How The Apple Watch Will Change Office Life

Love or hate them, wearables are already changing our workplaces. We asked experts in tech how our ultraconnected landscapes will look.

How The Apple Watch Will Change Office Life
[Photo: Flickr user Kārlis Dambrāns]

With the introduction of Apple’s new smartwatch earlier this week, many are speculating if we’ll soon be able to just glance at our wrist rather than keeping our phones on the table during every meeting.


Forty-five percent of consumers are expected to strap a smartwatch to their wrists in the near future, digital marketing company Acquity Group reports.

Here’s a look at how wearable smart technology will change our productivity, office policies, and daily routines.

We’ll Likely Struggle To Stay Engaged

If we were cyborgs programmed to make the most efficient use of new hardware, working with smartwatches would be like downloading a new piece of software to help make us more efficient.

But we’re humans, and we’re easily distracted. When you’re working in your highly focused zone and you glance at your watch as it alerts you to a new email, it might take you as long as 23 minutes to get back on task.

“We can all attest to the current-day workplace, where whenever someone picks up their mobile device, it isn’t to check the company stock price,” says Tiffani Murray, HR technology and talent management strategist. “It’s to check texts from family, friends, that guy I went on a date with last Friday, and, let’s face it, to play Words With Friends. The same will be true of the Apple Watch and other smartwatches.”


With a variety of new productivity-aimed apps in development, as Fast Company’s John Paul Titlow reports, the ability to track where our time goes will be valuable. But will that hyperproductive value outweigh the potential for playing Candy Crush on our new accessories? “When we’re trying to focus on a task, it probably doesn’t help to have our wrists lighting up with new messages and reminders every 15 minutes,” he writes. “There’s a reason some of us stow our phones away when we need to focus for prolonged periods of time.”

We Can’t Blame The Device–Or The Apps

But don’t curse Tim Cook when you can’t get anything done. Staring at a device in a distraction loop is the symptom of a disengaged culture, not new tech, Murray says.

She’s optimistic about this new gadget, but others are less so. “Who’s not getting work done because they aren’t getting notifications in time?” says Ravi Bhatt, CEO of software design company Branchfire. He “highly doubts” that the Apple Watch will make us more creative, productive, or efficient. “The problem we’re all having is finding time to focus and get real work done. Task switching kills productivity, and having another device to interrupt you is hardly the answer.”

Psychologist and frequent Fast Company contributor Art Markman agrees with Bhatt. If they’re used in the most obvious ways, wearables won’t make us better people–but perhaps a bit more honest, if the boss is tracking your tasks. Read on for his take on wearables in the office.

We’ll Need New Policies

With the high-tech wearable becoming more discreet–instead of, for example, on our faces in the form of glasses–companies that deal with sensitive information will need to establish a few new security policies around it.


“These devices, which can be described as life-critical in many situations, will almost certainly contain extremely personal data, including sensitive health information,” says Ryan Faas, mobile strategist for MobileIron. “Clear privacy policies are paramount.”

Alongside personal privacy, company data could be at risk when it’s bared for the world on a watch. Company IT departments and the rest of the workforce will have to start a conversation, Faas says, about how they’ll use features as simple as email notifications up to in-development apps and services, as smartwatches start multiplying across an office.

We could be sitting in “wearables training seminars” on safety and protocol in five years–and glancing at our watches waiting for them to be over.

At The Very Least, We’ll Say Goodbye To Key Cards

A smartwatch looks a lot cooler than a retractable cord affixing a photo of ourselves to our pants. If Apple’s new watch can check us into an airport or pay for our coffee, it could eventually scan us into our buildings.

That’s just a small example of the approach apps are taking toward smart wearables: to make your already daily grabs at your attention as frictionless as possible. We’ll be carrying our next big presentation notes and calendar updates on or wrists.


It’ll take a few years before we know the lasting changes these new devices will make on our workplaces. In the meantime, get ready for a lot of Knight Rider impersonations from your coworkers.

About the author

Freelance tech, science and culture writer. Find Sam on the Internet: @samleecole.