Wearables in the Workplace

Why are wearable technologies becoming a workplace feature? NHS expert Sir Muir Gray stated that “sitting is the new smoking”; accordingly apps and wearables are starting to help develop our understanding of health and wellbeing in office environments aiming, through techniques such as quantifying sedentariness and stress, to help people become healthier, and in turn happier, more creative and productive.

Examples include the Waterminder app, which records a user’s water consumption, sending smartphone reminders to hydrate. Apple Watch monitors the number of hours standing, calories burned, and amount of activity. Vigo monitors alertness by tracking blinking and movement, sending vibrations, an LED light or playing a user’s favourite song when it senses that the user is drowsy.

Whilst wearable technology in the workplace can be beneficial, when does assisting become monitoring? Humanyze is an app that analyses data collected from badges worn by employees to investigate teamwork, engagement, and space planning. BP recently provided employees with free wearables and offered a lower insurance premium to those who reach goals. Appirio negotiated a lower health insurance rate based on data collected from Fitbits worn by employees.

Undeniably, wearables offer the potential to encourage positive change and healthy habits, but there is concern. They could also be a source of “technostress”, caused by a lack of understanding of the tech environment. Corporate “ fitness challenges” may only become an opportunity for the fittest to demonstrate how fit they are (research shows that people in higher risk categories are generally aware and concerned about their own risks, but unconfident to change). There is also the question as to whether or not employees are happy to have their data monitored by their employer, in return for free wearables or enhanced working environments.

Do you think employers should be able to monitor employees’ data from wearable technologies?

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Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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