Given the state of the pandemic, and as especially as so many businesses will likely get into some form of a remote or a hybrid work environment permanently, a lot of businesses are asking one question: should we monitor our employees more?
This is a natural question. In an in-person setting, you have team leaders and managers on site to assess employees as needed. In a remote setting, it’s hard to tell what employees are doing or not doing, and feeling the impulse to integrate an employee monitoring software makes sense.
The problem with employee monitoring, however, is the negative effects it can have on workplace culture, employee morale, and engagement.
Below we’ll talk about what employee monitoring entails and why you might want to think twice about using an employee monitoring solution.
What is employee monitoring?
Employee monitoring systems allow companies to monitor and track employee engagement and activities in work-related tasks. These solutions can keep track of and measure security protocols, number of hours worked, productivity, absenteeism, and more. Employee monitoring is often employed without your employees’ knowledge, and consent often comes down to the particular country or local municipalities you’re working under.
Employee monitoring software can help you keep track of:
- Data loss prevention monitoring
- Internet usage
- Email conversations
- Phone conversations
- Employee location tracking
- Video surveillance
- Screenshot monitoring
Employers can track whether their employees are on inappropriate websites or engaging in excessive browsing, automation email features that look for keywords in email exchanges, GPS tracking of mobile phones that can be used to recover lost phones or track mileage on company vehicles, and quality assurance tracking on calls and other work-related exchanges.
How employee monitoring affects engagement
The trend toward employee monitoring comes as a real contrast to work-culture trends pervading the corporate world. Employers are committed to investing in the wellbeing and satisfaction of their employees. In recent years, 74% of companies have offered more added-value services to their benefits programs, and 66% of employers are expanding the range of their paid benefits.
When employees feel valued by their employers, their engagement increases. Wellbeing programs, better health benefits, and gestures of employee appreciation all lead to higher retention rates, increased satisfaction, and better engagement rates. Surreptitiously monitoring employees, collecting their data, and keep tracking of all their online activity unfortunately does not promote engagement.
This Deloitte survey found that 55% of millennials would leave an employer who valued profits over people, and employee tracking falls under that profits-over-people umbrella. This isn’t to say that companies should not engage in employee tracking completely, but there are more degrees of employee monitoring and companies should think hard about integrating more intrusive forms of employee tracking.
The last thing you want is for employee tracking to have the opposite effect of destroying trust, lowering morale, and leading to less productive and less engaged employees.
Pros and cons of employee monitoring
While we’ve covered why you might think twice about integrating an employee monitoring solution, there are clear benefits to employee monitoring. Below we’ll get into some of the pros and cons of employee monitoring
- You can keep track of employee activity, ensuring that there’s less time wasted like taking extra time on lunch breaks or spending time on non work-related tasks during work hours
- Encourages employees not to waste time browsing the web
- Provides analytics on efficiency and engagement trends that help employees create strategies
- Easier to monitor sensitive information or data
- Seamless application monitoring, which allows for utilization rates of certain software
- When employees know they’re being monitored, they will be less tempted to waste time and, in theory, be more productive
- The biggest con of employee monitoring is, no doubt, the lost trust between the employee-employer dynamic
- Decrease in employee morale and satisfaction
- Employers can’t always guarantee that employee data will be handled responsibly, which doesn’t bode well with employees
- Hurts workplace culture
- Some monitoring features will capture everything on their screen, including personal messages and non-work related items
- Legal complications based on your country/state
- Employee monitoring can actually reduce engagement and productivity because employee trust is lost and morale is low
Not all employee monitoring features are created equally. We encourage businesses to be transparent with their monitoring tools, and to use the kind of features that promote the company (cybersecurity monitoring, application analytics, sensitive data monitoring) and less intrusive features.
If you’re afraid employees are going to be resentful anyway, you can show your value to them by both educating them about why the monitoring is necessary and by providing them with other benefits that demonstrate you care. These can include wellbeing days off, wellbeing programs, improved benefits, and bonuses.
Employee monitoring stats and data
Whatever side you take on the effects of employee monitoring, it’s clear that the use of monitoring tools is a growing trend. A 2019 Accenture survey found that 62% of C-suite executives said that they were utilizing some kind of monitoring solution to collect data on their employees. As that was before the pandemic, it’s not hard to imagine that those numbers have only risen.
While there are a large number of employee monitoring tools to choose from today, it doesn’t come without a cost. Employee morale and trust are paramount to a vibrant workplace culture, and employees aren’t pleased about the notion of being monitored.
The same Accenture study, cited by the Harvard Business Review, showed that 52% of employees believed that the mishandling of employee data damages trust between employees and employers. With only 30% of C-suite executives being confident that they could manage employee data responsibly, this shows a clear gap in the needs of employers and employees.