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Stress, Speculation and the Apple Watch

by Don Stephens
May 26, 2015
Apple Watch

Today we'd like to welcome Don Stephens as a contributor to our blog. Don is both a veteran field service worker and a freelance writer. The combination makes for a refreshing addition to our blog.

Um… I dropped it really, really hard…” I said as I dropped a baggy full of pager pieces on the desk.

The stunned look on our technology specialist’s face was priceless. She poured the beeper’s remains onto her desk. Sifting through shards of plastic, bits of metal and a crushed battery, she smirked and asked, “Stressful day?”

Smiling like the Cheshire cat, I grabbed the replacement pager and turned to leave.

Stress is a part of every one of our lives, but for the field service tech it can be overwhelming at times. We deal with raging customers, difficult machines and even more difficult managers, all the while trying to meet response times, watch our parts usage and juggle service calls. Could the answer to violent outbursts against poor, innocent, little electronic devices be something that we wear on our wrists? I believe that it might be a possibility.

It's a guessing game for now

There is much speculation over how the Apple Watch and other similar devices might come to play a role in the services sector. Hands free communication is one of the benefits touted by many industry insiders who brand the device as practically undroppable. But don't we already have bluetooth devices that can do the same thing? A watch might be less likely to fall off, but a bluetooth earpiece goes right into the ear canal, which makes it less subject to background noise, and you don't need to talk to your wrist.

Apple already offers an app for field service that it claims will “provide late-breaking news on severe weather, outages, hazards and crew information”. But I have to ask, don’t we already have a smartphone for that? I won’t discount the fact that a plumber, who is crawling under a house and has left his phone in his truck, might benefit from such an app, but smartphones have already been such a part of our lives that he has probably already figured out how to bring it with him. There is also the fact that the Apple Watch would get beat to a pulp on the wrist of a plumber.

I say that the real beauty of a smartwatch might lie in how it could help techs manage their daily stress levels.

Put a pause on stress

Most of my days are spent doing routine maintenance and repairing common equipment failures, but occasionally I come across a problem that has me wishing I had that cheap, grenade-like beeper to bounce off a wall. When my smartphone tells me that I have an email or customer that needs responding to, it not only compounds my stress, it takes me away from the deep concentration that is needed to troubleshoot the problem. If only there were a way to put the outside world on hold... enter the 'pause app'.

An app could be developed that puts a hold on all emails, phone calls and service notifications with a tap of the wrist. An adjustable timer could remind that tech that he or she has gone dark, so that techs don't forget their pause on life. An alert would go out to the dispatch center, via field service software, and all required customer interaction would be handled by them or a back-up. Another tap could bring them up to speed - after the urge to do electronic mayhem has passed.

Kill stress before it kills productivity

We've all heard that stress is a killer because of the impact it has on the mind and body, but did you know that it can also turn a productive day into a pager smashing day? A paper produced by Cambridge University shows that stress can have a negative impact on concentration, motivation, thought processes, performance and punctuality, as well as increase absenteeism, accidents and employee turn-over. Is it any wonder that loss of productivity should also make the list?

With a heart rate sensor and an accelerometer incorporated into the Apple Watch, it might be able to be tuned to detect work-induced stress, which could trigger an alert to the user so that they might step away from the situation to practice some stress relieving techniques. This would have to be done tastefully and without fear of reprisal. There's no use creating a situation where the next baggy to land on a technology specialist's desk is full of smartwatch pieces.

With all developing technologies there are innovations that come along that end up becoming indispensable to certain sectors of the population. Will smartwatches become stress meters that help keep workforces on an even keel? Or will they become the next new target for the short of temper? Only time will tell.


Donald B. Stephens has over 30 years of field service experience working for the Xerox Corporation. He is also a freelance writer, novelist, blogger and wisecracking humorist. His hobbies include: hiking, dark beer, fine Scotch and getting schooled by either of his two children on the Xbox.

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