Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wearables in the workplace is more complicated than first thought

This article in the WSJ discusses wearable devices in the workplace and the legal concerns that may come about with employer tracking/ spying. The main issue brought up is how companies are allowed to use the data they collect.
I personally believe that collecting certain data from wearables like Fitbits, and Apple watches can be beneficial to the workers and employers. In terms of health effects, and insurance policies many workers find themselves not getting enough exercise throughout the day because of sitting in an office all day. With a Fitbit employees can use this as a motivation to perhaps go for a walk during lunch, or even sleeping more at night which can lead to a healthier individual. A healthier individual is at work more often, more attentive, and has the energy to complete their work which benefits the employer as well. Some insurance policies can also track this data in order to perhaps increase benefits or lower payments.

In terms of what employers can actually do with this data is where I am not sure where I stand. This article suggested a third party come in and review the data and not the employer themselves. I definitely believe that their needs to be some separation of what the employer can track. I don’t think location, or voice recordings should be allowed but having an employer know step count, calorie count, even number of hours of sleep can be beneficial. I don’t believe that an employer should be able to fire an individual because they’re not active enough or not sleeping enough. At the same time if an individual’s performance is below par and there is past data of an individual being more active, sleeping more, and doing better work then I think that can contribute to the company’s case. But then there’s a touchy area of being discriminating against people who are not as active as someone else.

Another issues this article brings up is can/ should a company mandate on the job wearables? As I previously stated I do believe wearable fitness tracker could be extremely beneficial for the health and well being of just about everyone. In my opinion I do think companies should mandate wearables solely for the fact to monitor health. Many companies have wellness programs and I think it should be mandated, not only for work purposes but can help people stay healthy. But this is America, and if someone doesn’t want to wear a health and fitness tracker at work then that’s their choice.
In conclusion, I definitely see the health pros of having people wear fitness trackers at work, but in regards to what data employers can track/ use is where I’m not really sure. It seems to be a stride in the right direction in terms of using technology in the workplace, but everyone will always fear big brother, and there has to be rules put in place to protect the privacy of employees.



  1. I think Daniel’s article gives great insight into how our world is rapidly changing thru technological devices. 10 years ago, it would be crazy to even think that wearable devices would become the norm. As someone who is avidly involved in the fitness and health industry, I am all about fitness wearable devices such as Fitbits and Apple watches. The information tracked and stored on those devices are essential for living a better and healthier lifestyle. The information tracked from those devices can help an individual realize that they’ve been sitting down all day and need to get up and move around. This can also show the calories burnt, so the individual will make conscious decisions on what to eat for their next meal. A healthy employee equals a productive employee, which is something all companies look for.

    In terms of health condition and insurance policies, wearable devices could help prevent insurance fraud or notify the wearer of a health issue before they go for a check-up. There should be special medical wearable devices that the patient can wear daily and then at a check-up, the doctor can extract all the necessary data from the device itself. This can help the doctor diagnose the patient in a much more precise manner. Also, I agree with Daniel that insurance companies can use this data to help build special insurance policies or plans based on the individual’s lifestyle. This can help both the policyholder and insurance company save more money.

    However, when it comes to the company tracking employee data, there should be a fine line between what data is necessary and what is not. There is a huge potential for invasion of privacy and employees will feel like Big Brother is always watching over them. Employees may be caused to work or live a certain way, since they know their company is watching their every move, so there’s no sense of freedom around. Companies should not be able to use voice recordings on the devices, since this will cause huge lawsuits for invasion of privacy at certain meetings. Companies should not be able to mandate the devices, unless they are truly necessary for on-the-job performance. For example, if you are a salesperson for a company and the company wants to track your location/territory, miles driven, and hours spent active, all that information may be essential for them in monitoring you.

    There are more pros than cons when it comes to fitness wearable devices. But, when it comes down to companies tracking and keeping data on its employees, I don’t really see any positives. Companies should only track employee data when it is specifically needed for job performance, but there should be limitations on what they can actually track too.

  2. Daniel chose a great article for his blog post. The controversy of wearables in the workplace is becoming a more relevant issue as health monitoring devices, such as Fitbits are gaining popularity and credibility. As most of us are college seniors, full-time jobs are right around the corner and this article contains an issue some (if not many) of us will be faced with once we are in the workforce.

    While Daniel expresses that a company should mandate wearables in the workplace, I do not agree with his standpoint. While these trackers monitor health and can be beneficial for the overall wellbeing of an employee, I do not believe they tell the whole story regarding someone’s life. It is unjust for a company to mandate that everyone wear these. If a company did mandate these devices, I believe this would lead to a competition throughout the office regarding who can take the most steps, or climb the most flights of stairs. This could even decrease one’s productivity in the office if they are only concerned about getting up and walking around every thirty minutes, versus producing the work they are required to do.

    What people do outside of the workplace is none of the employer’s business, in my opinion. I feel work should stay in the office and not be taken home with someone. Wearing these health monitoring devices so that one’s employer can review the results blurs the line between work and personal life, and due to this fact they should not be used in the workplace. If someone chooses to wear one of these monitoring devices for their own personal benefit that is okay, but the results or use of the device should never be discussed in the office.

    The main reason I have this negative view of wearables in the workplace is based off of my internships the past two summers. In both of these offices, neither company mandated wearables. There were employees who were active and would go to the gym either before or after work every day, and there were others whose greatest form of exercise was walking to the printer a few times a day. No one’s work performance was affected based on their level of activity throughout the day. The hardworking employees were dedicated during the hours of 9-5 and that’s all that mattered, regardless if they had worked out that day or not. Due to the fact that I do not see evidence in my own experiences that working out makes a substantial difference to the quality of work produced, employers should not mandate the use of wearable fitness trackers. As Daniel stated, this is America and no one should be forced to wear something they do not want to.

  3. Fitbits, Apple Watches, Garmin Vivo Fits and all other health and fitness trackers are a huge craze today. I think the article that Dan chose was very interesting because I’m someone who is obsessed with her Fitbit, I love tracking my steps, sleep patterns and competing with friends. However, after reading the article “As Wearables in Workplace Spread, So Do Legal Concerns” I think that I should be more concerned that a company I work for can track my active life. Like the article states, I think, that collecting data on employees’ health and their physical movement is ethically incorrect and potentially an invasion of privacy.

    I thought it was particularly interesting that the employers would use the data they collect from these fitness trackers not only as a part of corporate wellness programs but also to track if certain employees have disabilities. I definitely agree with Dan and think it would be beneficial to track the employees step counts or hours of sleep in order to get preferential terms on employee insurance. I think it would be very smart to set up a system where employees are rewarded for being active and healthy. This would help companies hire employees that expected to be productive for a longer period of time, as active people are generally more productive.

    However, in my opinion its definitely an invasion of privacy is employees were able to penalize less active employees who may be less healthy or those with a disability. The article states, “For example, if a warehouse employee does poorly on tracked activity measures on the job, the employer might need to consider whether the data could indicate a physical disability that would require the employer to make a reasonable accommodation.” However, according to US law it is illegal for companies discriminate against individuals with disabilities. I do agree with the article in that if an employee wears a device that had recording functions they should be required to switch these features off. As a corporation it is very important to keep certain information confidential and if employee have the ability to record meetings at work this can be a major threat to the company.

    After reading this article and through my personal experiences I believe that employers shouldn’t have the ability to track their employees. Although there are some benefits to tracking workers fitness I think that the vices overweigh the benefits. Personally I think that it would be unfair for companies to be able to fire certain employees based on their health, especially because sometimes the individual may not have complete control over his/her health. I think that it would be beneficial for everyone to wear a health tracker for their own benefit and health however; companies should not have the privilege to look at this information.

  4. This topic seems to have become one of the most popular and controversial topics of the past couple years. Not only has this topic been discussed in the manner of implementing it into the sports world, but now it is being considered in this circumstance. I think mandating wearable devices could both improve and damage the structure of a company. This technology could benefit a company, but they have to develop a business plan that is going to serve a purpose for analyzing this data if they want to mandate the devices. Companies could collect health information in order to discover who their most efficient workers are, but I also this this does not give them the right to fire the employees. The employers should discuss their plan with the staff so they staff can be more aware, which will in turn benefit the company as a whole if everyone takes better care of themselves. Hence, if the company is truly considered about the well being of their staff I think this would be a great means of successfully doing it.

    Even though I support this idea, I do think there could be some potential flaws to the idea. I think there would have to be many rules if the devices were mandating. First off, the employees may have an issue about the lack of privacy this would allow them in their personal lives. I think there would definitely be some employees that would dislike the idea as a whole because they could suffer from an unhealthy lifestyle. Also, I believe there needs to be a degree of separation between the employers and the data the devices collect. I think if the company wanted to use this technique, they should hire a professional analyst, as a third party, in order to get the best opinion on the data and avoid all biases towards employees. Additionally, I think the idea of the insurance company having access to this data is a big invasive, as it would allow them to understand whether the client is more or a risk or less. Again, I do believe this is a smart idea because it could discover who is a fraud or who is taking advantage of the insurance, but I think once they know this there should be steps or protocol to handling the situation. The idea of the wearable technology is extremely smart and it could benefit many fields of study or companies, but I think there must be guidelines developed first in order to mandate how the data from can be put to use.


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