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Wearables and the Connected Workplace

How wearable tech is helping to create hyper-connected work environments.

ScreenCloud Post

Not that long ago the big thing in the workplace was “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)” type initiatives. Now, we begin to look towards the next trend: wear your own device. From smartwatches and smartphones, to smart glasses and wackier smart clothing, employers are beginning to tap into the power of tech. According to a Gartner study, by 2018 two-million employees will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment. Let’s take a look at why companies are so keen to get their employees wearing the wearables.

1. Health & fitness tracking

It’s common sense that healthier employees result in a lower number of sick days and improved employee satisfaction. Yet presentism and office-bound employees can often find staying healthy at odds with their desk-bound existence. It’s all very well handing out an employee policy asking your team to stretch every half hour or go for a walk on their lunch break but how many actually adopt this on a daily basis? This is where smart wearables for employees could be the answer. Many companies have already started to give out devices such as the Fitbit and make these a part of daily tracking - much like you would track work progress or sales.

These devices inform the user of how many steps they have taken in the day so far and can even be tied to company initiatives such as leaderboards and reward systems. This makes the employee accountable while showing the employer off as someone who cares. Smartwatches such as the Apple iWatch are doing the same job, pairing general smart device function, such as emails and search, with health and fitness tracking.

Then you have wearable devices which can aid employees to adopt better posture and sitting positions. Back pain is the highest reported reason for workplace absences in the UK, and an estimated three-million people took time off work in 2015 with back related injuries. Devices such as the Lumo Lift and the Upright Go could be to the rescue. The Lumo Lift sits on your collarbone and vibrates each time you let your posture sink. Annoying? Possibly. Yet the wearable would help employees to reduce the “desk slump’ that can have such negative long-term effects. Devices such as the Halo Edge can also be worn on the wrist to analyze whether the employee is dehydrated or overhydrated.

Another common trend with all of these wearables, is that they don’t just correct bad behavior but they also work to build habits. Studies show it takes 21 days to build a habit. Having something vibrate on your back each time you slouch for three weeks could just do the job.

2. Employee tracking

Employee tracking sounds pretty negative on first glance. In 2013, supermarket giant Tesco controversially introduced electronic armbands to their warehouse staff to monitor efficiency. Each employee were set tasks, and if workers met their tasks they were awarded a 100% score which would double if they worked twice as quick.

The best way to increase productivity? Perhaps not. Yet for organizations using it responsibly, wearables can help employees to go about their working day without having to constantly check in with “the office”. For sales teams out on the road, this is an easy way to send data back on number of meetings, distance of meetings and if they’ve been held up in traffic. For PAs, tracking a manager’s whereabouts could allow them to manage appointments more easily without having to be in constant contact.

In environments such as retail, wearables can help sales teams to better organize where they need to be at any moment. For example, if the store is quiet team members could retreat to a storeroom or out of sight to work on other areas, knowing that if things get busy other staff members can buzz them back in easily.

3. Better office management

When setting up a meeting, employees can use their smart devices to see what spaces have been booked and for what time. This can ensure that a room is available when the meeting is set to take place. These devices can also be used to check in to the meeting, to see if there are any employees yet to arrive and to communicate easily with missing attendees. 

Then you have smartwatch and smartphone check in and reservation abilities. For example, many corporate companies now employ different spaces within the connected workplace to suit different needs. An employee may wish to leave a communal working space and check into a “quiet space” instead. By using a trackable wearable, employees can see who’s checked into which room if they need to be contacted and other employees can check which spaces are still available. From a health and safety perspective, this helps generate an accurate number of employees within the building at any one time. 

Where privacy is a concern, employees can use anonymous badges that allow them to check in and out of a building without the organization having to know who the “person” specifically is. 

When you have better visibility across employees you also get better at managing the office environment. If there’s only 10 people in the building, lights, heating and appliances can be triggered to go into “sleep” mode therefore saving energy. If the office is at full capacity, sensors can judge this by the number of wearables in the building and can “high power” everything to react as a result. 

4. Interaction with physical environments

R/GA London employs a beacon-led system which allows new employees to familiarize themselves with their surroundings using a mobile app. The app gives off information on specific spaces, art on the walls and feature pieces. 

This same process can be applied to any smart device. A smartwatch which triggers screens to play specific, department-relevant information or a mobile device which allows the user to manipulate screen content. 

This makes the environment more personalized to the people using it and gives employees control over what is shown and when. 

For a long time “cool” office environments were the epitome of employee demand. Now, employees and employers are looking towards spaces that work harder for them and their businesses. We have every other aspect of our lives personalized to interact with us in a way we choose - why would the office setup be any different? 

What ways do you see smartphones, smartwatches and smartglasses used in the workplace to benefit employees? Let us know @screencloud

 SC Gradient

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