Is monitoring employee data the right move for retailers?
Wearables are giving employers the potential to measure worker productivity. But should they?
Consumers are already using Fitbits and other devices to track their own biometrics and seek improvements in their personal lives. A view into their workers’ health indicators and habits could offer employers insights to help support happier and healthier staffs and ultimately improve productivity.
“It’s in nobody’s interest to have overworked, stressed and anxious (sleep-deprived) employees who often aren’t even aware of their own condition,” Chris Brauer, director of innovation and senior lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, told The Wall Street Journal in a recent discussion on the issue. “Making things visible is a good thing if there is a culture of trust and accountability.”
Wearables may also track performance, depending on the job. Sensors worn during practice by professional athletes detect elevated heart rates and other vital signs to understand if they are working at peak levels or are fatigued. Workplace measurements promise only to advance in sophistication.
Last week, for instance, Vinaya, the London tech startup, launched a biometric wristband that monitors an individual’s emotions. The device takes in heart rate variability, electrodermal activity and blood oxygen levels, then cross-references that information with other types of data such as activity levels, calendar events, location and amount of smartphone notifications.
On the downside, making business decisions based on an employee’s health, stress levels or sleep patterns can be seen as discriminatory. The accuracy of many wearable apps is also being questioned.
The biggest hurdles to using wearables to monitor employees are privacy and security. A CIO Magazine article noted how storing reams of personal data about their employees would add another level of the data-breach risks to corporations as well as the temptation to monetize that data.
Past surveys have shown that a majority of employees are open to using wearables, such as headsets on selling floors, if they help them do their jobs better. But employers may need to offer incentivizes if they want to convince workers to use wearables that monitor their personal information.
- How Should Companies Handle Data From Employees’ Wearable Devices? – The Wall Street Journal (sub. required)
- The Wearable Future – pwc
- How the Apple Watch, Fitbit and Other Wearables Are Transforming the Workplace – BitTech
- BNA INSIGHTS: The Brave New World of Wearables in the Workplace—Privacy and Data Security Concerns for Employers – Bloomberg BNA
- CDT and Fitbit Develop Guidelines for Privacy and Research for Wearables Industry – CDT/Fitbit
- ZENTA: Wearable Tech for Your Emotional Wellbeing – Indiegogo
- Vinaya’s Kate Unsworth Launches Zenta: The World’s First Biometric Band For Your Emotional Wellbeing – Forbes
- Should Retailers Monitor Employees Via Workplace Wearables? – Retail Touchpoints
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see benefits to using wearables to monitor retail employees for health and performance, whether in the store, warehouse or headquarters? Do you think retail employees could be offered incentives to use such wearables?