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Despite the many professional and lifestyle benefits associated with wearable technology, employers need to consider its potential to disrupt employees’ lives and adversely affect mental health, says Mandy Rutter.
Now that wearable technology has gone mainstream, with Apple releasing a watch capable of physically alerting us to incoming messages and voicemails, it is also important to consider the extent to which this could increase stress levels and anxiety.
While it can easily be argued that wearable technology simply lets us do familiar things more quickly and conveniently than rooting around for our phone every time it bleeps, we have to bear in mind that our mobile devices have already become incredibly invasive. The average smartphone user unlocks their phone 110 times a day, according to knowyourmobile.com, a statistic that is certain to increase once such technology becomes constantly attached to our bodies.
We currently spend 47% of our time thinking about something other than what we are doing (Killingsworth MA, Gilbert DT, 2010), and this is making us unhappy. This is due in no small part to technology’s knack of distracting us from properly experiencing those things that actually make us happy, such as being really engaged in a conversation, appreciating a view, feeling the sun on our face, or relishing the food we are eating, instead of just gulping it down in front of a computer screen.
As other cultures have advocated for centuries, it turns out that we are most relaxed and happy when we allow ourselves to live in the “here and now” and fully engage in the task at hand. But this will become increasingly difficult if we physically connect ourselves to interruptions from the outside world by putting mobile devices onto our bodies or even into our clothes (Google has already found a way of building computers into clothing, and envisages a world where we pick clothes for their technological functionality as much as for their style or colour).
The pace at which technology is moving – doubling in functionality and halving in price every two years, according to the principle of Moore’s Law (the observation made by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel) – is so fast that our psychological processes and HR policies cannot keep up.
Debates about how best to separate work and life have become all but redundant. The way in which technolo