Utilizing surveillance software program throughout COVID-19 is an enormous mistake

One of the latest employer trends emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic is the increased use of surveillance software to track employees' daily activities while they work from home. The programs often include webcams that regularly take pictures of employees during working hours. The software can also prompt employees who move away from their laptops and warn them to get back to work within a minute or be marked as disabled.

This trend reminds me of a game we played as kids – "King of the Hill". I can still remember the child who insisted on being the king of the hill in our sixth grade. This boy enjoyed his sense of control and sought power over the rest of us. I probably remember him so well because as a lanky and uncoordinated boy, I had a permanent place at the bottom of the hill myself. I wasted some time straightening up until I realized that I had to be far from this hill and have to pave my own way.

The surveillance software, which some critics call "tattleware", is controversial among many workers and advocates of data protection, while advocates argue that it is an essential productivity tool that only started with the growth of the remote workforce both during COVID-19 as well as becoming more and more popular.

I see this as the worst kind of activity of a big brother and a big mistake for the leaders.

While some may argue that productivity is at stake, I instead see it as leaders who fall into the trap of having total control rather than empowering and trusting their employees. For a relationship between employer and employee to work, there must be a basis of trust.

The link between trust, productivity and engagement during COVID-19

The best managers help their employees to grow and develop, so that the employees feel motivated to make their own personal contribution without being constantly afraid. After all, employees only trust their managers if they know that these managers are at the center of their interests. Monitoring every movement of an employee hardly seems to be in a person's best interest.

Employee monitoring software-during-covid-19

I have seen that this is reflected in the reporting on the surveillance systems. A woman who works for a small marketing company in Minnesota recently told National Public Radio that shortly after she started using the Time Doctor software, she downloads videos from employee screens and can take a picture of an employee every few minutes, one A webcam felt erosion of trust.

"I just feel crappy. I feel like I'm not trusted, ”the woman told NPR, adding that she was ashamed after taking a short break to speak to a colleague on the phone. "My employees were really, really upset. But everyone was too scared to say anything."

How constant surveillance of employees can backfire during COVID-19

I also see another major disadvantage of these surveillance programs, which essentially counteracts the level of productivity they are designed to increase.

First, consider the type of metrics that the software can track, e.g. For example, the number of emails sent by employees, their time with applications such as Word or Excel, or the minutes spent monitoring social sites.

If employees know their time online or in a specific application such as Word or Excel, this means "productive" time. It can take four hours to complete a task that can be done in two steps.

A better way to build relationships

Of course, employee accountability is critical, and I'm not saying that employees don't have to be bound by high standards nowadays, even when faced with a number of new pressures at work from home. However, accountability can be measured in so many better ways: do employees complete their projects on time or in advance? Do you develop innovative solutions, work well with colleagues and bring important ideas to team meetings? Even better: Do employees regularly exceed the expectations of their employees and managers? These are the results that are really important, not whether they send 70 emails a day.

Instead of spending time monitoring employees and tracking minute by minute webcam photos and other metrics, I encourage leaders to spend more time talking honestly with their team members about what is going well and what could be improved. Large leaders might consider ending these conversations by simply asking, how can I help? Then I think trust, engagement – and ultimately productivity – will make their most significant leap.

Do you have experience with an employee monitoring system? What impact did this have on your organization's trust? Apart from this experience, what do you think is the best way to build a more engaging and productive workplace?

– –David Grossman

Click below to download the summary report – Working During COVID-19: US Workers Involving Remote Work – and to retrieve data to help you understand how US Workers work about a world think of a pandemic.

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