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Wearable technology: Helping solve the productivity puzzle

The majority of us are now comfortable with the idea of wearable technology. In fact, many of us have even welcomed the concept into our everyday lives. Intelligent wristbands help us stay in good physical shape while the humble watch goes well beyond just telling us the time; now we can read emails and messages with just a glance down at our wrists. Businesses are waking up to the potential of wearables too. The big question that they are asking themselves now is: ‘How can we harness this technology to the benefit of the organisation?’

When answering this question, management teams must clearly identify how and where the technology will impact their business. The data collected by wearable technology enables businesses to make positive steps towards increasing employee engagement and driving a more productive workforce but for any implementation to be successful, clear objectives must be set. If integrated effectively into your wider business strategy it could go a long way to help employees reach their full potential.

The view from the cutting room floor

Reassuringly, the mood of employees towards the use of wearable technology is incredibly positive; an overwhelming 73 per cent of workers can see at least one benefit of using wearable technology at work, according to a survey conducted by Harris Poll. Such positive sentiment amongst the workforce indicates that rolling out wearable technology could have a significant impact in terms of motivating staff and ensuring they feel valued in the workplace. It certainly helps to ensure that the introduction of wearables as a business tool would be met with a positive response on the shop floor.

So, the support of the workforce is certainly there, but where and how will wearables impact the workplace?

No time to waste

Top of the list of the reasons why UK workers want to adopt wearables in the workplace, is efficiency. In fact, 41 per cent of employees cite this as the key driver and there are several industries where this is already having an impact.

In the travel and tourism sector, budget airline easyJet is leading the way with the launch of its smart uniforms. The company’s engineers will benefit from in-built uniform cameras to enable them to share images and sound to support earlier fault diagnosis and resolution. Meanwhile, onboard, cabin crew’s uniform will also be equipped with microphones to enhance staff communication, which offers a clear benefit to the customer, but also plenty of positives for the employees as well. Offering staff technology to help them deliver improved customer service will ensure they are significantly more engaged and increasingly likely to go the extra mile for employers that are helping them work more effectively.

Retail is another good example. The growth of ‘dark stores’ that are dedicated to fulfilling online orders lend themselves perfectly to allowing wearables to influence real business outcomes. An employee using a pair of smart glasses for example, can be directed around the store to the correct aisle, depending on the order they are working on, allowing them to work smarter and be more productive.

Yet, it’s not just retail that can benefit from having wearable technology at the centre of business operations. The manufacturing sector also has a great opportunity to take advantage of the trend. The precise capture of production activity is critical for providing an accurate, real-time view of how a team, and the business, is performing. Using wearables, workers could record their production activity more quickly and easily, thereby needing to spend less time recording data. This would deliver more ‘manage in the moment’ data to operations managers and valuable productivity information to HR.

Similarly, in terms of improving productivity, wearable cameras are proving to be a valuable addition to the workplace. Service engineers for example, are using these devices as a vital training support, allowing employees to learn as they work which enables them to approach and complete tasks with greater confidence and competence. A marginal improvement in service efficiency can have a huge impact in the manufacturing industry, delivering additional hours of machine continuity and consequently, a positive impact on business productivity.

Wearing a smile on your face

Aside from the time that wearables can save and the rapid responses they can deliver to customers, the technology can also play a major role in improving levels of employee engagement. More than two fifths (41 per cent) of employees state that work/life balance is one the most important drivers behind accepting wearables in the workplace, so this should be a major part of a management team’s thinking when they are pushing an implementation.

Progress in this respect is evident in the manufacturing industry. Engineers are using wearable cameras not only for delivering a more in-depth diagnosis of what is wrong with a piece of machinery, but also for showcasing their own expertise to management within the company. Recognising an employee as an expert in a particular field will serve as a great motivation for them to take on greater responsibility within the business and to perform to their potential. By giving individuals every possible chance to excel, wearables can contribute to a more positive working environment and have the same effect on the bottom line.

Tapping the latent potential

By building an engaged workforce through wearable technology, businesses can count on raised levels of productivity. The Human Cloud At Work project carried out by Goldsmiths , has shown that the technology can improve employee productivity by 8.5 per cent which will evidently have an impact on revenues. As the UK seeks to maintain its recent productivity gains, wearables will have an important role to play. Provided that businesses can draw upon their experience of dealing with the rise of BYOD, and embrace wearables with clear policies and objectives, we will come a step closer to tapping into the vast potential of a highly-motivated workforce.

Brenda Morris, General Manager, UK, Kronos

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Andrey_Popov