Workers intrigued by wearables for the office

A survey found that employees are eager to incorporate these devices into their work, but aren't sure how useful they'll be

Employees are eager to incorporate wearable devices into their work routines but aren't convinced the technology will make their jobs easier and want employers to cover the costs, according to a survey from IT staffing firm Modis.

"The utility of them in the workplace is probably what's causing the hesitation to want to dip into their own pocket and actually pay for them," said Bobby Knight, senior vice president of strategic sales and delivery at Modis, which conducted the survey to gauge worker sentiment around using technology, especially wearables, in the office.

The survey found that professionals are keen on using wearables at work. Ninety percent of the 603 professionals polled responded that they're interested in receiving a wearable device from their employer to complete work tasks and 60 percent said they would be extremely interested in using such a device at work. But only 37 percent believed that wearables could make their jobs easier.

"I think the utility of it probably has to mature a little bit in the workplace for companies and employees to widely adopt it," Knight said.

The survey noted that some employees don't see useful workplace applications for wearables, with 19 percent calling the technology irrelevant to their jobs and 12 percent labelling the devices as a distraction.

Some businesses would be receptive to purchasing wearables for their employees, said Knight. Wearables are encountering the same enterprise use questions tablets faced when they debuted. Now, mobile technology is purchased by businesses to help workers instantly access data. Wearables could follow a similar path once their role is better defined, he added.

"Creative employees will figure out how to leverage that for their benefit," Knight said.

Workers picked smartwatches as the wearable they're most interested in using, with 63 percent of respondents naming those devices as their top choice. This technology also has the most practical applications, Knight said. With a smartwatch, workers can leave their smartphones at their desk, attend a meeting and still have access to emails, calls and text messages.

Respondents said that wearables could help them access information more quickly [60 percent], track their work schedule [54 percent], log personal health information [52 percent] and track personal calendars [51 percent].

Fitness trackers such as Fitbits were the second most coveted wearable, according to the poll. Nearly half [44 percent] of the workers surveyed were interested in devices that monitor activity levels. The survey noted that these devices would have more personal applications, but added that keeping employees active can generate long-term business benefits by leading to lower health-care costs.

Businesses are already investing in employee wellness products like fitness balls for desk chairs and standing desks, and fitness trackers are part of this movement, Knight said. Controlling health-care costs is a top concern for companies, and fitness trackers can help keep employees healthier.

Close to 60 percent of workers polled said that being around people with fitness trackers would inspire them to be physically active, while 45 percent of them said it would change their workout plans.

Other wearables devices workers are interested in using at the office include smartglasses [29 percent] and input devices [18 percent] that rely on gestures and motions to complete activities, such as controlling a laptop with a sensor-equipped armband.

"As product like a Google Glass matures and becomes a little more mainstream and the uses of it [increase], people in the workplace will be willing to use it," said Knight.

But some employees also expressed security and privacy security concerns regarding the use of wearable devices. Nearly a quarter of people polled [23 percent] were concerned that companies may use wearables to collect personal information on them.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

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Fred O'Connor

IDG News Service
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