Wearable tech in the workplace: Productivity boosting solution or a privacy no go?

As wearables often gather sensitive health information, employers should be wary of the privacy and ethical challenges. By Claire Saunders and Jenai Nissim of HelloDPO Law Ltd.

Recent years have seen a boom in wearable technology. The sight of fitness trackers on wrists, for example, is not unusual, with Wikipedia reporting that Apple sold more watches in 2020 than the entire Swiss watch industry(1).

Of course, wearable tech is not limited to watches. There are rings, virtual and augmented reality headsets, clothes, exoskeletons (to name but a few) which monitor a range of information. These devices are collecting personal data, up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week in some cases and therefore raise significant privacy issues.

In an employment context, a study by Goldsmiths, University of London from 2014 showed wearable technology boosting employee productivity by 8.5% and employee job satisfaction by 3.5%(2). The prospect of increased productivity will undoubtedly appeal to employers. But whilst there are many examples of wearables being used in the workplace, they are by no means ubiquitous. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this and some of the privacy challenges associated with these technologies.

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