Do you enjoy working on your own?
It used to be the case that only certain types of employees were ‘lone workers’ – people working in a small teams in large spaces like health care professionals doing home visits, for example.
But now even office staff are spending more time by themselves thanks to the growth of flex-time and working from home.
In 2015, 4.2 million people regularly worked from home, and the majority of these workers were split between agriculture, information and communication or construction.
This is great for productivity and ensuring that employees can balance family commitments with their work, but it does throw up one big problem:
When you work alone, there’s nobody there to make sure you’re safe and well.
But wearable technology can help manage this by monitoring key signals such as location and heart rate and sending updates to employers, including alerts that will warn when workers are too tired, stressed or working too long without a break.
In my experience this makes employees feel supported and valued, and this should ultimately make them more productive.
Bringing wearables into the workplace
Many organisations have policies where lone workers have to ‘check in’ once every hour to let their managers know they’re alright.
But what about the other 59 minutes?
Wearables help solve this dilemma.
You receive a constant stream of data about your team, so you know they’re okay at all times without them having to stop what they’re doing to check in.
For an employer, keeping yourself in the loop at all times is vital because you have a duty of care over your staff.
This is a legal issue as much as it is an ethical one.
In the US it’s commonplace for organisations to face lawsuits after employees injure themselves – there were 2.9 million non-fatal workplace injury cases in 2016.
And this tendency to retroactively sue a negligent employer could come over to the UK.
But more important than legal issues is the fact that nobody wants an employee to get hurt – least of all employees themselves.
Workers are keen to adopt wearables for this very reason.
They’ve seen the developing trend for tracking health and fitness with Fitbits or Garmin watches – why not use the same tech to keep them healthy in their jobs?
Using wearables to see the big picture
It’s important to point out that organisations are only interested in the metadata that they collect from workplace wearables.
It’s not about seeing what you are doing as an individual – nobody wants over the shoulder management.
The information transmitted by wearable tech will be used look for patterns in when and where accidents tend to occur.
Is there a particular area of a warehouse that has seen multiple incidents in one month? Is there a certain road that seems to make drivers sleepy? Or do drivers tend to get tired at a specific time?
If you can spot these trends you can make changes to organisational policy to proactively prevent accidents before they occur.
You can stop drivers from using a particular road that has been shown to increase drowsiness, for example.
Detecting these kinds of patterns doesn’t require any examination of individual data, which is anonymised in any case.
And you don’t even have to use your real name with your wearable.
You can choose to be known as ‘driver 1379’, for instance, because it isn’t about management keeping tabs on you – it’s about management keeping you safe by monitoring your heart rate and stress levels and sending help if you need it.
Technology creates a more caring world
There are a lot of complaints that technology is making the world a less caring place.
I think the opposite is true. We can harness wearable technology to make the workplace even kinder and more human.
Wearables will keep the ever-growing number of lone workers healthy and safe as they do their jobs.
It’s important to show your employees they’re valued in this way as it makes a huge difference to their lives.
I’ve heard some wonderful stories about people who have been saved by workplace wearables.
On one such occasion, a woman called to thank us for giving her husband a wearable. He has a heart condition, and the fact that we’re keeping an eye on this has given her confidence he won’t have an attack at work.
So it’s clear when we put humans at the centre of our design it has the potential to benefit everybody – the business and most importantly the employee.
Ultimately wearables assure your workers they’re cared for.
And this is what it’s all about: letting your people know that even though they aren’t surrounded by colleagues they’re not alone.
Look out for the second instalment in this series on wearables coming soon.
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