Wearable tech can boost employee happiness and productivity, report finds

A new report from Rackspace has revealed that using wearable technology in the workplace can make employees happier and more productive.

The report, which draws on three separate studies, found that over the course of three weeks productivity levels of those using wearables went up steadily – from a score of 7.06 to 7.38 and finally 7.66 – whilst job satisfaction levels went up on average by 3.5%.

This adds to the various claims already made concerning the beneficial effects of wearable technology on employee productivity, the researchers claim, in particular figures from Vanson Bourne which showed how the US is far ahead of the UK in terms of adoption.

Breaking down the behavioural tendencies of those who used wearables, there were five dominant traits the researchers picked out:

  • Augmentation: participants in this category partner with the technology to create a new sense of productivity – whether they are more aware of how they’re working, or whether they want to purposely better themselves
     
  • Balance: participants here felt that they had certain imbalances at work which were hindering them, but weren’t sure what they were. These are ‘self-reflexive’ individuals – those who continually reflect on the image of themselves, and are aware of the potential of wearable technology
     
  • Gamification: those who strive to better themselves using the tracking elements of wearable tech, “in a spirit of healthy competition”, as the report puts it
     
  • Monitoring: participants who ‘welcome the opportunity for self-monitoring’. This, more than the other categories, references the “Hawthorne Effect” – a phenomenon in human psychology where employees will change their behaviour if they are aware they’re being studied
     
  • Visibility: an acknowledgement of the ability to change behaviour; these participants will often question their ability at work, with the data provided by wearable tech fuelling the fire to these apprehensions

One of the more interesting parts of the study relates to the data collected on those who use wearables in order to create ‘rich behavioural and lifestyle profiles of employees.’

The report highlighted one individual, named as Chloe, who the researchers managed to pin down as being “an owl rather than a lark but not a party animal”, “generally active but not a gym bunny” and “is likely to be a conscientious individual” among other observations.

This leads to an interesting ethical question. Should employers be able to have access to their data to find out what their employees are doing away from work hours? The report notes that in the US, the data gained would not be classed as personal, whereas in Europe it could be a bit more delicate.

“This work reinforces the need for businesses to work within a social contract to collect and use this type of data sensitively and appropriately,” said Dr Chris Brauer of the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, who led the research.

The overall results provide a sense that wearable technology can be beneficial in the enterprise – and according to Nigel Beighton, Rackspace CTO, the proliferation of consumer fitness apps can help ease this transition.

“Many employees will already be familiar with well-being and activity monitoring as they’ll have similar applications on their smartphones,” he explained, adding: “Introducing dedicated workplace wearable technology projects should be straightforward provided companies are open and collaborative in what data they will collect and how it will be used.”

Despite these results consumer take-up and perception could still be improved. Back in January a survey from LoveMyVouchers.co.uk revealed that two in three UK consumers would be “too embarrassed” to wear Google Glass.

The full report, ‘The Human Cloud at Work’, can be found here. Do you think wearable technology could influence your organisation?

 

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