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Can Wearables Improve Productivity in the AEC Industry?

Is your firm considering how you can offer your customers more value this year?Anyone managing projects wants to add value and to motivate your project teams to be more productive in the coming year. A few surveys confirm that individuals also want to be more productive in the coming year and that they believe mobile and wearable technology can help them do this.

CBS morning news reported that a CBS News survey finds an overwhelming 91% want to be more productive in 2015. But as we all know becoming more productive is harder than it sounds. The old saying about weight loss eat less; exercise more comes to mind — easier said than done. So now we want to do something — be more productive what gets in the way? When the CBS survey asked “What hurts your productivity?” the following reasons were listed:

  • Pulled in too many Directions 55% (too much technology)

  • Procrastination at work 19%

  • Trouble knowing where to Start 15%

  • Social Media 7%

  • Too Much to watch on DVR 4% (at work? I assume home.)

The Productivity coach Tony Schwartz’s founder of the Energy Project was interviewed and he offered a recipe for becoming more productive. Schwartz’ answer is creating a ritual. He distinguishes between a habit and a ritual — A habit is something you fall into; a ritual is a highly specific behavior that you do at a precise time so that it becomes automatic. Schwartz went on to point out that will power and discipline are overrated. So with a ritual, you make it automatic so you no longer have to think about it – like brushing your teeth. Could an wearable technology help with the will power and the discipline to become more productive?

Another recent in-depth study of 4,000 adults in the US and UK supports this idea. The study found that 82 percent of users in America and 71 percent in Britain believe that Cloud based devices have complimented their efforts to be more productive.

The study, “The Human Cloud: Wearable Technology from Novelty to Productivity” also reported that users thought favorably about using wearable technology at work to improve productivity in the following ways.

  • Employees liked using the devices

  • Felt increased job satisfaction after wearing them

  • Enjoyed learning about their productivity and attention patterns from the devices

  • Employees welcome insight into how to improve focus and attention

  • Wearables can improve planning, team building & productivity

Also, This Holiday season (2014) there has been a huge jump in sales of Wearable Tech for at least the basic health and fitness activity tracking. It seems that the wearable technology has reached a tipping point.

Wearables have been available for consumers for the past seven years, Nike was an early developers of these devices for training. Fitbit was first commercially available in 2008. I used both Nike+ Sensor and Strava iOS apps to help with rehab before and after knee replacement surgery in 2009. I found it very valuable for this specific task.

This acceptance and demand by users for wearable technology should translate to acceptance in the workplace and result in improved productivity to build new habits that become rituals. Apple’s Tim Cook has proclaimed that Apple’s mobile devices will be for work and has formed an alliance with IBM to create mobile and presumably wearable apps.

Finally, mobile technology is evolving rapidly, but not unlike other disruptive technologies and process changes are their other institutional values that may slow down the adoption of this wearables and more specifically productivity tracking? For example, what impact might Unions and other institutions have on blocking its adoption? Or, will privacy issues as a reason not to use them? What might employers and owners offer to incentivize use of wearable by employees?

I propose wearable technology on the construction site will become ubiquitous for craft workers, managers and others in the building supply chain. I have been a Lean coach for the last six years and an Architect and Builder for over thirty years. I have worked with project teams from design through construction on all sizes of projects — from kitchen remodel to construction of NFL Stadiums. The common resistance to adoption of Lean practices, and therefore change is asking project teams to think ahead and invest in and documenting more planning activities. Wearables in conjunction with mobile devices will offer an improvement in overall productivity in many fields other than the AEC industry.

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