Wearables at work show gap between mature and emerging markets

Wearables don’t have to be relegated to consumer tech – instead, employees may be considering wearables as handy tools in the workplace, according to a new survey.

In an online survey of 9,100 adults from around the world, 73 per cent of those polled said they feel there may be at least one use for wearables during the work day.

The survey, which comes from the Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. and was conducted through the Harris Institute, didn’t poll any Canadians. However, it did show a substantial difference between how mature markets and emerging markets view wearables.

Just 48 per cent of U.S. respondents felt wearables could have an impact in the workplace. That number was higher in the U.K., with 66 per cent agreeing with that statement, while 69 per cent agreed in both France and Australia. The figure was also slightly higher in Germany, with 72 per cent of respondents saying they feel wearables could be useful at work.

Yet in Mexico, approval for wearables as workplace tools was high, with 94 per cent saying they saw the potential there. That was followed by 94 per cent in China, and 91 per cent in India.

It also seemed as though in countries where more people owned and used wearables in their personal lives, they saw more potential for wearables at work. In the U.S., only 13 per cent of respondents said they used a wearable device, compared to 73 per cent of Chinese respondents. That was closely followed by 72 per cent in India, and 70 per cent in Mexico – and it might imply more mature markets have been slower to adopt wearables.

That being said, it may be the definition of wearables in developed countries may be different than in developing regions. Among respondents in China, India, and Mexico, about 80 per cent said they used devices like headsets, smart badges, and barcode scanners while working. While that counts as wearable tech, only 20 per cent of U.S. respondents say they’ve used those wearable devices for their jobs, and it’s definitely possible U.S. respondents are thinking of devices like smartwatches or smart glasses when they hear the term ‘wearable tech.’

Still, that doesn’t mean wearables should be counted out of the game when it comes to workplace use. Among all respondents, the top three reasons to embrace wearables at work would be if the devices boosted productivity and efficiency, if they contributed to work-life balance in any way, and if their employers provided them on the job.

There’s also an argument for younger people embracing wearables. Among U.S. respondents who also identified as students, they seemed to be more comfortable with the idea of using wearable tech at work. Twenty-one per cent of U.S. students said they personally use wearables, compared to just 13 per cent of all U.S. respondents. Plus, among this group, 72 per cent of U.S. students polled for this survey said they felt wearables could have at least one business use.

Still, it could take some time before students enter the workforce and begin bringing their wearables with them. We’ll still need to see how businesses integrate wearables into the workplace – and if most of the workforce feels comfortable using them while they get their work done.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Candice So
Candice Sohttp://www.itbusiness.ca
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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