How Wearables Enhance Remote Employee Productivity in 2020

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, remote work is becoming more common than ever. Everyone is working from their living rooms or kitchen tables, with some companies going so far as to say their employees can indefinitely work remotely.

One of the most significant challenges these newly remote teams face is finding the best way to be productive while they’re sitting at home in their pajamas. Wearable technology, from the Apple Watch to your favorite Fitbit, might be the perfect solution to enhance productivity as everyone gets used to working from home for the foreseeable future.

Wearables Are Already Everywhere

Companies are looking for ways to keep their remote teams connected without breaking the bank. The best thing about incorporating wearables is that they’re already a common, if not integral, part of our society. According to a Gallup poll from December 2019, nearly one out of every five adults in the United States is already wearing a fitness tracker or smartwatch or using an app to track activity on their smartphone.

The number of people on your team using wearable technology will vary depending on the demographic breakdown of your office — younger people and those in higher income brackets are more likely to use wearable trackers. Either way, in most cases, these trackers are a readily available tool to encourage productivity in your remote teams.

Breaktime Reminders

When you’re working from your living room, with the TV on in the background and your feet up on the coffee table, it’s easy to forget one of the fundamental rules of productivity — taking breaks. We settle in, get comfy and work as fast as possible, so we have the rest of the day to do whatever we want. Wearable technology is useful for more than just keeping track of your heart rate while you’re running. You can also program a device to remind you to take breaks during the day.

Upwards of 90% of surveyed employees in North America state that they feel refreshed and ready to get back to work after a regular lunch break. Use those wearables to keep your team to task on everything — including breaks.

Streamlining Communication

Communication can be challenging when you’re in the habit of being able to walk down the hall to get a question answered. We’re all in our homes, which can make connecting difficult. According to a survey by Globalization Partners, more than half of surveyed companies find that collaboration, especially across time zones, is one of the threats to productivity facing remote teams.

While companies may want to discourage the use of wearable technology during business hours because it can be a distraction, it can also be a useful tool to help streamline communication. During work hours, wearers can program their watches or trackers to ignore notifications or to only generate alerts for work-related communication.

Supporting Health

The primary use for wearable technology is tracking health and fitness. These devices keep a record of everything from heart rate to steps taken. Some, like the newest incarnation of the Apple Watch, even work as a single-lead ECG, monitoring heart health. When used correctly, it can be a powerful productivity tool as well.

A 2012 study from Brigham Young University found employees who ate poorly were 66% more likely to be less productive than their co-workers who ate a healthy diet. Skipping daily exercise made them 96% likely to be less productive. While fitness trackers might not encourage everyone to get moving, merely wearing one is often enough to convince people to be active during the day — if for no other reason than they want to clear their move bar or close the rings on their Apple Watch.

Downsides of Workplace Wearables

Using wearable technology for workplace productivity isn’t all sunshine and roses. Without specific rules, it can end up making people less productive. A few of the downsides of wearable technology include the following.

  • Constant distraction from notifications: You can fix this problem by changing a few settings in your watch, but it’s easy to get distracted by every little ping from social media or email.
  • Unfriendly competition: A little bit of friendly workplace competition can be beneficial and useful for teambuilding, but when it moves beyond that, it can damage team camaraderie. That’s not as easy to repair while you’re working remotely.
  • Privacy concerns: There are some privacy issues around syncing your wearable technology with your workplace server, from the information it collects to who can see it. When Amazon decided to patent wearables for its warehouse workers, there were even worries the retail giant would use the devices to monitor productivity and punish anyone who didn’t meet their criteria.
  • They can be costly: Expense isn’t as much of a problem if employees are providing their wearables, but if the company is responsible for footing the bill, it can represent a significant investment.

Don’t let these things scare you away. Wearable technology can be invaluable for remote team productivity, if you use it correctly and figure out how to overcome the downsides.

The Future of Remote Work

The chances are high that we’ll be working from home for quite a while. Even if a viable vaccine or treatment emerges to help control the virus that sparked the coronavirus pandemic, many companies have already transitioned to a permanent remote model. Wearable technology can be a valuable tool, especially as we learn to navigate these untested remote work waters.

About the Author
Shannon Flynn is a tech writer and the Managing Editor at ReHack.com. She has written for sites like TechDayHQ, Re-Work, and Innovation & Tech Today. Follow ReHack on Twitter to read more of Shannon’s work.

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