We’ve all seen Sci-Fi films and imagined a future where everyone is connected to everything all the time through a tiny watch. No one ever has to wait for information and contacting anyone anywhere in the world is just as easy as turning around and saying hi to the person in the cubicle next to you.
Well, the future is now. Whether you realize it or not, companies are closing in on Sci-Fi territory with the wearables. Some, like Epicentre a hi-tech office complex in Stockholm have been injecting their employees with radio frequency identification (RFID) implants. That’s right; they skipped watches and went straight to tracking implants. Employees simply raise their hand to unlock doors and raise it again when they want to pay for lunch.
These implants are certainly convenient, but they are an extreme example of the concerns many employees have about wearables; will employers be able to track them all the time? The answer is technically yes. Epicentre is an extreme case, but the time will come when it will be in your and your employee’s best interest to give them wearables. Not only will we be able to communicate easily with them, but we’ll be able to gain access to buildings, pay for things and monitor our health, all in one small device.
As we all know, there are a lot of things to consider when starting the process of implementing wearables now, but Andre Spicer and Carl Cerderstrom of Harvard Business Review want you to ask yourself simple questions that have much larger implications before jumping head first into wearables.
- Will employees voluntarily use the wearables you’ve bought for them?
It’s a fair question. Some people simply aren’t into wearables, or they use them for a short while, and then stop wearing them. Be realistic about whether employees will actually use the devices over a long period of time because many of them won’t. You can make them mandatory which may rub some people the wrong way, or you can offer an incentive program, like rewarding workers who are able to make their day more efficient. Implementing an incentive program that does not directly correlate with the employees job may make them uncomfortable; like an office worker tracking their steps and sharing that information with you.
- Do wearables invade your employees’ privacy?
Most employees will be concerned about privacy when it comes to wearables and you need to understand that it’s a completely justifiable concern. You need to be prepared to answer any questions your employees will have about what information you are obtaining. Most wearables will track how people sleep, where they’re going and, in the future, how much they eat, drink and what mood they are in. Employees will become paranoid that they are constantly being watched by you and will make choices based on that assumption. It could also influence managers to make decisions about an employee’s performance based on data that has nothing to do with their work life. Employing a third-party service to manage individual data that will only look at aggregate profiles and not individual data is a way to handle this.
- How will wearables blur the boundaries between work and everything else?
Like with smartphones, people will eventually display addictive behavior with wearables but in a different way. Instead of checking social networks, employees may spend time monitoring their mood and wellness. It’s hard to imagine; presently wearables aren’t quite able to monitor moods and vitals, but these things could start to invade employees’ daily life a bit. Employees will need to draw boundaries between work and non-work lives and you will need to build limiting functions and educate employees on these boundaries.
- How will you deal with all the data created by wearables?
There’s no question that wearables will create a mountain of data for your organization. In addition to monitoring performance tasks, you will be charged with keeping track of and storing physiological, emotional and maybe in neurological data. You’ll need to hire people just to handle this data.
- Will wearables lead to increased employee stress?
Knowing that you’re always being tracked even if there’s no one paying attention to that data could have potential psychological side effects for employees. It could hurt those who are already suffering from anxiety or depression and could bring about these things for employees who have never experienced it before. Stress could also increase if the wearable pumps out reminders that intrude into their workflow.
These scenarios aren’t necessarily relevant to today’s wearables, but it’s important to consider the future when making a huge decision like this. While we may not all end up with Biotrackers, wearables will be able to collect more and more data and innovation on this topic is improving daily. The future of wearables is closer than we think so now is as good of a time as any to consider all sides of the situation so you can be prepared no matter what happens.