Welcome the future of wearable technology

The use of wearable technology for leisure and work is on the increase. With the market estimated to be worth £125bn within 10 years, items range from basic headphones, pedometers, watches and fitness monitors to potentially invasive and intrusive recorders, spy glasses and Google Glasses. Setting the appropriate boundaries is one of the challenges faced by HR professionals.

As soon as you have people working for you it becomes necessary to establish HR policies to manage employee ‘creativity’ in workplace situations. It’s vital to have a strategy to develop, implement, maintain and enforce a set of HR policies which reflect your expectations of acceptable behaviour. Loosely defined standards that aren’t properly documented can result in breaches becoming subjective and open to interpretation. The result of such ambiguity can ultimately be litigation.

Why is a Wearable Technology policy important?

Anti-virus protection is non-existent in wearable technology, leaving you and your business open to hacking.

Intellectual property loss. With some wearables this could even occur by accident. Entry level smart glasses track eye movement and can alert the wearer if they begin to doze off but high-end glasses offer Wi-Fi connectivity and can record and transmit audio & video.

Perceptions by employees that wearable technology is being used to spy on them, rather than to improve productivity, could have negative repercussions leading to an unhappy workforce, anxiety and a subsequent loss of productivity.

Employee distraction. Some employers encourage the use of fitness trackers because of the productivity benefits of a healthy workforce. Various fitness trackers and smart watches emit reminder-beeps or alert tones and could be distracting to other workers or undermining during an interview or hearing. With sales of wrist-wearable devices doubling year on year, it’s clear that a well-defined policy is critical for employer and employee satisfaction and protection.

Risk. By their very nature, wearables collect and transmit information. There’s the possibility of sensitive confidential discussion being recorded or transmitted for future use. This type of technology has been available for years with smart phones but wearables offer a more discreet opportunity to the wearer.

For company-sponsored wearables, not all employees will be receptive to the collection of their personal data through smart technology. Robust policies are required to ensure that after-hours information about employees, like the number of hours of sleep, cannot be used against them during discussions about performance or absenteeism.

Policy considerations would need to encompass which information may be recorded and by whom, how and where information is stored and how it may be used. HR policies regarding wearables should fall within your electronic communication policy so that employees can’t sidestep a policy because wearable technology was inadvertently overlooked.

Contact us for HR advice on establishing rules, boundaries and etiquette about wearable technology.

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