Since more employees began working remotely, managers have increased employee surveillance—to the detriment of worker productivity.
- Employers have implemented worker surveillance strategies like recording keystrokes, taking periodic screenshots, and even accessing employee webcams.
- While businesses claim this monitoring ensures that productivity remains at acceptable levels, this practice may cause employees to be less productive.
- Excessive monitoring can increase employee stress, lead to quitting, and causes some employees to underperform intentionally.
- Internet security tool ExpressVPN found that in 2021, 80% of those surveyed were monitoring their employees.
Why it’s news
Employers are monitoring employees out of concern for worker productivity. However, their attempts to encourage workers to be productive may sometimes have the opposite effect.
A study by Arizona State University professor David Welsh found that excessive monitoring can lead to more employees breaking the rules. In a 2021 study, Welsh found that employees under surveillance took more breaks and worked more slowly than those who were not monitored.
Welsh explained the phenomenon by saying that workers “felt like they were being controlled, and they had less of a sense of personal responsibility because of how they were being monitored.” The study suggested that workers will break more rules to feel like they have some control.
Leaving employees entirely up to their own devices isn’t necessarily the answer either. Monitoring can sometimes improve performance and productivity, but success varies significantly between different employees and job types, BBC reports.
There is a difficult balance between necessary and unnecessary surveillance that makes workers feel controlled. In a Morning Consult survey of 750 tech employees, half would quit rather than be subject to intense surveillance.
Backing up a bit
With more employees regularly working from home, managers are keeping a closer eye on employees, but workers have found strategic ways to get around the surveillance.
Some employers are taking advantage of technology to help keep a closer eye on their employees, but employees are using technology to fight back.
Workers worried about their online status showing they are away from their desks are using simple hacks like playing live-streamed videos in the background of their computers. Others feign productivity by participating in unnecessary meetings or sending extra emails and messages.
Managers’ worries that employees aren’t being productive have led to increased employee surveillance. However, this surveillance has led to new, somewhat deceptive practices from employees.
Some of these hacks are relatively simple ways to prevent computers from timing out or falling asleep while an employee is away from the desk. For example, when a slideshow is in presenter mode, some computers won’t time out or fall asleep—giving an employee additional time away from their desk to finish a chore or grab a cup of coffee.
Others are using more creative methods, such as wrapping a computer mouse cord around an oscillating fan so that the cursor occasionally moves across the computer screen. For less creative employees, mouse jigglers are readily available for sale on places like Amazon.