Employers are coming up with creative ways to keep an eye on remote employees, but some are questioning how ethical the methods are.
In an effort to keep an eye on employee productivity, more employers are trying to track employee progress throughout the day. Tracking can range from monitoring when employees log in or what websites they visit to monitoring what employees type or watching them through the laptop camera.
For the most part, the monitoring practices are legal, but pushback from employees leaves some questioning whether employers should monitor their employees at all.
Pre-pandemic, only around 30% of employers used some type of monitoring software on their employees. Now that number has jumped to 60%, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Before going remote, employers monitored their workers by taking a lap around the office or keeping an eye on internet traffic and badge swipes at the door. Now companies are using software to check when employees log on in the morning and who they communicate with throughout the day.
Human-resources expert Brian Kropp says that in addition to checking productivity, companies are also using software to monitor what employees in emails and communication platforms like Slack.
“Employers are trying to get a sense of whether employees are talking about changes in policies, whether external factors are becoming more common in their conversations, etc.,” Kropp said.
Some companies are going so far as to monitor employee facial expressions during video calls to determine what employees are contributing the most.
While monitoring may make employees uncomfortable, there are some potential benefits for employees. Without coworkers around, it can be difficult for employees to make complaints about harassment or mistreatment from coworkers and management. Monitoring could make it easier for employees to report incidents.
Monitoring can also help managers keep track of employee contributions, something that can come in handy when managers are looking to promote employees.
Employee monitoring can lead to distrust between employees and employers, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Why it’s news
Remote work, while an increasingly popular option, is still relatively new, meaning there are still a few details to work out.
Some employers are against remote work, hoping to get more employees back to the office, but employees generally disagree and prefer to continue remote work. Companies like AT&T have tried to push employees back to in-person work, but have been met with opposition.
As comapnies try to strike the right balance with remote work, employers may feel justified monitoring employees. Managers do need to know who is getting work done. However, determining what level of monitoring is appropriate could be more of a challenge.
By the numbers
Businesses around the world are using monitoring software to keep an eye on employees. In some cases, employee pushback results in removing the software, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- 48% said they use some monitoring programs.
- 21.9% said they removed monitoring programs due to employee pushback.
- 14% said they removed their monitoring programs for other reasons.
- 14.8% said they never had any monitoring programs.