Employee Monitoring: It Could Backfire on Employers Resulting in Reduced Productivity
August 2, 2023
By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM-approved partner, ASE
In today’s digital age, the integration of technology in the workplace has become increasingly common, revolutionizing the way we work. One notable aspect of this transformation is the implementation of employee monitoring tools, which have raised concerns among employees about their productivity and privacy. A recent survey conducted by Glassdoor revealed that over 40% of U.S. professionals feel less productive when they know their employer is monitoring their work devices. Additionally, a surprising 36% of employees are unsure whether their activities are being monitored at all.
The use of remote monitoring tools gained momentum during the pandemic when remote work became the norm. Employers sought to address productivity concerns by using surveillance software, but research suggests that this approach might not be as effective as anticipated. A study by 15Five uncovered a worrying trend, with one-third of managers claiming monitoring had no impact on productivity, and even worse, one-quarter believed it drove their employees to seek employment elsewhere. Shockingly, a fifth of managers reported that employees were actively sabotaging their organizations due to the monitoring.
A significant divide between managerial perceptions and employee experiences regarding monitoring software is evident. While more than two-thirds of managers believed that productivity tracking software improved performance, a staggering 72% of employees asserted that the software either had a negative impact or no effect on their performance at all. This disconnect raises serious questions about the actual benefits of such tools and whether they genuinely enhance productivity or create a hostile work environment.
Multiple studies have yielded comparable results, with over 80% of IT managers admitting that the adoption of monitoring tools led to adverse outcomes within their organizations. As the debate intensifies, there are growing calls for clear regulations to govern the use of employee surveillance tools. Advocates have urged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to establish workplace standards for electronic surveillance to safeguard worker safety and well-being, both physically and mentally. The White House has expressed intentions to examine the impact of such tools on employees.
The opposition to monitoring tools is particularly strong in certain industries. Finance and technology professionals, for instance, were more likely to perceive monitoring as harmful to productivity, while accounting professionals seemed less concerned about its negative effects on their work. These variations in perception emphasize the importance of considering industry-specific factors when addressing the issue.
As companies embrace new technologies to optimize their operations, they should be mindful of the potential repercussions of employee monitoring as well as potential NLRB violations.
While some employers view it as a tool to boost productivity, employees often feel invaded and less motivated. They feel mistrusted. The disconnect between managerial perceptions and employee experiences underscores the need for transparent communication and a balanced approach. Striking the right equilibrium between productivity and privacy will be crucial for fostering a positive work environment and achieving sustainable success in the digital era. Perhaps a better measurement tool is to simply ask, “Is the work getting done?”
Source: HR Dive