quality of their work.

Fitness trackers encourage employees to live healthier lifestyles by setting collective goals (such as holding a contest to reward the department with the most steps) that improve team performance and foster a sense of community.

Companies with a large number of employees performing manual tasks (such as unloading products from shelves or pallets, sorting products, restocking shelves, cleaning specified areas, etc.) can use wearable technology to track their employees’ whereabouts and assign them new tasks.

Through recorded video, periodic photographs, and location tracking, wearable technology improves employee accountability and productivity. Wearable technology can even collect real-time performance data from employees, providing you with a snapshot of their productivity whenever you need it. In addition, it allows employers to provide external tools worn in the body to control their posture or lift heavy items.

Employee safety is always important in any workplace, especially in hazardous jobs where the employee is, for example, working in a mine, operating heavy machinery, construction site, or in a job where the employee is dealing with high voltages. Hands-free devices can monitor workers’ stress and fatigue levels and exposure to harmful chemicals/elements, reducing the risk of on-the-job injuries. Safety and security can be improved with the help of accurate monitoring using wearables. It is possible to detect the dangerous working spots (places where the most near-miss falls) with the collected data from wearable devices.

The following examples will showcase how different companies have adopted wearables.

  • Hands-free applications – Tesco employees wear armbands that automatically track the goods workers are transporting, reducing the need to mark clipboards.
  • Efficient knowledge transfer – In 2016, Boeing started using Google Glass to give the users the process of assembling a product more information as needed without needing to refer to a manual.
  • Real-time navigation – Amazon employees wear GPS tracking devices that show them the most efficient route to collect warehouse goods.
  • Payment and identification systems – Epicenter employees have embedded RFID microchips in their hands, granting them access through security checkpoints and cashless payments at canteens.

Although the potential day-to-day benefits of wearable technology offer profitable incentives, wearable technology still comes with plenty of risks. Wearables in the workplace raise several issues, including employer IT security and employee data privacy. Employee privacy concerns are the first roadblock to wearables adoption in the workplace. The convenience and functionality of wearable technology add unwanted risks, such as:

  • Unauthorized documentation and recording of sensitive data, confidential information, and the personal information associated with products, employees, and personal information.
  • Breaches in cybersecurity leading to the loss or theft of personal and/or confidential information from cyber-attacks and data breaches.
  • If a wearable device is lost or stolen, no regulations govern how an individual can revoke personal information.
  • Wearables can negatively impact productivity if excessive time is spent toying with the devices rather than doing work.

Let’s sum up. The benefits of wearables are numerous— but so are the risks. To unfold potential benefits, firstly, it is necessary to discover what types of wearable devices can be used in workplaces, how these wearables devices can be integrated into daily business activities (i.e., to increase safety, level of physical activity, reduce their stress and increase productivity and efficiency). In addition, companies should take proactive steps to safeguard both corporate and personal information.