Use of wearables in the workplace is halted by lack of trust – PwC research

Published at 00:01 AM on 20 June 2016

The use of wearables in the workplace is being stalled by a lack of trust as people worry that their employer may use the data against them and not for their benefit, according to new PwC research.

Despite an estimated 3 million people in the UK buying a wearable device in 2015 – a 118% increase from the previous year – PwC’s research shows that employees are still unconvinced about using wearables in the workplace.

PwC surveyed over 2,000 workers across the UK and found that two thirds (65%) want their employer to take an active role in their health and wellbeing, and feel that technology should be used to help them do this. But only 46% of people surveyed say they would accept a free piece of wearable technology if their employers had access to the data recorded. This is broadly in line with last year’s research, when 44% said they would take up this offer.

Even if this information is collected in exchange for workplace benefits, such as flexible working hours and working from different locations, the number of people who would use a wearable device at work rises to only just over half (55%). Again, this is broadly the same as last year’s research (56%).

Data privacy is the main barrier for those workers unwilling to share their information. Four in 10 say they don’t fully trust their employer to use it for their benefit and just under two fifths (37%) say they don’t trust their employer not to use the data against them in some way.

Anthony Bruce, people analytics leader at PwC, said:

“Despite more people owning wearable devices, many people are still reluctant to use them in the workplace due to trust issues. Employers haven’t been able to overcome the ‘big brother’ reaction from people to sharing their personal data.

“Digital tools and analytics advances could be the key to unlocking a more engaged, happy and higher performing workforce - but first employers must gain the trust and confidence of their people to acquire, store and use personal data appropriately. If employers want to overcome the trust gap they need to show that they are serious about data security and communicate openly with their staff about the benefits for them.”

Workers who would be happy to use a wearable device at work are most likely to want to trade their personal data in exchange for flexible working hours, free health screening and health and fitness incentives. 61% of respondents want their employer to help them to become more active.

The younger generation of millennial workers are the most comfortable sharing their personal data. Despite privacy concerns, six in 10 (59%) would be happy to use a work-supplied smartwatch and this rises to seven in 10 if they’re getting a better work deal in return. This compares to only three in 10 of workers aged 55 and over.

Technology such as a virtual reality headset, that doesn’t require the sharing of personal information but does offer benefits to workers such as facilitating collaboration whilst working from home, would be attractive to almost half of the workforce and six out of ten millennials.

Anthony Bruce, people analytics leader at PwC, continued:

“Workers are keen for their employers to play a more active role in health and wellbeing, but there is currently a reluctance to share the personal information that would enable employers to do this.

“Younger workers are much more willing to trade their personal data in return for workplace benefits. Given the war for talent, organisations should be thinking about how attractive their benefits and workplace technology is to this next generation of workers.”


Notes for editors.

  1. PwC surveyed 2,370 online interviews with UK adults in full or part time work between 6th – 10th May 2016
  2. The sample has been weighted to reflect a nationally representative audience of working adults
  3. Millennial workers are those born between 1981 – 1996
  4. Analysis on wearable devices sold in the UK is taken from Mintel research


For more information please contact Nicola Thorogood, [email protected] / 02078046007


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