Research Proves Wearable Tech Increases Employee Productivity

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Rackspace says the main challenge now is harvesting data generated by employees’ devices for analytics

Adoption of wearable technology in the workplace can increase staff productivity and job satisfaction, suggests research commissioned by Rackspace.

However, IT professionals have raised concerns about the security of newly-generated data and the sudden increase in IT workloads caused by the introduction of devices like the Fitbit, Pebble and Google Glass.

The findings are the result of the Human Cloud at Work project, which looks at the impact wearable devices could have on the corporate environment.

“Wearable technologies are arguably the biggest trend since tablet computing, so it’s natural that employees and businesses will look to use these devices in the workplace,” said Chris Brauer, leader of the project. “Using data generated from the devices, organisations can learn how human behaviours impact productivity, performance, well-being and job satisfaction.”

According to the study, almost a third of large businesses in the UK are already undertaking some form of wearable technology trial. That might seem high, but this trend is much more visible in the US, where almost two thirds of respondents said their organisations were testing wearable tech.

More work, more data

Human Cloud at Work is a two-year project led by Dr Brauer, director of Innovation and senior lecturer at the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths. It combines practical research, surveys of IT decision makers and analysis of the wearable technology market.

Wearable tech, smartwatch - (c) Alexey Boldin, Shutterstock 2014Researchers from Goldsmiths have found that adopting wearable technology in the workplace increased employee productivity by as much as 8.5 percent in a single month, when compared to a control group which didn’t use such technology. Somewhat surprisingly, these devices also increased job satisfaction by 3.5 percent.

Wearable tech is also capable of generating huge amounts of new data which could be used in analytics – according to the study, each employee equipped with three different wearable devices was producing about 30GB of information every week.

“The big step change for both individuals and businesses is being able to analyse the raw data and understand the wider context surrounding the data, such as the weather location, posture, even temperature and mood of the individual,” explained Nigel Beighton, CTO of Rackspace UK.

“By focusing on the data as well as the devices, wearable technologies can provide meaningful insights that can be used to improve performance and satisfaction.  Essentially wearable tech and big data go hand-in-hand.”

The study also highlighted several issues with wearable technology: 59 percent of respondents said securing these devices would be a challenge, and 52 percent were worried about the impact they would have on the already strained IT departments. Only five percent said they were concerned about their employees resisting the introduction of devices which would literally track their every step. VirginGoogleGLass12

Later this month, the second stage of the Human Cloud at Work project will double the participant sample size in order to verify the results.

Last month, Virgin Atlantic hailed the success of the trial involving Google Glass and Sony smartwatches. The airline said wearable devices helped reduce the number of times an agent had to go behind a desk to look something up for a passenger, which would break eye contact – apparently vital to ensuring a “VIP customer experience”.

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