Does Wearable Tech Have a Place in the Office?
Fitbits. Google Glass. Jawbones. These are all devices and gadgets you’ve likely heard of, and they’re wearables that are changing the way millions of people live their life. Many of these people wear these devices all day long — even bringing them into the office.
(Photo Credit: Ted Eytan/Flickr)
But as more people adopt wearables and as these gadgets become mainstream, offices across the country are looking at how they fit into corporate culture — or whether they do at all. Everyone from the CEO to HR must consider how wearables could benefit or alternatively harm employees, as well as address potential legal and privacy issues.
Google Glass, for example, has been widely praised by some early adopters as it offers a way to manage work efficiently without the need to even open a laptop. IT departments could theoretically solve problems across the office without dragging around bulky equipment; instead, they could use Glass to easily see out-of-compliance events and devices with only a verbal command. They could also reset an end user’s passcode with just a tap of the finger. Today, that level of access is unheard of.
That said, it’s unlikely that there will ever be a place for the majority of office employees to wear Glass. Though some industries are finding them incredibly useful, such as in the medical field, where hospitals are quickly adopting the device to help in surgery and research, the typical office employee needs the capabilities that a full screen and keyboard provide to work. Early adopters of Glass, however, have found many ways to use Glass while working. As a result, Google has recently launched a program for businesses to help integrate Glass in the workplace, providing resources and “rules” to help both employees and employers manage Glass at work.
However, other wearables — such as fitness trackers — may become more prominent in the office in the near future. Startups like EveryMove help insurance companies work with employers to help provide incentives for employees to live more active, healthier lives. Savvy companies can even work directly with the wearables to create dashboards that track everyone’s steps and calories burned. However, things can get a little messy when companies know this data — there are serious privacy concerns, and an employer definitely can’t use this data to fire someone. (In fact, if someone did get fired for an unrelated reason, and employee could still potentially claim they were discriminated against based on this data.)
While wearables can be beneficial to both employers and employees, it’s important that everyone understands the privacy and legal implications. Of course, a little friendly competition amongst co-workers never hurt anyone — and neither did that motivation to take a much needed break and walk during lunch.
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