Wearable technology devices are growing increasingly popular. Sixty-four percent of internet users ages 16 to 64 have used wearable technology or plan on doing so in the future, according to GlobalWebIndex. Wearables include smartwatches, activity trackers, lifeloggers and medical sensors, Consumer Reports says.

People are not only tapping into the benefits of wearable technology for personal use; they also use wearables in the workplace. As a result, employers have the responsibility of managing wearable technology at work. IT professionals must be prepared to solve problems related to wearables in the workplace, particularly security and privacy threats.

Use of wearables in the workplace

The benefit of wearables in the workplace revolves around the data employers can collect about their employees. This information has the potential to improve efficiency and cut costs. Here are three ways wearables are being applied in the workplace.

Cutting healthcare costs

The most common use of wearables in the workplace involves the use of personal activity trackers to improve the health of employees and cut healthcare costs. Most employers spend a large portion of employee benefit expenses on health insurance.

By utilizing the wearables that so many employees already have, employers can encourage the adoption of healthy lifestyle habits as part of wellness campaigns. Employers can then show their employees are healthier, leading to reductions in the cost of health insurance premiums.

According to the National Business Group on Health, 37 percent of large employers used activity trackers for healthcare purposes in 2015 with another 37 percent planning to adopt the technology in coming years.

Monitoring physical labour

Workers in factories, warehouses and other environments with physical labor are starting to see wearable devices become a part of the job. Wearable technology can improve safety, productivity and efficiency by tracking the movement and positioning of employees.

If analysis pinpoints safety risks, employers can address them. Wearables that track important information such as heart rate, blood pressure and hydration can play a role in preventing health incidents.

Accessing information on smaller devices

Wearables offer easy methods for quickly calling up work-related information. The Apple Watch and other smartwatches give users the ability to access email, make calls, check schedules and perform several other tasks without taking out a phone. As a result, some companies are buying smartwatches for their employees.

Challenges and concerns

While the benefits of wearables in the workplace are numerous, there are plenty of concerns centering on privacy and security.

Security

When companies gain access to personal data about employees, securing the data must become paramount. Companies participating in wellness programs must keep personal health information private or risk legal action.

According to Symantec, only 52 percent of wearables have a privacy policy, and many developers have failed to limit the public visibility of user information.

Promotions and firings

One legitimate qualm some employees have about wearables in the office is how they could contribute to their performance review. Is information gained from wearables being used to justify raises, promotions or firings? If so, that would be a legal issue. Employers cannot discriminate against “less healthy” employees or those with a disability.

This is especially an issue for those performing physical labor. If a wearable reflects poor performance, an employer has to take into account any injury or physical disability that could be present.

Spying

With wearables, spying becomes a possibility. Employers should outline when and where all audio, video and location data from wearables will be recorded. They should ensure employees only use devices during work hours.

For example, factory workers don’t need to document their location outside of work, so leaving devices at work is best. This prevents data from being accidentally recorded and helps free employers of any potential legal problems.

How IT professionals can manage wearables

Here are three important tips to keep in mind when managing wearable technology for your employer.

Don’t underestimate your data

When you’re dealing with wearables, information at your fingertips could put both employees and your employer at risk. Activity trackers contain information that is valuable to criminals, competitors and a host of other groups.

Improperly handling security could lead to thieves compromising your entire system and gaining sensitive data about employees and customers.

Choose substance over style

Wearables are essentially accessories. This has led some manufacturers to sacrifice security for usability. As an IT professional, you have to value security first.

While many wearables were not designed for business use, there are more and more options available that have businesses in mind. These products have more robust security features.

Silo personal data

Mobile devices, especially wearables, allow data to move easily, so their operating systems are leaky by design. This doesn’t bode well for companies that are trying to prevent security problems.

By keeping wearable data in encrypted containers, you can control where data lives. For example, limit what emails are sent to smartwatches. This forces employees to use more secure means of communication and helps lower security risk.

Understanding wearables in the workplace

Mobile devices, including wearable technology, are an important aspect of IT management. Campbellsville University’s online Master of Science in IT Management program prepares students to become effective IT managers through courses in security, emerging technology and more. The fully online program allows students to maintain their personal and work responsibilities while pursuing their career goals.

This post was originally published at Campbellsville University.

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The Most Hotly Contested Web Design Concepts of 2016

If there’s one topic that gets people fired up it’s web design. To succeed online, a smartly designed website is crucial. Something that brings in visitors and keeps them on your page, absorbing content.

Unfortunately, what constitutes a great site isn’t always agreed upon, and there’s constant debate of best practices, what’s hot, what’s not, and what is the cancer that is killing the industry. The argument still rages on, and recently it’s moved on to these commonly used web design elements:

The Carousel

“We’re not at the park, so why are we going around and around? Because people keep designing their sites with these blasted carousels” is just one of the commonly heard gripes about this supposedly interesting design choice.

Unfortunately, we have to keep clicking left or right to get another little morsel of information that the designers have deemed us worthy to handle. Are they afraid we can’t read full paragraphs? This one isn’t just a matter being annoyed personal preference, however, Carousel designs actually harm your websites performance.

They kill local SEO efforts by starving your site of actual content, the slow your site down with huge image files and JavaScript, and they are so confoundingly bad that nobody clicks through them all the way. The naysayers might have a point on this one, Carousels are way more trouble than they are worth.

Parallax Scrolling

You’ve seen this technique on graphics heavy sites in which the foreground and background scroll at different speeds. It creates a feeling of depth, helps tell a story through visuals, and looks pretty cool when properly implemented.

Unfortunately, it comes with some (resolvable) issues that may make it a waste of time. Like the Carousel, use of Parallax Scrolling is damaging to SEO. Since there’s usually just one page and a bunch of images, there’s no text content for search engines to crawl through and rank.

The abundance of images reduces performance (and completely kills performance on mobile devices). Most damaging of all though, is that the technique can just make it confusing to absorb any useful information, which will cut your number of repeat visitors down tremendously.

Think about it, would you stick around on a website where your only navigation option was to scroll downwards through hard-to read image/text combos? Of course, there are examples of Parallax Scrolling done right, so the argument is there that it’s all about how you choose to use it.

The Hamburger Menu

That three lined symbol in the corner on most websites that you click to access navigation options is commonly known as the hamburger menu.

While it does look cool, and you can see why one might be tempted to clean up their navigation by having it sleekly displayed in a drop-down menu, many say it kills a websites discoverability.

When your navigation options are out of sight, they are also out of mind, the thinking goes. There’s also the argument that it’s less efficient, since you’re forced to go to a separate menu just to see your options, but that’s more a matter of personal taste, it would seem.

We may never get definitive answers on whether these trends are good or bad, but it seems pretty clear that if you are going to try to incorporate any of these ideas into your design, you have to do it with care.

We’ve given you an overview of the tons of free web design options out there for building a pretty good site. When you have to move up to the big leagues though, it’d be prudent to hire some big league talent.

Professional web developers like Big Drop (out of New York), or Brown Box Branding (Dallas TX) offer great designs coupled with high level marketing strategies proven to keep the visitors coming back to your site for more.

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