For about a decade, donning my workforce futurist hat has required ongoing dialogue about employee monitoring tools and their inevitable march toward greater sophistication. Often, the question has not been “Will we monitor our employees?” but “What will we monitor about our employees?”
Today, employee monitoring is routinely making headlines. Stories abound of employers using monitoring software to track the location of their staff, detect signs of quiet quitting, record how much time employees spend on different activities, and take screenshots of their devices – sometimes without employee consent.
In August, the New York Times reported that eight of the 10 largest private U.S. employers are using software and other technologies to track the productivity of their employees.
According to a Capterra study reported in The Globe and Mail, 35% of Canadian employees work for a company that uses at least one monitoring tool that they know of. Another 18% weren’t sure if their employer was tracking them.
Canadian employees are divided on how they feel about being tracked. While the majority said using such tools did not affect how they work and did not impact workplace culture, 23% said it added stress and made work feel more “hostile.”
Overall, I’m not a fan of using software to track things like keystrokes, screenshots, and how much time employees are spending in various applications. If an employee wants to waste time on the clock, chances are they’re going to figure out a way to do it without their supervisor finding out. Presumably, you hired an adult to perform responsibilities as an adult would, so there’s no need to deploy technology as a babysitter.
As for efficiency, we need only look at individual and team performance metrics to determine if there’s an issue. Generally speaking, we shouldn’t care how long a specific task takes as long as quality work is executed consistently and delivered according to deadlines.
Instead of putting your technology dollars into monitoring workers and risking diminished morale and complaints over a loss of privacy, direct your investment toward cultivating a vibrant employee experience that fosters autonomy and trust. Such an experience should ideally include a mix of online and offline and human and technology-driven touchpoints.
In fact, you can use a purposeful lack of monitoring as an opportunity to survey your employees about their perspectives on company policies and start a dialogue with them more frequently about their individual goals and workload.
You might be thinking: Is any kind of employee monitoring appropriate? Given how vulnerable remote workers are to cybercrime, there may be a time and a place. Consider this: In a recent study, 80% of security and business leaders said their organizations are more exposed to risk because of remote work.
If you’re going to monitor employees for cybersecurity purposes, just remember that the goal should be protecting rather than calling out your people. And make sure you’re transparent with employees about why you’re collecting data and what you’ll be using it for.
Alexandra Levit is an author, consultant, speaker, and workplace expert. She has written several career advice books, and was formerly a nationally syndicated career columnist for The Wall Street Journal. Alexandra is currently a partner at organizational development firm PeopleResults.View Collection