Key takeaways

  • Major businesses are utilising wearables in the workforce to improve efficiency and service.
  • Devices can be an aid to driving real-time data insights.
  • Employees are increasingly open to wearable technology, particularly where it improves wellbeing.

It’s no secret that wearables have taken the consumer world by storm. However, the explosion of devices such as fitness bracelets, smartwatches and sensors can potentially revolutionise the way we work. According to an April 2015 PwC study, employees are increasingly open to the ways in which wearable devices can streamline and improve their working lives.

The research found that over half of all respondents would wear a smartwatch if data was used to reduce work hours and stress levels, that Millennials are comfortable sharing personal data and that 56% of employees would embrace wearables if doing so would improve their professional wellbeing.

Whether they’re boosting employee efficiency or improving customer service, businesses have started taking these findings to heart. Here are four ways that wearable technology can kick goals in the workforce.

Corporate wellness

There’s a directly proportional relationship between employee performance and wellbeing. But schemes such as subsidised gym membership and lunchtime classes are highly dependent on employee motivation levels.

In February 2014, BP started offering its staff members a FitBit fitness tracker to monitor their steps, sleep patterns and calorie intake, increase physical activity and improve their health. The scheme, which challenges employees to take one million steps a year and rewards activity points with discounts on health insurance premiums, has been hugely successful – BP revealed that 81% of staff reached their fitness goals in a July 2015 interview with the BBC.

Employee efficiency

Wearables can create seismic improvements when it comes to repetitive tasks. Sensors can monitor factors such as accuracy while armbands and watches can record information that would otherwise be entered manually.

In April 2015, UK supermarket giant Tesco equipped workers with armbands that automatically track products across 90 aisles of shelves. These armbands eliminate the need for clipboards, ensure that orders are being fulfilled and generate an estimated completion time – features that increase efficiency while reducing errors that arise during the stocking process.

Staff productivity

High employee productivity has direct implications for customer relationships and business goals. But companies often struggle to nail that elusive formula that fosters happy and productive workers.

In March 2013, the Bank of America attempted to resolve productivity issues among its call centre workers by outfitting them with ID badges embedded with sensors, to measure how their social interactions unfolded throughout the day. Interestingly, they discovered that the more productive employees were those that engaged with their colleagues more regularly and belonged to a tight-knit team.

The success of Bank of America’s experiment offers lessons for businesses that base decision-making on speculations rather than real-world results. It’s also proof of the ways in which wearable devices can generate real-time data that forms the basis for powerful insights.

Customer service

Although wearable devices can boost staff efficiency and productivity, they can also set the stage for the kind of seamless customer experience that reaps profits and sales.

In February 2014, Virgin Atlantic conducted a six-week trial that saw customer service representatives don Google Glasses and Sony Smartwatches that capture real-time customer data – a factor that allows them to check-in Upper Class customers as soon as they arrive in a limousine, greet them by name, update them on the latest flight information and brief them on the weather at their chosen destination.

The pilot program, heralded as a “raging success”, highlights Virgin Atlantic’s ongoing commitment to personalisation, and was the first phase of a wider rollout that’s yet to be announced.

From accelerating employee productivity to making the customer experience glitch-free, there’s no shortage of ways that wearable technology can turn workplace conventions on their head. What do you believe are the most promising wearable innovations for business and why?



Nick Spooner

Nick Spooner is a partner at PwC and the leader of PwC Digital Services Experience Centre across South East Asia and Australia.

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