With more people working from home in a hybrid or fully remote way, some companies are adopting staff surveillance as a means to monitor their staff to assess employee productivity. This poses all sorts of questions around morality, values, trust, law, and ethics.
Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet are just some of the ways companies choose to meet their employees and teams virtually, whilst Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, and Slack are other ways employees can check in and keep in touch throughout the day. This gives a degree of confidence to line managers that goals are being met and that the team is productive.
However, on the more extreme side, there are companies that use technology that can monitor an employee’s keystrokes, software, or use emails and video surveillance. This could be argued to be unethical; would the employer also monitor staff working in the office in the same way?
Britain Thinks conducted a survey for the TUC in 2021, of just over 2,000 workers and found that 60% of them had been monitored whilst working that year, up 13% from the year before.
The other issue it poses is how your employees would feel about being monitored. It could easily make them feel like they aren’t trusted, creating unease, anxiety, and insecurity in the work force. This might affect morale and feelings of their worth, which would then ultimately have a knock-on impact on staff turnover rate.
For a company to thrive, it could be argued that employees need to feel trusted, secure, valued, with the autonomy and freedom to get on with their role.
In the UK it is legal to monitor your employees. There are laws and guidelines around how you can monitor your employees though. The Data Protection Act is just one of them and it states six principles that should be followed if you are going to monitor your staff;
There are many reasons why an employer would choose to monitor their staff, in some cases it could increase employee productivity and team performance, but it comes at a cost.
Financially there would be implications to the business, but eventually it could result in saving money as you would know how cost effective each staff member was. It would also be time consuming to monitor each member of staff and what they are doing on a daily basis.
Perhaps employers could choose to adopt a healthy culture, with clear job descriptions and objectives, that promotes freedom and trust for employees to conduct their duties and do right by the company. With decent communication, regular meetings, check ins, and updates, along with setting clear goals, and tracking performance against them, each employee should know what is expected of them and deliver. And if they don’t, you approach the situation formally through conversations, performance reviews and if it comes to it, disciplinaries.
Creating an ethical, open, and honest culture that promotes employee wellbeing and strives to bring balance for employees, will inevitably increase staff performance and improve turnover rate.
A study conducted by Deloitte found that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success. Whilst another study found that Millennials prioritize ‘people and culture fit’ above everything else.