Wearable technology has made it’s way into the mainstream, embraced by consumers eager to track their calories and heart rate and catch the latest tweets without having to fish for their phone. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, one in five Americans currently own a wearable device and one in ten wear one every day. Business Insider forecasts the global wearable device industry will grow to $12.6 billion by 2018. Like cell phones a generation ago, wearable devices are now a reality in the workplace. Wearable devices can be fantastic tools for productivity, but they present risks as well.
The Promise of Wearable Devices
Consumers first began embracing them as ways to monitor health, track steps, get better sleep and be more active. These are all desirable practices that can have direct and indirect productivity gains for employers. Devices such as the Apple Watch help boost not just health but also productivity, making responding to emails and texts easier, more fluid and more integrated into the rhythm of life.
As wearable devices become more ubiquitous, applications for them are evolving and businesses that embrace this promise will be ahead of the curve.
Already, technology is moving into the “ingestibles” phase of wearables’ evolution. There are more risks, more promise and more reason to understand what’s at stake with wearable devices.
The Peril of Wearable Devices
Along with the power of wearable technology comes risk, as businesses need to consider the following potential liabilities:
Wearable devices can cause distractions that put employees at risk. In addition, a wearable device can be a physical hazard. Manufacturers often restrict employees from wearing rings or watches because they can get caught in equipment. In cases like this, wearable devices should be considered the same as jewelry, with appropriate restrictions. This will help guard against injuries on the job that can lead to worker compensation claims, lost productivity and lost revenue.
Many wearable tech devices can store and gather private information, presenting a hacking risk. Even a fitness wristband that collects user information can put a company at risk for breaching confidentiality if unauthorized access occurs.
Employees—often with the blessing of employers—are engaging in bring your own device (BYOD) programs in ever greater numbers. The 9-to-5 workday is out and flexibility is in, which means employees working out of the office on personal laptops, tablets, smartphones and, now, wearable devices. Travelers highlights risks and best practices for BYOD programs, and all are applicable for wearable devices.
What’s the Answer?
In some companies they are forbidding wearable tech devices in the workplace. Employees are told not only to not use them, but also to leave them at home. While this approach cuts off risks completely, but it also limits opportunity, and employee satisfaction.
There are other companies who believe that wearable tech devices are the future and will lead to growth. If your company is embracing wearable technology, be sure to implement risk management best practices such as establishing security levels for users; encrypting Bluetooth data; encrypting ID, passwords and PINs and ensuring there’s a remote-erase feature.
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