Wearables and Workplace Stress

Wearable technology

Workers wearing a “wearable” health device in the workplace to track their breathing patterns have reported experiencing fewer stress symptoms and “anxious days”.

Employee health and wellbeing – could wearables help to reduce workplace stress?

Mobile and wearable technology is playing a greater and greater role in health and wellbeing. Think your 10,000-steps-a-day apps, even if their value has been questioned, and devices such as the FitBit.

But now research from the US has suggested wearable devices could have a role to play in helping to reduce workplace stress and anxiety.

Research by The LinkedIn Corporation and Stanford University’s Mind & Body Lab has concluded that workers who wore a “Spire” tracker experienced significantly less stress and negative moods, and felt more productive and “focused” during work hours than non-Spire users.

For the 30-day study, workers who wore the tracker, a pebble-sized device that clips to a belt buckle or bra strap, reported significantly less stress and negative moods, as well as more productive and “focused” work hours than non-Spire users.

LinkedIn’s global wellness manager Michael Susi said: “Our employees are our greatest asset – especially their health and minds. They used Spire to make tangible improvements to things that can seem fleeting: focus, distraction, and productivity. Lowering stress while increasing productivity is crucial to the success of any business, and to be able to do both of those with one device is rather powerful.”

So, what should employers take away from this?

Data and security worries

Clearly, wearables are still what we might call an “early adopter” technology, in that, while becoming more commonplace, they are still certainly not mainstream.

It is also clear that one of the areas where they could add value, and are already increasingly popular, is within health and wellbeing.

But, at the same time, introducing them into a workplace setting may not be as straightforward as some might assume.

UK research last summer by management consultancy firm PwC concluded the use of wearables in the workplace can be stalled by a lack of trust and worries about data security, especially if the devices are given to employees as a perk.

While two thirds (65%) wanted their employer to take an active role in their health and wellbeing, and felt technology should be used to help them do this, just 46% said they would accept a free piece of wearable technology if their employers had access to the data recorded on it.

Role of technology in return-to-work

Nevertheless, there is a strong argument to be made that technology has the potential at least to transform occupational health provision.

This is not just in terms of general health and wellbeing devices, such as wearables, but also in the context of how employers interact and connect with employees around health, wellbeing promotion and education and even interventions, rehabilitation and return to work.

We’re not there yet, and technology and telemedicine should not be seen as a replacement for face-to-face interaction, rather as a tool that complements it.

Making predictions about the future workplace is always fraught with uncertainty. But it’s probably a relatively safe bet to predict that, 5-10 years down the line, we shouldn’t be surprised if the role, and use, of technology within workplace health has completely transformed the health and wellbeing interaction between employer and employee.

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Posted in News,Occupational health by OH Assist on the 24th April 2017

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