Why Worker Surveillance is Backfiring on Employers
As recently reported by the BBC, a growing number of companies are using technology to surveil remote workers to ensure everyone stays productive.
Some monitoring programs record keystrokes or track computer activity by taking periodic screenshots. Other software records calls or meetings, tracks time, accesses employees’ webcams, or enables full remote access to workers’ systems.
Why has monitoring employees suddenly become popular? According to Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index survey, 85% of leaders have trouble believing their workers are being productive at home. (This is also referred to as ‘Productivity Paranoia’.)
Although many managers are jumping on the surveillance bandwagon, data from research suggests that surveilling employees often backfires. Rudolf Siegel, a researcher at Universitat des Saarlandes in Germany, says, “The data shows that monitoring employees offers no benefits. Instead, Instead, it damages workplace culture and spurs counterproductive behavior. It raises employee’s stress levels to be under observation, and it impinges on their sense of autonomy and dignity.”
Workers are, unsurprisingly, not pleased with the overreach. A 2022 Morning Consult survey of tech workers showed that half would rather quit than have their employer monitor them during the workday.
Jill, What Can I Do? I firmly believe that workplace surveillance is toxic to the culture and increases employee disengagement. If you want to have an extraordinary workplace culture, managing employee expectations and then trusting them to do what’s right is a much better strategy than spying on them. And if you don’t trust someone to do what is right, the answer is simple: they shouldn’t be employed at your company.