The Role of Wearable Technology in HR

14 June, 2016
By G-Team in Technology
HR wearable devices
Technology is literally woven more into our lives now with the launch wearable gadgets, such as the Apple Watch by tech giant, Apple in 2015. Along came more of such similar electronic gadgets that serve more than just an accessory on our body, such as Fitbit and Oculus Rift. Such gadgets have been coined the term - wearable technology.
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What does the term "wearable technology" mean? Based on the definition provided by Investopedia, wearable technology refers to "electronics that can be worn on the body, either as an accessory or as part of material used in clothing". One key feature of wearable technology is its ability to connect to the Internet, allowing data and information to be exchanged between the Internet and the device.

While these wearable devices started off typically as fitness trackers - hence "wearable" - some businesses are exploring the idea of transforming the wearable device trend into a HR tool.

Promote Employee Wellness Initiatives

Based on a new study by ABI Research, within the next five years, more than 13 million wearable devices with embedded wireless connectivity will be integrated into wellness plans offered by businesses. Encouraging employees to use wearable fitness tracking devices, such as Fitbit or Garmin Vivosmart, to keep track of their movements, sleep and eating habits can promote a healthier lifestyle within the office. For instance, companies such as social media startup Buffer, gives each new hire a Jawbone UP device to track his or her exercise levels, steps and sleep activity. Furthermore, its employees' family members also may receive these fitness trackers.  With platforms such as Rewardz that allows employees to share their health achievements and redeem rewards such as shopping vouchers, this can further motivate employees towards better health. These wearable devices can ultimately help reduce healthcare costs and sick leaves while enticing employees to stick around longer with the company's excellent wellness program.

Enhance Efficiency at Work

There is no doubt that wearable technology has also increased work efficiency and employees' productivity. Based on the "The Human Cloud At Work" study led by Dr Chris Brauer of the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, he found that productivity for people using wearable technology increased by 8.5% per cent, while their job satisfaction levels were up 3.5%. The primary reason is these wearable devices collect more data about individual employees that were previously difficult to obtain. Wearable technology allows employees in industries such as construction, utility repair or emergency services to request for assistance more quickly, hence allowing work to be done more effectively.

Privacy Challenges

Privacy will undoubtedly be a main concern for employees. Wearable devices, while seemingly harmless by boosting employees' wellness and enhancing business efficiency, some employees may view it as a breach of personal space as it collects personal sensitive data, such as heart rate blood pressure or tracking his or her whereabouts even after office hours. Ideally, these wearable devices should be made optional, rather than mandatory. Companies should be transparent with their employees on how the data is being collected and used in order to sidestep potential privacy legal issues.

The role of HR in the organisation is to ensure employees' welfare and provide a conducive working environment for its employees. The growing trend of wearable technology  amongst businesses today offer a plethora of opportunities for employee engagement, including benefit incentives, increased productivity and better communication. However, employees have to keep in mind how they implement wearable technology in their workplace.