A Warning on Wearables

Maybe I’m the only one, but I was not excited about the Apple Watch.

Its April 24 release was one of the most highly talked-about tech events of the year, with inventory flying off the shelves once on sale to the public. It was certainly the biggest Apple launch since the iPad in 2010.

Objectively speaking, the Apple Watch is definitely a fascinating development in today’s era of tech-infused living— especially as wearables become such a huge factor in corporate wellness efforts.

For most people, leaving the house without a smartphone is akin to walking out the front door without pants. So from a purely technological perspective, transferring the capability of a tablet or a smartphone onto a wearable is noteworthy.

Still, as we become more obsessed with injecting connectedness into all aspects of our being, the more I wonder if we’ve become overly distracted with the awe technology brings that we’re losing the ability to be present with what’s happening in front of us. This is even as talent managers find ways to leverage these innovations to improve their practices.

Yes, that is an incredibly curmudgeonly sentence to come out of a 28-year-old — especially one that spends the majority of his waking hours interacting with Apple products.

But at what point does the push to embed Internet access into our lives muddy our sense of living and managing our lives?

When I spend an hour on my phone scrolling Twitter on my couch while watching TV, is that time well spent? Or did I just drop my life expectancy by an hour, with no worthwhile experience to show for it?   

That sounds terrifyingly dramatic, and maybe most users don’t fall into such a tech-binge trap. But these are questions worth asking, even as technology brings efficiency and value.

Technology, apps and the so-called “Internet of things” have reshaped people management’s ability to recruit, hire, retain, measure and develop employees.

Most human resources conferences are filled with pushy people claiming their newest technology product enhancement is the perfect solution to streamline people management operations and heighten the function’s value to senior leaders. I’m sure some of them are now touting wearables.

Sometimes I wonder if the literal noise and distraction of the flashy expo displays of haughty vendor branding, computer monitors and swag is emblematic of the products themselves — more pomp than substance.

It’s no wonder meditation and mindfulness have become such broadly popular wellness and leadership development practices: People can only stay present when there’s an app that provides them the space to do so.

I fall into this trap as well. It’s ironic that my recent foray into meditation came by way of Apple’s App Store. What’s more ironic is that the practice of mindfulness has led me to intentionally be more conscientious of my level of technology use once those 20-minute meditation sessions end.

While technology is worth our attention and awe, there’s eventually going to be a tipping point where the efficiency and practicality of using these “tools” becomes overly distracting, impractical and an unproductive use of time.

Will we be mindful enough to realize when that tipping point hits? Or will we be too awestruck by the technology’s capability to notice?

As talent managers use technologies, apps and now wearables to make work a better place, consider the limits that implementing these tools can have.

Because even though wearable devices like the Apple Watch can solve minor inconveniences in work and in life, sometimes looking up and away from the screen can reveal a more worthwhile solution.