Workplace wearables promise a new future in workplace analytics, and data from human beings is one of the missing pieces in harnessing value and strategic insight from the big data puzzle in organisations.
Economically, the price of sensors, processors and networking continues to fall in real and relative terms. Technically, exponential advancements propel smaller, faster, more reliable and more powerful wearable data collection. But it is advancements in behavioural economics and profiling that promises the greatest potential impact of wearables on workplace culture and operations.
The practical, legal and ethical hurdles to mainstream wearable workplace adoption are starting to resolve and evolve. Employees are also less likely to reject wearable interventions in work-life balance. Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), based on a survey of 2,023 working UK adults in January 2015, indicates that more than half of employees would wear a smartwatch if their data was used to improve workplace wellbeing by analysing impact on working hours, stress levels, work environment and location, free health screening or health and fitness incentives. More than seven in 10 millennial workers (born between 1980 and 1995) would wear a work-issued smartwatch if it involved some form of value exchange with their employers.
There are three immediate opportunities for organisations seeking to harness the power of wearables in workplace wellbeing, safety and productivity. First, provide opportunities for employees to learn about themselves through data and provide pathways for self-improvement. In all of our studies, employees are consistently startled by what wearable data correlated with other measures can tell them about their productivity, performance, alertness and even job satisfaction.
Second, enhancing teamwork and co-ordinating workforces. Individual wearable data is useful but it is in aggregate and in the interactions between employees that patterns and trends are revealed in the same way that sports science looks at teams through both the nodes of individual performances and the network interactions of data points.
Third, upgrading the analytics capacities of human resources and the management techniques for human capital. Making sense of wearable data in the workplace requires both imagination and experimentation in correlations and technical expertise to analyse and draw useful conclusions.
Dr Chris Brauer is director of innovation and senior lecturer at the Institute of Management Studies, Goldsmiths.
Chris Brauer will discuss wearable technology in the closing keynote session ’Wearable technology – the future of workplace health?’ on 21 September at Employee Benefits Live. View the full conference programme and register to attend.