As Apple ships its first pre-order smartwatches to customers this week, a new people-analytics survey indicates that more than half of workers would consider wearing an enterprise-supplied smartwatch if it provided a better work environment.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, also known as PwC, surveyed over 2,000 adults in the UK and found that 40% would wear technology supplied by their employer.
However, the number rose to over half, at 56%, if the information gathered was used to make the work environment better.
As one might imagine, trust was a big sticking point for the idea of an enterprise-supplied smartwatch. There was resistance to sharing data, in part because employees think the data will be used against them "in some way." A significant 41% of respondents said they were worried about this.
About the same number said they thought employers will not use the data for the employees' benefit.
"Flexible working hours, free health screening and health and fitness incentives are the benefits people are most willing to share their personal data for," PwC says in the report.
"Most people can be persuaded if they can see clear personal or workplace benefits," Anthony Bruce, a people analytics expert at PwC, said of the report in a blog post.
People older than 55 were extremely skeptical of the concept of enterprise-provided smartwatches. Only 40% said they would take up the offer.
Those born between 1960 and 1980, commonly called Generation X, could be persuaded to use a smartwatch in the workplace if they were given a better "work deal." Fifty-one percent said they would go for it if the data collected improved work conditions, but only 38% of this age group would accept the watch solely in exchange for sharing data.
Millennials were the most willing to accept a work smartwatch. Sixty-percent would go for it at any cost, and 70% said they would if it improved work conditions. Millennials are defined as born between 1980 and 1995.
Helping to manage and motivate employees is a principal use for the data, PwC reckons.
Giving employees wearable devices could be an innovative and powerful way for organizations to "better understand their workforce and tailor working patterns, benefits and office life to their individual needs," Bruce says.
He thinks this ultimately would lead to more engaged, happier, and higher-performing employees.
"Setting clear rules about how the data is acquired, used and shared," is the only way the enterprise can make this kind of deployment work, Jon Andrews, HR Consulting Leader at PwC, said in the blog post.
Employers overall need to communicate what they’re doing with staff in order to gain trust. That would apply to smartphone data too, Andrews said. It has to be secure and managed responsibly.
No such thing as a free lunch
But as the numbers show, not everyone is enamored with the idea of a no-charge smartwatch: "Good idea," was one worker respondent's comment. It will "help to see who is working, or just sitting around."
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