Wearable devices could boost employee engagement

14 Jul

Wearable devices are growing among businesses since the wealth of data can be provided to doctors from workers to help keep them healthy.

Human resources departments are beginning to use more technology to boost employee engagement and motivation. A new report from the International Data Corporation explained by the year 2018, there were will be nearly 112 million wearable computer devices purchased by not only consumers, but employers and businesses as well. In 2014, the report expects 19 million wearable devices to be sold, which would be a nearly 79 percent growth from 2018 figures.

What devices are being used?
Businesses have found wearable devices can work effectively as a healthcare or medical device. Human resources are able to keep productivity levels up with wellness programs, which wearable devices would benefit workers. Wearable technology is used to measure or track height, weight, blood pressure, pulse, sleep patterns, cholesterol and glucose, the Media Post reported.

Wearable devices can include bands, watches or even eyewear that could record or track personal information. According to the source, wearable devices make it easier for doctors to access more information about a person's medical history or what prescriptions they are using.

Wearable devices could also remind workers when to take certain medication, track calorie levels and send alerts when to exercise or when blood sugar levels get dangerously high, the source reported.

"These devices can tell you under which conditions your workforce is most productive, under which conditions your workforce is most alert and what makes them happier and more satisfied in their jobs," said Dr. Chris Brauer, a professor with the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, according to Bloomberg BNA.

Legal debate over wearable devices
Employers looking to provide wearable devices for workers are causing a lot of debate. Businesses sometimes offer rewards and incentives to lose weight or to eat healthier so their workers live longer and medical costs for controllable diseases are lower.

However, businesses have to make sure their employees acknowledge wearable devices are fully optional and will not affect their job whatsoever if they decline to participate in any sort of wellness program, Bloomberg BNA reported. Personal health information should remain disclosed for workers if they choose so.

"Organizations are going to be in extremely difficult positions in choosing between being able to harness the power of data that could give them a competitive advantage and the implications of requesting or requiring from their employees that they reveal behavioral data that extends well beyond the scope of traditional workplace studies," said Brauer, according to Bloomberg BNA.

Employers benefiting from additional information
Some businesses are seeing benefits to giving their workers wearable devices. The wearable devices are providing businesses with additional health information that might not have been accessible before, Bloomberg BNA reported.

"The real problem is employers often don't know what people are doing at work, and that's the core of business so we need to measure that," said Ben Waber, the co-founder, president and CEO of Sociometric Solutions, a company that makes devices to measure movements in tone of voice, according to the source. "It will enable subtle changes in the work environment. It will help organizations identify what shapes interactions and then change the environment to support those interactions."

The devices are also proving to be of value in terms of saving companies money on healthcare costs. According to the Vitality Group, through a five-year study, hospital costs fell by 6 percent for those who were using wearable devices to track health-related issues that were once inactive. For those who were active the entire time through the entire five-year research, those participants were able drop their hospital costs by 16 percent.

Data could be used to figure out what improves productivity 
Employers will also be able to store information in the cloud to help get a better understanding of which health conditions need the most improvement. It could also increase job satisfaction when companies can clearly understand what health-related issues boost or hurt work productivity.

However, Brauer said the accuracy of the information collected all depends on the duration of time in which workers wear the devices and how much employee information is recorded, BNA Bloomberg reported.

When companies are able to keep their employees more involved with their health, workers begin to feel more appreciated by their employer. Retention rates and employee engagement will increase with more focused workers who are eating healthier and paying more attention to their well-being.

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