Last month, Florida software company Chetu lost a wrongful termination suit in the Netherlands — and had to pay $73,000 — after firing a remote worker who didn’t keep his webcam on all day. It reopened the conversation about when employee surveillance goes too far.
The average employee wastes two hours per day at the office, according to a Salary.com survey of 10,000 workers. Two percent waste five hours (or more) per day. Nobody is productive every second, of course, but if you’re paying someone to do a job and they’re binge-watching Netflix instead, shouldn’t you know about it?
With millions of Americans working remotely, managers have less physical oversight than ever before. That’s why many companies (including eight of the 10 largest private U.S. employers, according to The New York Times) have turned to employee monitoring software, which tracks activity levels to let you know who is taking advantage of your trust.
But these apps can have major drawbacks for company culture and worker privacy. Here’s what managers need to consider before implementing them.
The Upside: You Could Learn Who Is Planning to Leave
“Quiet quitting,” or doing the bare minimum to keep a job, is all the rage. It’s also a no-win situation for employees (who silently crave a better working environment) and employers (who don’t know why productivity is cratering).
Artificial Intelligence can detect certain indicators of employee dissatisfaction, like irregular work patterns. This allows managers the opportunity to address concerns before there’s a retention issue.
The Downside: You May Convince Employees to Leave
Retention issues can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Monitoring employees’ productivity can actually decrease it by demoralizing them. Too much surveillance erodes trust, along with personal responsibility and drive.
One of the quickest ways to ruffle an employee’s feathers is to tell them that their boss has been secretly spying on them. Weren’t they hired because management had confidence in their ability to do the job?
Transparency Is the Key
Consider informing your employees about any workplace measurement tools and strategies in advance so they aren’t alarmed when a software-detected issue is addressed.
Rather than using workplace monitoring as a fearmongering tool, leaders should promote it as a way to empower employees by tracking their development over time and distinguishing their strengths.