Technology presents all sorts of advantages including convenience and savings in time, labor, and cost. However, the Law of Unintended Consequences is always lurking to create new problems that may not have been considered. Wearable Health Tech devices in the workplace are ripe for unexpected impacts, both positive and negative. An article on an Australian site for Human Resource professionals raises questions about a common practice for just about any employee: calling in sick.
Consider this scenario: employees are issued a wearable Health Tech device that monitors a variety of vital signs and activity indicators. The prime reason for this will be to encourage healthy lifestyle choices that should lead to lower insurance and medical costs, as well as increased productivity. But wait. What happens if an employee decides to call in sick? It is conceivable that the data from the wearable device will accessible to managers who will be able to see the individual’s body temperature, respiration rate, heart rate, and more. If the patient calls in with the flu but does not appear to be running a fever or have any other measurable symptoms, it could lead to unfavorable conclusions by their manager. And if the device tracks the worker’s location, a report from the local sports stadium will likely cause problems.
Should employers know whether or not employees are actually ill when they call in sick? The digital snitch would presumably reduce the frequency of bogus sick days which could lead to increased productivity. It could also cut down on illnesses transferred at the office, by knowing when a worker is sick and should be sent home. On the other hand, this level of monitoring away from the workplace could seem intrusive, even if participating in the wearable program is optional. Clearly, we have a lot of new problems to consider before wearable Health Tech devices are used widely by employees.