Can Wearable Technology Help or Hinder Work Life Balance?

Can Wearable Technology Help or Hinder Work-Life Balance?

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Wearable technology joins smartphones and laptops, as the latest “must-have” device for workers on the go. Corporations such as Coca-Cola are investing in wearable technology for employees to make fitness part of workplace culture. And, Amazon, the mega online retailer, launched an online store dedicated to selling wearable devices including activity trackers, wearable cameras, smart watches, and other products.

But in a world where it’s nearly impossible to separate work from personal life, could the wearable technology trend help or hinder work life balance?

First, let’s explore some of the perceived benefits. A 2014 Kronos “Wearables at Work” survey examined the differences in perception and use of wearable technologies in the workplace of online adults ages 18 and older in Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Great Britain (G.B.), and the U.S.

  • Globally, the top-three wearable devices that adults in most countries claim would be useful in their current workplace position are smart headphones, smart watches, and arm/wrist computing devices.
  • Seventy-three percent of adults around the world believe that wearable technologies could benefit the workplace in at least one way, including areas such as increasing efficiency, productivity, and safety.
  • Efficiency, work/life balance, and company-paid devices key to employee adoption. Around the globe, workers agree on the top-three reasons that would make them more likely from a personal perspective to use wearable technology for business-related use at their place of work: it made them more efficient; improved work/life balance; or if their employer provided the device.

Research shows with wearable technology the possibilities are endless. A smart watch can be used to track your health, monitor your house and communicate with colleagues. And, wearable “smart glasses” can allow engineers to troubleshoot remotely. But like everything in life, wearable technology has its pros and cons. Privacy was listed as the top potential concern of U.S. workers, less than half (44 percent) believe privacy could be an issue. Data security was the second-highest ranked concern, but only 35 percent of U.S. employed adults cite it as a potential issue.

According to the Washington Post, “Consumers may not be aware of the scale of data being collected – or how it could be used. User data, for example, could end up with firms that customize credit card offers based on users’ shopping habits or insurance rates based on eating habits, all based on data collected through wearable devices, privacy advocates say.”

The reality is, with wearable devices “Big Brother” is watching 24/7. Employers have the ability to do everything from track your location and movement outside of the office to gather your health information. If an employer funds your wearable device and you wear your device at home to help track your steps or food consumption who owns the data and how will the information be used?