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The Wearable Technology Revolution: Is your workplace prepared?

June 2013

It is difficult to keep track of the fast-paced nature of technology and wearable technology (involving the incorporation of computers/electronics into clothing and accessories) is another perfect example. The advent of this technology is creating various issues which your business will need to address proactively. Employees will no longer simply be using a desktop computer to carry out their daily duties but will be able to interact and engage with a whole host of computing interfaces. This article highlights and analyses the implications of this for your business, particularly issues surrounding the protection of confidential information and HR grievance and disciplinary matters, whilst also considering the potential benefits.

Confidential information

Confidential fileThe confidential data of a business is one of its most valuable assets. This confidential data may include key client information, critical financial information or important trade secrets. With the anticipated proliferation of wearable technology in daily life, this could also extend to the office. Your business could be at risk from employees covertly copying crucial sensitive information via wearable technology and later downloading this information onto a “cloud data centre”, onto their own personal desktop or even passing this information directly to a competitor.

Some key tips for HR teams to consider in this context are the importance of:

  • reviewing and updating employment contracts and any applicable corresponding social media or disciplinary policy to expressly prohibit the acquisition and disclosure of confidential information through wearable technology;
  • reminding the workforce of their duties of confidentiality;
  • ensuring that any monitoring of communications policy covers any wearable technology which cannot be considered to be a personal device of the employee; and
  • updating dress code policies to prohibit / limit employees from using wearable technology in the workplace.

Grievance and disciplinary matters

In the disciplinary / grievance context, your employees may attempt to utilise wearable technology to obtain evidence to support their claims in a hearing. Employees may surreptitiously obtain photographic or video evidence of inappropriate behaviour towards them or, in the context of a disciplinary hearing, an employee could use wearable technology to assist in providing evidence to dispute action brought against them. Businesses also need to be careful to limit potential opportunities for covert recording of their employees against their will by fellow colleagues using wearable technology due to the resulting possibility of harassment allegations.

Employees could also seek to covertly record disciplinary or grievance hearings without obtaining consent and may then later seek to admit the recording or excerpts from the recording in Employment Tribunal litigation.

http bannerAnother interesting point is that employees may utilise wearable technology to view inappropriate or explicit content on the internet. Employees are likely to be expressly prohibited from doing this on their desktop computers and this will be relatively easy to monitor, but businesses would be best advised to broaden policies to expressly prohibit employees from viewing inappropriate content on personal or corporate wearable technology devices.

Some key tips for HR teams to consider in the disciplinary and grievance context are the importance of:

  • checking disciplinary and grievance policies to ensure that employees are expressly prohibited from bringing such devices into hearings and formal meetings;
  • seeking to strictly regulate the use of wearable technology in the workplace; and
  • expressly prohibiting the recording of individuals around the office and taking a zero-tolerance approach to such recordings.

Possible benefits

Whilst the rise of wearable technology has raised some concerns for businesses there are various benefits which should be highlighted. The “Smart Badge” is a high tech business card which communicates with other Smart Badges to obtain and store useful business information and data. Businesses could find these particularly useful as a business development tool and could utilise this technology to glean important information from key clients at business events and conferences which could be used at a later date.

Facebook iconWearable technology could also be particularly useful in a social media context as interesting advertisements and promotional material could be uploaded to the internet and social networking sites with ease. Provided that this is done through the appropriate channels and content is regulated and checked appropriately, this could generate positive publicity for your business.

Three key tips

HR teams should take heed of the following advice:

  • ensure policies are updated and adapted to take into account the implications of wearable technology in the workplace;
  • be vigilant in order avoid covert recording and harassment allegations; and
  • consider the positive publicity and business development potential of wearable technology and exploit it accordingly.

Welcome to the future where the body is technology’s new frontier- just make sure your business is adequately prepared.

If you have any questions on this article or would like to propose a subject to be addressed by the Global Data Hub please contact us.

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Hannah Gormley

Hannah Gormley   

Laura Piper      

Hannah Gormley and Laura Piper look at the HR implications of wearable technology in the workplace.

"The advent of this technology is creating various issues for your business to proactively address."