The Effects of Wearable Technology on the Way we Work

Having been elbows-deep in the tech industry since the early 90s, I’ve seen the landscape change from Tamagotchi’s, to smart phones (with color screens!), all the way to putting the Rosetta on a comet. That’s why when I say that 2015 is the year of wearable technology, I would be remiss if I didn’t feel as if I had popular opinion backing such a statement.

wearable technologyFor example, Apple has recently made waves with the release of the Apple Watch after seemingly infinite speculation in the months leading up to its big reveal. And before that, the Pebble Smartwatch gained a giant following even before its release by receiving most of it’s funding through a crowdsourced Kickstarter campaign. Other companies, such as Google and Samsung all ventured into the wearable sector with varying degrees of success as well (or lack thereof; we’re looking at you, Google Glass).

From a productivity standpoint, however, what effect is wearable technology having on the way we work? Is it an unnecessary distraction, or is it having a valuable and positive effect in our daily routines?

Potential Pitfalls

Before analyzing the benefits, let’s go ahead and address the possible pitfalls and negative elements at the outset. There are three main issues some companies may experience.

  • Data security is one of the most serious pitfalls organizations must address when deploying or integrating wearable tech. Because most wearable tech records a vast amount of data (some of it very personal info), necessary steps must be taken to ensure the security of said data. According to this recent article from, “A fitness tracker, for instance, may contain both personally identifiable information and sensitive health data. A few well-publicized privacy breaches involving these devices could lead to a sharper focus from governmental agencies on wearable security. Information transfers from wearables to insurance companies could lead to a big data dystopia that few consumers want.”
  • Privacy concerns are another potential drawback. While wearable technology can be a valuable asset in monitoring and training employees, steps must be taken and policies implemented to protect the privacy of those employees and not unnecessarily infringe upon it. According to USAToday, “While some businesses are encouraging use of activity trackers such as theFitbit to improve workers’ health, some employees balk, saying that their bosses could use the data to inappropriately track their productivity and even target them for firing.”
  • As with any technology, the more integrated it becomes in our daily lives, the more risk there is of it being a distraction rather than an asset.

Ways Wearable Tech Is Boosting Productivity

With the potential pitfalls in mind, what are some of the benefits associated with integrating wearable tech into the workplace? John Boitnott, contributing writer for, outlines some key positive improvements:

  • “Sensors that monitor fatigue also help backhoe operators avoid accidents. Many companies are tapping into wearables to help make their wellness programs a success.”
  • “According to a study by Rackspace, The Human Cloud at Work, employees wearing wearables at work became 8.5 percent more productive and 3.5 percent more satisfied with their jobs.”
  • “[Devices like the] EEG headband …helps you understand your cognitive patterns, thereby giving you insights on when you are at your most creative or productive.”

Similarly, British grocery chain Tesco uses armbands that keep track of the items workers move from one aisle to another, eliminating the need to keep up with checklists or paperwork. Boeing has also used wearable tech to give instructions to assembly personnel, eliminating the need to look at manuals while working.

Do the Positives Outweigh the Negatives?

Theoretical benefits may sound good on paper, but the real test of any new technology is how it performs in the real world. Are companies experiencing tangible benefits from wearable tech?

The recent Rackspace study previously mentioned led by Dr. Chris Brauer of the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, tackled that very question.

“Wearable technology is arguably the biggest trend since tablet computing so it’s natural that employees and businesses will look to use these devices in the workplace. Our initial findings suggest that there is benefit to be gained from doing so alongside risks and opportunities that need to be proactively addressed,” says [PDF Link] Dr. Brauer.

There is no doubt that wearable tech is here to stay. With companies such as Apple, Google, Pebble, Samsung and more leading the charge into this new realm of computing, the future of wearable tech looks to be very bright – as long as they learn from their mobile security mistakes and pave the way for a privacy-oriented future. By carefully integrating it with your company’s workforce, you can reap the benefits of more productive and happy employees.

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One comment
  1. Gary

    June 12, 2015 at 11:22 am

    I consider myself an early adopter, and backed the Pebble while it was a Kickstarter. I want to like wearable tech, and am fascinated by some of the applications you mention above.

    However, for my personal use, I quickly grew luke-warm with it for my personal use. More “cons” to consider:

    – I have developed charger/update fatigue. There are just too many things in my life to keep updated, charged, optimized, etc. While leaving the house, I start thinking about whether I need my laptop, chromebook, tablet, phone, Pebble, backup batteries, and/or portable solar panel. This is out of control and I need to pare back. Wearable tech that relies on a secondary device for full functionality is an easy place to start.

    – The dangers of constant interruption by phone are well known. It is becoming only slightly more socially acceptable to pull out your phone during a social/business interaction. However, peeking at your watch frequently during a human interaction sends an even stronger message via body language: “How soon can this be over?” As a leader, I became less and less comfortable with this.


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