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Does Wearable Technology Change Employee Behavior?

Written by Robert Brice
March 15, 2016

Wearable devices offer the same functionality as other data collection devices and provide unique benefits.

Wearable devices offer the same functionality as other data collection devices and provide unique benefits.

Inventory management employees don’t want to perform their duties with their bosses looking over their shoulders. Nobody likes feeling distrusted, and workers given responsibility over their own actions usually invest more in their performance. What if a business could have its cake and eat it too, however? Wearable tech allows companies to monitor daily activities without managers physically following employees around a warehouse.

Automatic data collection facilitated by wearable mobile technology is much more subtle than direct supervision and it can yield accurate and consistent information. Employees are aware of the reporting activities, but instead of feeling stifled, recent research suggests it might actually improve their performance.

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Wearable Technology Improves Performance

The International Business Times shared the results of research performed by the University of London called the “Human Cloud at Work”. The conclusions of the study found wearable data collection devices improved productivity by 8.5 percent. The technology is not only beneficial to the organization, as worker satisfaction increased by 3.5 percent.

Ideally, wearable data collection devices should be convenient, allowing employees to complete tasks easily. Reporting to managers doesn’t get in the way of daily tasks and workers can communicate directly to supervisors. The information is accurate so there’s no need to repeat activities.

Direct feedback can also make work less stressful. The Washington Post said wearable technology that delivers instant results can turn boring chores into interesting challenges. When people know precisely what was achieved – through data as opposed to biased opinions – they can recognize exactly what they did and how they can improve.

Possible Obstacles to Implementation

Some people may fear for their privacy when they wear automated data collection devices, particularly ones that record what an employee looks at or other in-depth information. Research conducted by the University of British Columbia, however, indicated discomfort with the technology is fleeting, according to the Live Science news source. In a controlled experiment, people wearing glasses with cameras feel prohibited at first, but quickly adjust to the devices and return to normal routines.

Companies can overcome employee fears by telling them exactly what data gets collected and how the technology works. Less invasive solutions, like voice-picking, give workers the ability to dictate what to report while still making the information processes quick and convenient.

Where to Start

Wearable data collection devices are particularly helpful when employees have to keep their hands free to perform tasks. Entrepreneur shared the example of a grocery store using data collection armbands to track inventory movements.

The technology tracked business activities and employee health to show when workers were right on schedule or if the current workload was overtaxing. Not only did the new solutions let managers supervise employee behaviors, a complete record of overall performance allowed decision-makers to evaluate the entire inventory system and remove inefficiencies in routines.

Companies that want the information wearable solutions provide but feel innovative technology is too risky should begin with voice-directed solutions. The RFgen white paper “Using Voice-Directed Work in the Supply Chain” said warehouse has been using mobile devices that respond to spoken commands for more than 25 years. It’s a proven technology that can create productive and happy employees.