Wearable technology is a part of everyday life—even my grandma has a fitbit

Devices like fitness trackers, smart watches, VR goggles and AR glasses are only growing in popularity. CCS Insight predicts that by 2021, more than 185 million wearables will be sold in a year, rising to a value of $16.9 billion. The advancements in data processing (including voice and gesture capturing) are making wearable technology even easier to use and more applicable as a business tool.

Every company can integrate wearable technology into day-to-day operations. In this article, we’ll discuss four ways that businesses are already using data-capturing devices and encourage you to be creative in implementing this technology into your office.

A note on privacy and security

With any new technology, particularly one that depends on data-gathering and cloud-sharing, individuals will be concerned about privacy. Enterprises in particular ought to be careful about the precautions they take in regards to information security.

Data collection is done by large companies like Google all the time. Such information gathering is primarily done to improve the user experience. People are afraid of this technology because they don’t understand what it’s actually doing. In business settings, IT security departments need to do more to help users help themselves. Employees should be trained on the correct settings and habits that will protect the entire company.

Building understanding will, in turn, build employee enthusiasm towards wearable technology in the workplace. Set clear expectations about the intended business uses of the technology. Make team members aware of limited company access. Share examples of how such data can inform work design, staffing and other decisions. 45% of informed UK employees said that they would feel comfortable and excited to share information via wearable devices if it contributed to their wellbeing.

Employees are excited about the prospect of wearable technologies, they just want to be informed and protected. Businesses need to take additional security measures to protect from attacks that could threaten user safety.

1. Enhanced Communication

Collaboration and communication are crucial in the workplace. Wearables can help bring your workforce together, especially if your company depends on coordinating large groups of people.

The remote workforce is only growing. VR wearable applications can help to facilitate combined meetings in virtual spaces for independent contractors and in-house employees. VR tech can also offer enhanced training opportunities, offering any employee an immersive experience without even stepping foot into the office.

With the help of voice assistants and AI, wearables can help teams to coordinate meetings more intuitively. Devices like smart watches provide hands-free access to calendar scheduling and appointment reminders.

2. Employee Wellness

Many companies have already started implementing wearables in the form of employee wellness programs. These business-sponsored programs seek to improve overall health and build a more positive work environment.

The health-tracking functions of smartwatches and fitness bands can have great benefits to employees. Wearables give reminders to individuals who have been sitting too long and encourage regular exercise outside of the office. Additionally, wearable devices monitor sleep patterns and encourage regular breathing, helping employees to manage stress levels.

While there are great overall benefits to just having a healthier team, monitoring these kinds of physical symptoms in your employees can also help you be in tune to worrisome emotional symptoms. Fatigue, stress, and even depression are often manifested in lessened physical activity, presenting opportunities to address mental well-being as well.

3. Monitor Productivity

Smart devices can make workers more efficient and productive. One study that tested the impact of wearable technology in the workplace found that employees saw an 8.5% increase in productivity and a 3.5% increase in job satisfaction.

Such data-capturing technology makes workers more valuable because of the boost in employee productivity. This data not only helps employees track their own productivity, but allows employers to track rates of high-productivity or burnout, informing their decision-making.

This is not to say, of course, that employees should be micromanaged. Decades of research has shown that job control (aka employee discretion of what they do and how they do it) has a major impact on employee productivity and physical health. Instead, wearables should be viewed as a more intuitive and informed way to encourage employees to be proactive and build a prospering work environment.

4. Customer Experience

Not only can you make in-house improvements with wearable technology, you can and should improve the customer experience. You want customers to have exceptional, up-to-date, impressive experiences with your brand—and wearables are a unique place to start.

Companies like Disney and Carnival Cruises have already developed their own wearable devices. “Magicbands” and “Medallions” allow customers to do just about everything related to their experience—syncing directions, maps, keys, account info, ordering, purchasing and more with the device itself.

While your business may not need to monitor every customer desire, you can learn more about customer preferences with wearable technology. Customers can be reached using VR and smart watches. Transaction speeds and security can be improved with biometric authorization. Wearables can refine loyalty programs and streamline customer service.

Be Creative and Responsible

Wearables are here to stay. Try your hand at workplace applications and constantly reevaluate. If wearable technology isn’t addressing your needs in its current use, then revise your goals and strategies. Set clear expectations for your company and strike a proper balance between business and personal. Have fun, be creative, but also be responsible.

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Jaren Nichols is Chief Operating Officer atZipBooks, free accounting software for small businesses. Jaren was previously a Product Manager at Google and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

7 Business Tools To Help You Advance Your Business

Many small businesses find that they reach a plateau from which they struggle to expand further. As you grow, your costs also increase, while any inefficiencies become harder to manage. This means that while you might have increased the number of staff and grown your turnover, you’re not actually generating any more profit at the end of the day. And this holds you back from growing as fast as you would want. There’s no single answer to this common problem. However, today there are ever more business tools which help you become more efficient and productive, allowing you to do more with less. And when you can do more with less, it means your profit margins rise, and you can invest in further growth.

Let’s look at seven powerful, low cost business tools which can help you advance your business. Each one of these I personally use to help streamline my business.

1. Basecamp

Basecamp is a cloud-based platform that allows teams to organize their projects, client work and internal communications in a central place. It provides an easy-to-use interface where your employees can discuss work, manage tasks and get projects rolling.

Why is Basecamp good for business growth?
Basecamp brings all your projects and discussions into a single place, so the whole company can understand what’s going on. This means you avoid the risk that as your company grows, people simply aren’t aware of what their colleagues are doing, which results in missed deadlines and delays.

2. Intercom

Today’s customers expect to be able to ask about your services and products from any device, via any communications channel, and receive a response fast. Intercom helps you do that. It gives your company a single inbox where all customer queries from your website arrive, allowing you to respond immediately.

Why is Intercom good for business growth?
Slow responses to customer requests kill your sales. If a customer tries to contact you, and you fail to respond fast, that gives them an immediate negative impression of your brand. Why should they trust that your product or service won’t let them down either? Intercom makes it much more likely you don’t miss these opportunities.

3. Book Like a Boss

Where Intercom is great for allowing customer to reach out to you, Book Like A Boss is focused on making it as easy as possible for them to reserve and pay for your services as well as booking appointments. Through its interface, your customers can simply find a slot in your calendar and reserve your time, ask questions and pay for work in advance.

Why is Book Like a Boss good for business growth?
If it’s confusing and time consuming for customers to book your services or set an appointment, they’ll be much less likely to make the order. At the same time, using a simple tool like Book Like A Boss means you save hours with the typical back and forth of email messages. Sharing calendars with customers and so on is all taken care of for you. I know I may be a bit biased about this one, but it truly does help me and thousands of others with their business growth.

4. Better Proposals

When it comes to proposals, your sales team could spend hours every week re-inventing the wheel, typing up project outlines and trying to design them up to look reasonably professional. Better Proposals aims to totally change this. It allows you to quickly create smart, professional and consistent proposals which will impress your customers and save your sales teams hours of typing and formatting.

Why is Better Proposals good for business growth?
The amount of time (and frustration) spent by your sales team writing up proposals gets cut massively. At the same time, you ensure all the legal T’s and C’s are included in proposals, and its e-signature feature means your clients don’t have to print, sign, scan and return your proposal – meaning the deal gets closed faster.

5. Zoom

Communication is king, especially in an era where employees work remotely or in different offices around the planet. Specifically designed for business, Zoom stands out in the VoIP (voice over IP) market as fast, cheap and efficient, falling squarely among Gartner’s leaders for online meeting solutions.

Why is Zoom good for business growth?
People can communicate faster and more effectively over VoIP than email or other chat tools. This means your employees can get more done and make decisions faster. And, it allows you to create a more coherent company culture, meaning staff work better together.

6. AdEspresso

Marketing is key to growing your business, and AdEspresso helps you take full control of the most powerful advertising tool of the social media era: Facebook. AdEspresso allows you to create hundreds of variations on your ads for different Facebook users, meaning your messaging gets in front of the right people fast.

Why is AdEspresso good for business growth?
Creating targeted Facebook ads manually takes hours of your time – just to create a handful of ads which may not be effective for your audience. AdEspresso massively amplifies your potential for ads and remarketing in far less time.

7. Sumo

Your website is almost certainly not reaching its lead generation potential, but Sumo aims to help. This business tool provides you with an arsenal of powerful features which prompt website visitors to engage with you, share their email addresses and help get you more signups.

Why is Sumo good for business growth?
Put simply, Sumo allows you to get more juice out of your website, generate more leads and grow your audience. This all means you’re way more likely to stay in the front of those potential customers’ minds, making it more likely they’ll convert.

No single tool alone will immediately generate huge growth – you need internal organizational alignment and strategy here too. But, by cutting costs and doing a lot of the work for you, these business tools help you boost your margins and grow faster.

What you need to know to become a digital nomad

With good quality broadband available in ever more destinations, an explosion in online platforms aimed at helping freelancers find work, and the appeal of the travelling lifestyle, it’s no surprise that the number of digital nomads is skyrocketing.

‘Digital nomads’, people who use the borderless nature of the internet to sell their products or services from wherever they want to be in the world, seem to have the dream lifestyle – especially compared to the drudgery of the daily commute and your annoying colleagues.

But what do you need to start out as a digital nomad if the lifestyle appeals to you? And, are there any gotchas you need to be aware of?

The essentials for life as a digital nomad

Unless you’ve got a trust fund to pay for your global travels, you will need to pay your way while travelling the world. To become a digital nomad, you’re therefore going to need the following skills and tools to get started:

  • A digital skill you can market
    As long as you have a couple years’ experience in industry, chances are you will have a skill you can sell over the internet – you just need to work out a way to package it up for potential clients.
  • A laptop, plus any additional tools you need
    A laptop is the bare minimum that digital nomads need in terms of equipment. But, you might also need other tools for your trade, such as a camera or specialised software.
  • A Skype account
    You will need some means of calling your clients – Skype is the most widespread software and if you top up your account, you can call landlines and mobiles form anywhere
  • Other business tools
    As a digital nomad, you’re still a business owner, so if you see this as more than something fun to do for a few weeks, you’ll need to invest in proper business technology – like a CRM, accounting software, software to manage and delegate projects and tasks (Asana for example), a decent website where people can contact you an book your services, and maybe even a professional email domain
  • A credit card with free international transfers
    You’re going to need to accept and make payments all over the world, so you should shop around for a credit card that fits with your lifestyle

Being a digital nomad isn’t all cocktails and beach bars

There’s a lot to love about the digital nomad lifestyle, but make sure it’s right for you. A couple of questions you need to consider before making the leap:

  • Have you paid off all your debts? Disappearing to the other side of the world is not a good way to boost your credit score!
  • Do you just want to go backpacking? If you don’t want to deal with the stress of finding work while abroad and constantly searching for WiFi, this might not be the right path for you
  • There are unglamorous things to remember: you’re still going to have to pay taxes, you will often miss the comfort of home and few digital nomads become millionaires while on the road
  • The digital nomad lifestyle seems idyllic – by making sure you’ve got these essentials covered, you’ll be all set to start your business from wherever you want.