WORKPLACE / MAY. 27, 2015
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Could Wearable Devices Be Putting An End To Sickies?

Could Wearable Devices Be Putting An End To Sickies?
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I’m sure many of us either have ourselves, or know someone else that has pulled a sickie at some point in our careers.  Indeed, estimates suggest that around 1/3 of employees have owned up to doing so in the past. This high number is possible because proving relatively minor illnesses such as a headache or the flu is often so prohibitive for employers that it isn’t worth their time.

See Also: How to Find an Excuse for Missing Work

That may be about to change however thanks to the rising trend in wearable devices that help to track and monitor various aspects of our health. Most such devices thus far have been aimed primarily at fitness related purposes, but they nevertheless provide us with a glimpse into how well our body is performing.  

It doesn’t seem a huge stretch to imagine such devices eventually telling us just how fit and healthy we are, and therefore proving whether we’re ill enough to call in sick.

The end of the sickie?

Health related wearable technology is still in its relative infancy, but there are already an impressive range of capabilities on the market that give us insight into everything from how much sleep we’ve had to our blood pressure and stress levels.

Combining these capabilities could give us, or our employer, a pretty accurate indication of how sick we really are. Might we, for instance, reach a stage where your boss doesn’t so much require a note from your doctor to prove your sick but some hard, fast data from you to prove your sickness? Indeed, it might even be possible for your boss to keep tabs on your location, so it you’re convalescing at the beach then they’d be able to tell.

Whilst it isn’t a major issue in the UK, with our National Health Service. In countries where private health insurance is almost mandatory such as the USA, it’s possible that for every slip in your health, whether that’s a few too many drinks or even over indulging at Christmas, your premiums could rise as your devices relay your indiscretions to your insurer.  It sounds a little horrific, but it’s a scenario that seems quite plausible as a number of major players enter the wearables market.

There are already indications that this trend is materialising, with some insurers using fitness related data from our wearable devices to influence the premiums we pay, and with corporate wellness programs on the rise, it seems only a matter of time before our employer takes a bigger interest in this too. Already the oil company BP has given staff Fitbit devices, under the previso that they are given access to the data produced via the devices.

Rigging the game

Of course, when we consent to using such devices, our motivation for rigging them is lowered, although as a cyclist there is still an active trade in rigging Strava scores! If our employers insist on us using them however then it’s perhaps fair to assume that attempts to rig the system will be ramped up a notch, with a constant back and forth as employers/insurers work to close loopholes just as quickly as employees look to find them.

See Also: Are employers doing enough to support employees through their wellness program?

It’s always tricky to accurately judge just how the future will unfold, but the rise of wearables in the workplace seems a reasonably safe bet.  

How would you feel if your own employer insisted on you monitoring your health via such a device?

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