What are the Pros and Cons of Wearable Technology in the Workplace?

Some professionals think of wearable tech as an opportunity for personalized assessments and greater productivity. Others look at the concept as little more than an expensive intrusion that has yet to prove its mettle in the workplace.

What is the answer for your company? The truth – it depends. The following list of pros and cons should help decision makers come to a more informed decision about when and how wearable tech will be used in the office.

The Pros of Wearable Technology

Research from the University of London and Human Cloud at Work (HCAW) showcase significant improvements in employee productivity through the use of wearable technologies. Although there are certainly studies that show the opposite, the veracity of these institutions is undergirded in part because of the names behind the studies.

The HCAW study is a product of two years of collaborative work between the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths and leading cloud services company Rackspace. Findings from the study include a heightened respect in the private sector for the potential of wearable technology in the office. Applications include real time C-suite dashboards to help in a more quantitative allocation of company resources all the way to employee biometric CVs. The potential to improve day-to-day productivity through a more intimate relationship with relevant information in real time was another important finding.

Although results varied significantly between the two studies, employee productivity was found to max out at around 10%.

Properly implemented, wearable technologies also have the potential to improve employee satisfaction rates. The resources that come with the proximity of wearables allows for higher efficiency. Creating a digital link between employees with wearables also gives each of them a path for more accessible collaboration and healthy competition. All of these factors lead to higher overall employee satisfaction. Generally, satisfaction increases when employees feel empowered and healthy – both benefits of wearable tech.

Wearables have also been proven to improve wellness in employees. Physical and mental fitness is just as important in the office as it is in the personal lives of employees. Additionally, wearables have the ability to warn employees when they are coming to a point of physical risk. This helps to free companies from avoidable problems that come from safety issues.

The Cons of Wearable Technology

Although wearable technology continues to fall in cost year after year, some company decision makers still do not consider the ROI high enough for a significant investment. Implementation of wearable systems into older infrastructures may become prohibitively high. Scaling wearables into a company holistically may also prove too expensive for some operations budgets, especially when the C-suite doesn’t want to play favorites among departments.

Wearable tech also has the ability to distract or demotivate employees as much as they can empower employees. Internet search and social media are similar in nature – both are incredibly powerful tools that can also be an incredible interruption. The temptation increases the more powerful the implementation becomes.

There are also privacy concerns when dealing with wearable devices. The sensitive employee data that creates the ability for real time data assessment also attracts hackers. These hackers may be able to use the backdoors created through wearables to access your company’s data centers. Companies must consider additional security measures that scale with the use of wearables, which may take away from the overall ROI.

Be sure to weigh out the pros and cons of wearable tech as related to your company individually. The implementation of this new, exciting, but complex technology should be the product of a sophisticated analysis of how it will perform within your social and technical infrastructure.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.