SmartwatchIt’s fair to say that there are quite a lot of trends and technologies for HR teams to get their heads around — so many, in fact, that it can be hard to see the wood for the trees, particularly when you have a set of pressing, real world, and sometimes petty HR issues knocking at your door. That being said, you do need to look out the HR window from time to time, as those outside trends will soon be knowing on your door as well, and you don’t want to be blindsided.

By now, HR needs to have social media and cloud-based HR systems pretty much sewn up, making time for you to move onto next-generation HR technology issues, such as big data and BYOD — “bring your own device.”

BYOD deserves much closer attention for the moment, due to the rise of wearable technologies that are set to create a workplace revolution in staff-to-staff surveillance. For example, two of the most touted wearable technologies — smart glasses (with 100 million users expected by 2020) and smartwatches — will allow staff to covertly and/or habitually record conversations, actions, meetings (disciplinary hearings, for example), misconduct, and harassment, creating a legal, ethical, and procedural nightmare for your business.

It seems that, because of the privacy concerns surrounding bleeding-edge wearable technology, we need an old-fashioned HR policy to help govern usage. Now, I can’t decide your company’s wearable technology policy for you, but I have outlined some of the main questions you’ll need to answer to formulate your own wearable technology policy:

  1. Will you permit staff to wear their wearable technologies at work?
  2. What is the legal stance on covert audio-visual recording in any situation?
  3. What is the company’s stance on covert audio-visual recording within the company?
  4. Will the company ban wearable technology devices from the workplace altogether?
  5. What happens if an employee covertly records a discplinary meeting, misconduct, harassment, etc., and seeks to submit this as evidence to the company? Will the company use this information even though it has been obtained through questionable means, and will the employee who made the recording be subject to disciplinary actions?
  6. Will employees be able to use wearable technology as part of a whistleblowing policy to uncover corruption?
  7. Are workplace video and audio recordings company confidential, and what happens if an employee shares this content?
  8. Does your employee monitoring policy permit you to monitor content that wearable tech users are accessing, just as you would monitor their desktop machines?
  9. How should employees use wearable technology at informal work-related social events, like the office Christmas party?
  10. How, exactly, can employees use wearable technology for enjoyment and to benefit the business?
  11. What are the business situations in which it is acceptable to use wearable technology?

It’s clear to me that HR teams need to develop and upgrade their manuals and BYOD policies to address the threats and opportunities that wearable technologies — particularly covert recording devices — present. We are entering a new world of person-to-person surveillance where rules, boundaries, laws, and etiquette have not yet been established. Still, wearable tech is set to explode into the workplace, which is why HR policy makers need to start developing robust wearable tech policies.

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