Why remote work means more surveillance – and less freedom

| July 26, 2021

Employee surveillance software is the new future to help manage the post COVID remote office, according to workplace consultant, Maureen Kyne of Maureen Kyne & Associates.

There is a strong business case for time tracking software and staff surveillance as more employees opt to work from home.

The rise in home working has seen a growth in workplace surveillance and more companies are relying on the technology to help manage employees without ‘line of sight’.

However companies must strike the correct balance between respecting the personal information of staff members and the employers’ right to monitor, particularly now the line between work and home is blurred.

Remote work and hybrid offices have presented workers with many freedoms – but it is more complex than simply working from a laptop.

COVID has turned the workplace upside down so employers want to understand how people work, when they’re most productive, and how their diary and workload looks in a remote or hybrid environment.

To maintain the trust of the workforce, managers need to work with employees and explain the motive for its use and that it is not a finger pointing exercise.

It makes smart business sense; it gives you accuracy, a better understanding of productivity and performance and it is helping companies anticipate changing roles and expectations in the post COVID environment.

I think you have to put a lot of trust in someone that is working remotely because the boss may have no idea what employees are doing all day.

What employers can’t do is install monitoring software without advising employees they’re doing so and getting their written consent.

Employee digital monitoring and how to introduce it responsibly to your workplace:

  • Remote work creates new expectations: Just as the office provided a level of assurance that employees were doing their job well, digital monitoring tools help managers ensure employee efficiencies and performance expectations are met. Ms Kyne says if the current trend towork from home continues, tracking technology will become the norm and ultimately take the place of a manager’s eyes.
  • New office means new roles: Information provided from the technology can identify strengths and weaknesses in teams, identify productivity levels, determine new roles, redefine leadership roles and give managers a visibility over their remote workforce so they can offer regular feedback.
  • Client accountability:When COVID upended workers and forced them to work from home, it also demands greater client accountability. Clients want assurances their needs are being met remotely.Monitoring technology allows for billable hours, time management and project status to be tracked to justify contracts and assure the same level of customer service and sales exists and it will continue to be delivered.
  • Clear communications and transparency: Companies need to clarify the new workplace rules and ensure workers understand why and how they are being monitored. A clear workplace surveillance policy setting out rules for use of email, chat, social platforms, Internet use and using company property will remind employees they are still subject to the company’s workplace policies.
  • Surveillance agreement: Have a clearly defined electronic surveillance policy in place and obtain written employee consent. Ensure all workers are aware of the monitoring techniques being used and they understand their responsibilities in the remote workplace. Explain the information and material from surveillance is for employment purposes only and will not be sold or used by a third party.

Before the pandemic, many companies didn’t believe that remote work was a viable concept – but the problem was never about getting the work done.

The problem lies in how to keep employees engaged to work in the remote environment and their ability to deliver and be productive outside of the traditional office environment.

Monitoring software will become a company’s best friend as managers try and predictwhat types of activities are associated with higher productivity, effectiveness of teams, what time of day employees are more productive, what kind of breaks might help staff become more productive and engaged.

Just as employees have adjusted to their emails being monitored, search engines being tracked and mandatory drug and alcohol tests, surveillance technology will become the norm to ensure employee efficiencies and performance expectations are met.