Opinion

Should You Use Remote Monitoring To Enhance Productivity?

Is using monitoring software the best practice for ensuring productivity? As the shift to remote work cements itself as a reality moving forward in a post COVID world, does introducing employee spyware become the new norm?

As the second wave of the Covid 19 pandemic impacts on workers around the world, employers are postponing or cancelling their plans for employees to return to office locations.

Erik Brynjolfsson, in collaboration with his team at the National Bureau of Economic Research, recently estimated that between February and May 2020, over one third of the US labor force switched to remote work, resulting in about half of all American workers working from home.

Monitoring & “Tattleware”

Fearing a loss of control and the ability to oversee their workforce, some leaders are requiring team members to join a videoconference every morning, instructing them to leave their webcams switched on all day. Other leaders are preferring to rely on system software such as Sneek, to take webcam pictures of employees every few minutes and upload them for scrutiny by senior management.

Failure to open business applications first thing in the morning is seen by some leaders as the same as being late for work.

Vice-President of global operations for Teramind, Eli Sutton, reported a 3-fold increase in website sales leads since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. Teramind tracking technology monitors all user activity related to apps, websites, emails, networks, etc. while at work. Using individual user data collectively, the software can gauge team productivity levels and be used to enforce data security policies.

Competitors have developed software for: keystroke monitoring; screenshot capture; internet connection monitoring; email forwarding; content filtering/blocking; and remote freeze and lock-up, making it possible to pull-up virtually any and all productivity and behaviour data that an employer wants to access.

Privacy

Although workplace monitoring is nothing new, most employees have an expectation of privacy when they use personal computers and phones - particularly when working from home. Consequently, organizations need to ensure that they develop and share a written privacy policy disclosing what monitoring the company is doing whenever an employee's device interacts with a corporate network. 

Employers will benefit greatly by explaining exactly why they are monitoring their staff, how the data is stored and analyzed, and what it is used for. Failing to be transparent can negatively impact on the psychological and relational contract between the employee and the employer.

Productivity

Industry trackers are reporting that employees are actually more productive when working from home, because they usually start earlier, work later, and have fewer interruptions than when in the office. 

Dr Claudia Pagliari, Advisor on Digital Ethics and Chair National Expert Group for the Scottish Government has this to say:

There’s not really any evidence that workers are more productive when they’re monitored. What we do know is that the sense of being in a panopticon can actually depress you, and make you less productive.

There is a direct correlation between the amount of control and autonomy individuals are provided to get their work done, and their level of satisfaction, engagement, and stress. Humans are not robots, they are empathetic and sympathetic beings. It is particularly important for morale to stay high and for people to feel like they're connected as a team during times of great change and uncertainty.

Leading From A Distance

The further workers are from their leaders, the greater is the need to enable and empower your workforce to move your business forward.

Rather than off-loading an important responsibility to a software company, encourage your team to greater productivity by having regular one-to-one as well as weekly team check-ins. Be transparent regarding emerging business needs and confirming current priorities. It is a disservice to people leaders and their team members to use micro-monitoring software that perpetuates fear.

The vast majority of remote workers are concerned about working on the important things, not just anything to appear busy. They have genuine concern about the future of their organization and of their careers.  

Fundamentally, most everyone wants to be measured and appreciated for their results and contributions, not by the hours that they clock-in at their keyboards.

After all, as a leader in management, isn’t that how it has worked for you?

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