Workplace Wearables: Why We Aren’t There Yet

By Liz Holland on

Is there a corporate wearables revolution on the horizon? Not quite yet. Although workplace wearables might seem like the next obvious step up in employee engagement research and real-time feedback, it’s going to take a bit more time for employees to warm up to the idea of wearing devices programmed to report their daily activities on the job. Wearable response systems will likely become commonplace in the distant future, but we aren’t quite there yet.

A Tempting Proposition

From a management perspective, gathering employee data via wearable monitoring and response systems represents a tempting proposition. But low-hanging fruit is not always as sweet as it looks. Sure, we all have discount membership cards that funnel information about our consumer activities to our favorite grocery stores and drug stores, so why not create a similar system that allows us to research and respond to the daily experiences of our employees? Wouldn’t this, in theory, allow management to more effectively solve internal problems and thus create a more satisfying work environment? Perhaps in the years to come, but for now, significant barriers to success outweigh the tempting surface advantages of wearable engagement platform tools.

A Pretty Price Tag

Providing wearable devices for an entire workforce would require significant financial investment. Wearable technology is still fairly new and thus far, sophisticated wearable devices come with a pretty price tag. Furthermore, there is not yet a preferred standard device for workplace monitoring, so purchasing wearable products for workplace use too early would likely mean a costly replacement follow-up. When it comes to corporate wearable response systems, the bar has not yet been set. There is not yet a norm or standard on the market.

Untested Technology

Assuming that you have wearables ready for distribution, what software would you use to monitor and research your employees? There is not yet a go-to wearable engagement platform for corporate use. Given that workplace wearables are not yet an industry norm, corporate data-gathering software as a sub-genre has not yet been thoroughly developed and tested. Attempting to integrate professional response system wearables at this point would more-or-less put your organization in a research pool position. Your team would likely be testing out new wearable engagement platform software – more than you would be reaping its benefits.

Cultural Disruption

Regardless of the financial investment required or the state of wearable response system technology, there is a major sociocultural barrier to consider. Suggesting that employees wear tracking devices to work would immediately alter workplace dynamics. It raises a lot of the same questions presented by the Truman Show back in 1998. As soon as employees are asked to wear track-enabled response system devices to work, established workplace patterns will undergo major disruption.

Current Barriers vs. Future Potential

If employees feel they are always being watched, they will naturally double-check their activities and edit their daily patterns, for better or for worse. Ironically, this will skew initial data, as it will likely represent disturbed and atypical patterns. The potential for constant observation opens up a Pandora’s box full of unknowns. Suspicion and lack of familiarity with observational technology have the potential to significantly inhibit normal workplace function. But change by definition requires losses in some directions in exchange for gains in others. That’s the nature of innovation. The potential success of workplace wearables over time will unquestionably require tenacious persistence among early adopters.

The incorporation of wearable response system devices before they come into regular use is a risky proposition. Any way you cut it, wearable engagement platform devices will inevitably bring up major trust and privacy issues for employees and administration alike. Over time, workplace wearables will surely gain popularity and move into the corporate mainstream, but for now, they still fall into that risky no-man’s-land of big brother innovations.

 

At MeetingPulse, we provide real-time browser based employee feedback software, so you’ll never need to download an app. Employees can easily participate using their mobile device or computer via a short link. MeetingPulse technology was developed with simplicity and privacy in mind, yet it offers a wide array of customizable options to fit your employee engagement needs. Please contact us for more information or sign up to receive blog updates and our free ebook.

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