What role will wearables play in the modern office?

May 2, 20164 Minute Read

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Wearable technologies have flooded the market in recent years, from the highly innovative to the totally useless, but the concept of wearables is nothing new. From bike helmets outfitted with VHS cassette recorders (the precursor to the GoPro), to the first smart wristwatch, the technology has evolved significantly, and wearables in the office are gaining traction.

According to a Pew Research study, about 83 percent of respondents believe that the Internet of Things (IoT) will have beneficial effects on the everyday lives of the public by 2025. Many experts believe that the rise of wearable computing will lead the next revolution in digital technology. According to JP Rangaswami, chief scientist for Salesforce.com, “The proliferation of sensors and actuators will continue. ‘Everything’ will become nodes on a network. The quality of real-time information that becomes available will take the guesswork out of much capacity planning and decision-making.”

A recent study by Salesforce Research found that 76 percent of companies report improvements in business performance since using wearables in the enterprise. From managing logistics to discussing new ideas and innovations—both will be more efficient and effective.

Wearables get physical

Wearables for health and fitness are also beneficial to the office. Fitbit Charge HR and Jawbone UP2 show daily health stats including sleep cycles and activity tagging. Other wearables share information like when a user deviates from their regular physical activity or slouches or sits in a way that could negatively affect their health. Many businesses are making the health of their employees a priority, but this concern for employee health also acts as a cost saver to the business—healthy employees perform better and take fewer sick days. John Boitnott, journalist at Entrepreneur, reports that companies that have sufficient health data from wearables (without violating privacy) can use this data to negotiate employee health insurance rates, saving the company money while contributing to employee health.

The Holy Grail of client data

Total market value in wearables is expected to increase to $34 billion by 2020, with more focus on design. In a time when professionals are faced with more data than ever before, finding ways to unlock this data is essential. What if instead of manually integrating data you could transmit business contact information through a simple handshake? Imagine tracking vital signs through a hospital gown instead of complex machinery. The possibilities are unlimited.

“Most of our devices will be communicating on our behalf,” says Paul Saffo, managing director of Discern Analytics. “They will be interacting with the physical and virtual worlds more than interacting with us. The devices are going to disappear into what we wear and/or carry.” Not only can the value of client data improve business practices, but businesses can also identify which human behaviors impact productivity, performance, and job satisfaction. Enterprises can modify their approach to improve satisfaction and productivity.

Real-time assistance

Today, businesses are faced with the need to reply to requests in real-time. Modern-day wearables are equipped with the best technology to assist users with these goals. Whether it’s to reply to an important email request or identify a faster and smoother approach to a problem, wearables in the office can swoop in for the rescue. Goldsmiths, University of London, analyzed the impact of wearable technologies in the workplace on employee well-being, productivity, and job satisfaction. In the 2014 study, select employees wore headsets monitoring brain activity and wrist bands gathering data on motion. Overall, employee productivity rose by 8.5 percent, and job satisfaction rose by 3.5 percent.

Increased collaboration

There’s been a lot of buzz about wearables and their place in office collaboration and productivity. Businesses can now collect data from employee wearables and identify what’s working and what needs to improve. According to Lydia Dishman of Fast Company, Hitachi and Walt Disney World Resort are two companies that have experimented with data collected from wearables, using it to boost collaboration and customer service. “It’s definitely an incredible revolution that is going to happen in workplace measurement,” said Harikesh Nair, associate professor of marketing at Standford’s Graduate School of Business. In another example, wearables could be used to track an employee’s progress towards goals, including improving on weaknesses identified in performance reviews, Dishman says.

Wearables are no longer just a trendy accessory for early-adopters—they have the potential to change the way the workplace functions, including how we communicate with one another, collaborate with coworkers, and even recognize our own responses to stressors in the workplace.

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