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Fitness Wearables, AI Linked to Reduced Employee Wellness

Fitness Wearables, AI Linked to Reduced Employee Wellness

Frequent engagement with fitness trackers, smartwatches and AI negatively correlated with quality of life among U.K. workers, a survey found

Newer and more advanced technology such as fitness wearables, artificial intelligence software and robotics is reducing employee well-being, according to a new briefing paper from the Institute for the Future of Work (IFOW).

The preliminary research may be a wake-up call to the countless businesses that have embraced artificial intelligence and automation technology to reduce labor costs and advance their bottom line; it could also have ramifications for the makers of fitness wearables like watches, rings and bands.

Using data from an online survey of over 6,000 workers in the United Kingdom, IFOW discovered that while digital information and communication technologies correlated with improved quality of life, extensive exposure to newer technologies can be detrimental to well-being.

One key survey finding is that frequent engagement with AI software, robotics and wearables (defined as fitness trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses, GPS devices and other data-gathering sensors) “exhibited a negative relationship with quality of life,” with even moderate exposure to robotics revealing an adverse effect on quality of life.

Start of the Conversation

IFOW’s findings highlight an important area that has yet to be fully explored in the current tech-forward age, but ultimately the paper encourages employers to understand the need to roll out technology that actively engages workers and to conduct “rigorous monitoring of risks and impacts.”

“The findings of this working paper – coupled with the current rapid pace of adoption of workplace automation technologies – emphasize that this work should be a priority if this technological transformation is to deliver a future where innovation and well-being advance together,” the authors wrote.

As the paper’s authors also point out, all hope is not lost in an overly connected world that will continue to lean toward tech. Instead, the findings “underscore the importance of a proactive, human-centered approach to technology deployment, emphasizing the value of worker consultation and participation rights, clarification of purposes and balanced consideration of technological benefits and risks.”

The authors also state that the need for additional research is evident, especially when understanding the different impacts of technology by sector and its overall impact on the intersection of well-being with productivity and worker retention. 

A Case for Corporate Wellness Platforms

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In addition to prompting the start of a meaningful conversation, the survey’s findings are interesting, especially when juxtaposed against the rise of corporate wellness programs. 

Not everyone is sold on such employer-focused programs, as one Oxford researcher recently illustrated in a controversial take, but IFOW’s initial results on the topic are likely good news for platforms that are encouraging employers to invest in well-being programs for their staff. 

Corporate wellness giant Gympass has soared to a $2.4 billion valuation and continues to add to its robust line-up of wellness offerings, recently expanding its sleep category this month with snooze-supporting apps Rise Science and SleepScore. According to Gympass research, 98% of employees worldwide report sleep is crucial for their well-being, and 60% say work stress negatively impacts their sleep.

Global healthy eating platform Lifesum, tapped to support staff employed by tech titans Amazon and PayPal, recently revealed an eye-opening statistic: that nearly 71% of stressed-out Gen Z and Millennials would quit their jobs tomorrow in favor of one that better supports their overall well-being and that almost 70% would be more productive if their employer improved their well-being. 

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