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It’s a Wearables World

Three Considerations when Implementing Wearable Sensor Technology

July 30, 2021 Photo

Today, wearables are mainstream. In our personal lives, people are comfortable wearing smartwatches and other health tracking tools because they recognize the potential benefits these devices provide.

In the business world, senior leaders continue to recognize that using wearables during work hours helps prevent losses for both the employer and the employees. There is a wide-range of wearable technologies available today for business applications—from sensor technology devices that measure physiological indicators such as core body temperature, fatigue, and heart rate; to those that monitor external environmental conditions or proximity of workers to equipment and other people.

An employer’s primary goal when using wearables is often to protect the financial health of the business and the physical safety of employees, which helps improve employee health while potentially reducing costs in areas such as workers’ compensation premiums. While an increasing number of companies are using wearables, many still face challenges implementing their usage.

There are three key factors employers should consider when implementing wearable technology:

  1. Effectiveness. When selecting wearables for an organization, employers should first identify the areas that are in most critical need for improvement. For example, what are the company’s most hazardous and risky situations? Reviewing loss history data with the risk management team, HR, and/or insurance carrier can reveal useful trends detailing key areas of high frequency and severity of injuries. This will help business leaders map out a strategic plan for the types of wearables that will make the most impact on the organization’s bottom line and the employees’ health.

  2. Communication. Obtaining employee buy-in is essential to program success when implementing wearables, but it can be challenging. Employees often have concerns over the privacy of their data as well as translating how these wearables will help them personally improve their health. One key to success is communicating the value of wearables. While this could be time consuming, individualized conversations to review the recommended wearables program for each employee have been shown to help increase employee buy-in and program acceptance. Reinforce these meetings with staff memos, emails, and newsletters; as well as discussions during safety meetings. It is important to connect the benefits of wearables for employees, both on the job and in their personal lives—demonstrate to employees that monitoring stress levels or body temperature on the job site may not only provide benefits during work hours, but also after work as well. When employees keep their temperature or stress level lower during the day, they can often experience less fatigue and have more energy to engage in the activities they enjoy in the evenings. This communication should be frequent and consistent.

  3. Data Analysis. Wearables generate an abundance of data. Every piece of data collected from a wearable sensor device can be useful in improving the ways employees work and how the company operates. It is important to have a dedicated team that is consistently analyzing the collected data and turning this analysis into real change across the organization. However, decision makers should shy away from using data to penalize workers. Instead, look to this data for ways to improve and provide constructive feedback and training opportunities. For example, if data is used only for productivity and efficiency purposes without consideration for the employee’s wellbeing, an employee may feel penalized for activities outside of their control. Improperly monitoring or incentivizing employees may lead to underreporting incidents, misuse of the devices, or mistrust from employees. Analyzing data and soliciting feedback from employees coupled with shifting sensor capabilities when changes are needed can ensure that the wearable program is used to its fullest potential.

According to data from the International Data Corporation, the wearable market has nearly doubled since 2017, and expectations are that it will continue to grow. There will be new technology advancements and even more potential for how to make a wearable program effective across a whole organization. It takes an entire team—from risk management to the c-suite—to ensure the program is set up for success. Putting a strong emphasis on the strategy, execution, and analysis of a wearable program will significantly increase the benefits on both the financial health of the company, and employee well-being.

About The Authors
Katie E. Stryker

Katie E. Stryker is assistant vice president, risk control, for CNA Insurance. 

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