How can we weigh up the pros and cons of remote employee surveillance?
Earlier this week, a Scottish call centre came under scrutiny for proposing to send webcams to staff working from home. They claimed in memos that the purpose of these devices was to “create a highly collaborative and engaged workforce”, and that the webcams would only be required during meetings, 1-2-1s or or when they arrive and leave the office each day.
The benefits of seeing employees via webcam are certainly high - it harvests a feeling of morale and team spirit, while at the same time encouraging those working from home to engage with each other as well as with managers. It also fortifies trust between manager and employee, knowing that they’re sitting at their desk engaging with their dedicated workload, and not down the pub with their allocated group of six.
But, on the other hand, is forcing home surveillance upon individuals an invasion of privacy? Not everyone has access to the same level of home working space - while some may have a home office, a desk, and space for quiet meetings, others are struggling to work from a kitchen table with their family and three dogs running around behind them. Forcing an employee to display their own home situation seems like pushing a “moral boundary”, as Craig Anderson, regional secretary for the Communication Workers Union, called it.
This is just one of many examples where the implementation of surveillance software is proven to be on the rise. However, there's a high chance it may be having a negative impact on employees. Here are the stats to prove it.
1. 40% of remote workers with monitoring software installed admit to working harder and staying logged on later, out of fear of superiors thinking they’re being lazy. Sure, employees working harder might seem like a bonus at first. But the more of their personal time they dig into for work, the more their work/life balance struggles, causing higher levels of stress and anxiety that could eventually cause decreased productivity due to a decline in mental wellbeing.
2. One-third of these employees confirmed that their manager regularly checks up on them to see what they are doing, causing further nerves. No one wants to feel like they’re being constantly watched - which is how it feels to know your manager could jump onto your computer or webcam to check you are, in fact, working. This could actually cause a productivity deficit instead of a productivity surge, because employees are facing unnecessary amounts of worry in their day-to-day routine.
3. 44% of those who have monitoring software installed on their work device now use their own personal devices instead to avoid the feeling of being watched. So, after implementing surveillance software on work computers, your employees have now chosen to use their own devices instead! That backfired. Now you really have no access to their work activities whatsoever.
4. 80% of managers say they trust their employees to be working effectively from home, while interestingly, only 54% of employees feel they are actually trusted by their managers. If 80% of managers trust their employees, then the rise in the implementation of surveillance and monitoring software seems strange. This could lead to employees believing they aren’t trusted, even when for the most part, they are! This lack of belief is causing them further stress.
So, why not ditch the surveillance software and let your employees show their dedication by meeting deadlines, delivering quality work and engaging with the wider team? Why not communicate with them more regularly, to understand their own personal working-from-home struggles, and see what can be done to help and therefore improve their effectiveness as an employee? These solutions would create long-lasting changes that would benefit the business on all levels, helping instead of hindering progress.
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