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Big brother fears halt workplace wearable adoption

News: Digital tools and analytics key to solving trust issues.

By Joao Lima

‘Big brother’ fears are leading UK employees’ hesitation in using wearables at work, as they do not trust their employer to manage the data.

A survey by PWC has found that despite a 118% increase in the number of people buying a wearable device between 2014 and 2015, accounting to three million people, users are worried that their employer may use the data against them and not for their benefit.

However, the research has found that the majority (65%) of the 2,370 people surveyed are keen to let their employer actively manage their health and wellbeing data. The same amount of people feel that technology should be used to help them do this.

Yet, people do not trust their employer to provide the wearable device as only 46% said they would accept a free piece of wearable technology if their employers had access to the data recorded.

Benefits such as flexible working or working from different locations other than the office are also not as attractive to employees as expected.

45% of respondents said they would still not wear a wearable device to work even if such benefits were offered. The percentage is slightly above 2014’s 44%.

Behind worker’s dismissal in regards to the use of wearable technology at work, are data privacy fears.

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40% of those surveyed said they do not fully trust their employer to use it for their benefit and 37% said they do not trust their employer not to use the data against them in some way.

Yet, 61% of respondents want their employer to help them to become more active, and workers who would be happy to use a wearable device at work are most likely to want to trade their personal data in exchange for flexible working hours, free health screening and health and fitness incentives.

In terms of generation gap, millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) are more willing to share their data, with 59% saying that would be happy to use a work-supplied smartwatch.

Anthony Bruce, people analytics leader at PwC, said: "Employers have not been able to overcome the ‘big brother’ reaction from people to sharing their personal data.

"Digital tools and analytics advances could be the key to unlocking a more engaged, happy and higher performing workforce – but first employers must gain the trust and confidence of their people to acquire, store and use personal data appropriately."

Bruce said that if employers want to overcome the trust gap they need to show that they are serious about data security and communicate openly with their staff about the benefits for them.

He said: "Given the war for talent, organisations should be thinking about how attractive their benefits and workplace technology is to this next generation of workers."

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