ART Health, meanwhile, uses a combination of online employee surveys, cognitive performance tests and data from workplace sensors, along with that from wearables, to measure ongoing wellbeing and performance.
“By monitoring data, employers can gain a new understanding about the impact of hybrid work models on wellbeing and performance,” says Smith.
Data on employees’ health and activity could be used to trigger alerts such as encouraging regular screen breaks or moving more during the working day, simple steps which have marked benefits on employee satisfaction and productivity. Employers might implement wellness incentive programs that reward employees for achieving certain fitness goals.
Challenges to work through
The use of data from wearables to shape workplace strategies, however, is largely in its infancy.
One challenge is that uptake of wearables – though rising – is still far from widespread, says O’Donnell.
Warehouses and construction sites, in particular, don’t always have the digital infrastructure to support IoT devices such as wearables.
“In warehousing and construction, wearable technology enhances equipment to boost efficiency and save time and money, but the cost and accessibility of implementation are still hurdles for many firms,” says Anna Szlagor, from the Research and Consulting team at JLL.
Although data created by wearables is anonymised, privacy can also be a concern and barrier to uptake, especially in the context of employee health tracking.
“For companies to leverage the potential of wearables and the data they can deliver, setting a transparent data policy is paramount, as is making clear to employees what the benefits to the individual will be,” says Nick Whitten, Head of UK Living Research, JLL.
As wearables and related technologies such as augmented reality and IoT develop – and costs fall – workplaces will see greater benefits, predicts Szlagor.
Larger companies might incorporate medical-grade devices – such as blood glucose-detecting rings or electrocardiography patches – into occupational health programs, using anonymised data to alert employees when preventative care would be beneficial. Smart exoskeletons that enhance strength and mobility could support safe and efficient work environments in warehouses and on construction sites.
“As technologies like automation and AI become embedded throughout workplaces, wearables will enable us to interact with increasingly smart machinery, ushering in a future of work where humans can genuinely work with machines,” says Whitten.
Wearables could also transform how people interact with increasingly digital offices.
Smartwatches could replace phones as a seamless access pass to smart buildings, enabling employees to log into hot desks or customise temperature and lighting preferences without having to open their phones. The development of increasingly small, discreet devices is also likely to increase acceptance and in turn, the use of wearables in professional settings.
“When wearables are more embedded in the workplace, we’ll see a rise in such devices as a primary digital assistant platform,” says O’Donnell. “This is a strong growth area for businesses and wearables are an unobtrusive way to monitor data and nudge users when they have a meeting or alert to follow up on.
“It’s all part of the longer-term shift to the digitisation of the office.”