The Nuances of Surveillance Practice in the Workplace

The rapid rise and implementation of remote work have led to several significant workplace changes over the past three years. Hybrid workplaces, virtual collaboration, reimagined company culture, and remote-based best practices have all come to be standards in this new world of work. But in the case of hybrid workplaces, the viability of certain operational aspects remains up in the air.

With more than a quarter of the US workforce currently working remotely,[1] employers have been testing various strategies to ensure employees remain engaged and productive. At the forefront of these strategies, employee monitoring has become a pressing topic for companies that are reaping its benefits, drawbacks, and long-term implications.


The Modern Landscape of Workplace Surveillance

Currently, around 60 percent of employers are using employee monitoring software to track the activity and productivity of their remote workforce, while nearly 20 percent are considering implementation and its benefits.[2] Clearly, organizations are eager to gain better insight into the productivity and activity trends of their workforces. But while employers feel they’re gaining beneficial information from these monitoring tools, how exactly do employees feel about it? A survey of tech workers found that more than 50 percent of employees would opt to leave their job if a company implemented employee monitoring measures.[3]

So, what aspect of monitoring is it that employees take issue with? Recent changes to the work landscape, like brand activism, climate positivity, and DEI&B innovations, all demonstrate the importance that employees and candidates place on the trust and values of employers. The new-age employee is increasingly concerned with the social and environmental stances that their employer takes, and employee monitoring can reflect elements of company culture that candidates don’t necessarily align with.

Employee Monitoring: Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages

Workplace surveillance is a multifaceted tool used for numerous purposes, and herein lies its many benefits. Monitoring tools can be used to ensure that employees are maintaining a healthy work-life balance, helping to ensure that employees are taking adequate breaks, engaging in frequent movement within their home office, and not being overworked to the point of burnout. Employers will be able to track trends that identify the quality of employee productivity and output rather than focusing solely on the quantity.

As a result of this tracking, employers will be better able to increase retention, employee morale, and work-life balance – but only if monitoring is implemented effectively and with transparency. In instances where organizations use employee monitoring, employees should be informed of the purpose – concerns with work-life balance, tracking trends to increase retention, and better understanding trends that define quality of work. This will help create trust in the workplace and dispel many initial concerns employees may have with workplace surveillance.

Disadvantages

However, there are many hurdles and issues that have quickly arisen with the use of workplace surveillance. In the case of employee monitoring through the use of webcams, a court in the Netherlands recently declared that this form of surveillance violated employees’ human rights.[4] For organizations that employ global remote workforces, the nuances of country-specific legislation will be important and costly to stay up to date with.

Employee monitoring also fails to take into consideration the various types of skills involved for different types of roles. Soft skills that are strategic or creative may not be able to be tracked by current workplace surveillance tools, reflecting a lack of productivity in employees who are extremely productive. Productivity is quantified by much more than words typed or active hours online, and monitoring tools are currently unable to encapsulate these other measures of productivity.

In cases where monitoring is implemented without transparency, it can directly contribute to burnout and decreased retention by making employees feel undervalued and untrusted. If employee monitoring is performed without transparency and clarity, it can negatively impact company culture. Additionally, employees who choose to leave in response could potentially reference this use of employee monitoring, which will negatively impact a company’s brand image, candidate attraction, and recruiting strategies.

Workplace surveillance is a viable tool that many companies are already choosing to use – but the implementation, transparency, and clarity of its use are extremely significant and can impact your employees, your branding, and your overall organization. Understanding the nuances of the ways your company can benefit from the use of employee monitoring is key. To learn more about the ways employee monitoring can impact your company and its workforce, visit https://www.appleone.com/ .


[1] https://www.zippia.com/advice/remote-work-statistics/#:~:text=26%25%20of%20U.S.%20employees%20work,U.S.%20companies%20are%20fully%20remote.

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2022/11/16/why-employee-monitoring-is-doomed-to-backfire/?sh=1dc81d4a1729

[3] https://morningconsult.com/2022/05/31/tech-workers-survey-surveillance/

[4] https://metro.co.uk/2022/10/10/making-employees-switch-on-webcams-human-rights-violation-17535832/

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