A quarter of professionals are currently feeling unhappy with their work-life balance, according to recent research, indicating that the pressures of working life are becoming too much for millions of employees across the country. With such a high percentage of employees struggling to cope with the ‘always on’ working culture, it isn’t surprising that the total number of working days lost due to stress, depression or anxiety was 11.3 million in 2013-14.
High levels of absenteeism can often have a negative impact on organisations, potentially leading to a drop in productivity, an overstretched workforce and ultimately lower productivity.
Along with the more traditional job pressures such as short deadlines or high targets, technology has added a new dimension to the problem, blurring the line that separates work from leisure. Employees can now log in to their servers remotely, check emails on their phones or dial into a conference call from almost anywhere in the world.
While technology has become an important gateway to the working world, it is often all too tempting to ‘log on’ during downtime or even when on holiday.
Turning the tables
But in a world where nothing stays the same for long, we are now seeing advancements in technology to actually help reverse this ‘always on’ effect. One such innovation is the introduction of new wearable technologies, which could encourage employees to look after their health, take responsibility for their own wellbeing and regain a better work-life balance.
Interestingly, research by ADP found that a fifth of employees already have access to some form of wearable technology in the workplace and can see the potential of such tools for improving their working lives in a number of ways:
- 33% would use wearables to organise workload according to productive times of the day
- 33% would manage stress, for example, through monitoring caffeine intake or encouraging mindfulness
- 28% would like to be alerted to a drop in energy levels
- 28% would identify potential health risks to seek medical advice
With an increasing appetite for wearable technology, organisations should consider how they can adopt new tools to help staff find a more balanced working life and improve their wellbeing.
Assessing the need
By taking time to ask employees if and how they would like to use wearable technology, employers can implement the most appropriate solution.
For example, employees who find that work stress is affecting their mental wellbeing may benefit from apps that offer mindfulness guidance, helping them relax and focus. Alternatively, those who lead an unhealthy lifestyle could benefit from activity trackers that encourage users to monitor daily steps and activity. What’s more, employees who suffer from the dreaded afternoon slump could benefit from being alerted to low energy levels and the need to refuel.
By providing wearable technology that caters to the specific wellbeing needs of each employee, organisations are better positioned to build a happier, more efficient and productive workforce. In fact, research shows that businesses who take care of their staff can expect to see up to a 31% increase in productivity and 37% increase in sales.
Among the many benefits, there are also some considerations to bear in mind when arming employees with wearable technology. First and foremost, there must be transparency in how and why these tools are being used. As a matter of fact, more than half of employees say they are concerned about the amount of personal data employers could access via this kind of technology. If organisations extract personal information from the tools without an employee’s approval, this could cause serious ethical and reputational issues, potentially leading to a disgruntled workforce.
Transparency and employee consent is particularly important amongst multinationals, where differences in culture and attitudes towards such technology are often more prominent. For example, ADP research found that while only 10% of employees in France and 8% in Germany and the Netherlands feel hesitant about using wearable technology, one in five (20%) UK workers have similar concerns.
Organisations across the globe should consider the varying attitudes and create a technology framework that appeals to employees from all countries. Not only will this enable organisations to improve staff wellbeing, but they will also have the potential to use the new data to develop HR strategies that align with specific employee needs, while not stepping over personal boundaries.
With many employees feeling overwhelmed by constant deadlines, increasing workloads and harder-to-reach targets, wearable technology has the potential to give them back some control, and achieve a more stable work-life balance. When these tools are correctly implemented, it is a win-win: employees gain the better work-life balance they are striving for, while employers are rewarded with an efficient, productive and profitable workforce.