Monitoring employees with or without their consent during the pandemic has increased, especially when most of them work from home. Remote surveillance of employees is a big challenge for the management as keeping track of work schedules becomes difficult, and the trust factor between the management and employee is lost. Since the employees can’t report directly to their superiors, it becomes even more difficult for them to trust the employees, even if they’ve been delivering high-quality performance. All this could eventually lead to mistrust, micromanagement, a stressful work environment, and employee dissatisfaction.
Advanced Tracking Through Collection of Personal Data
Technology helped companies overcome many challenges during the pandemic. Even the management started using several utilities and tools to collect employee data such as location and performance. Irrespective of whether you’re working from your neighborhood café or home, your employer has the means to collect all the data they need for overseeing your work.
Since most employees had decided or were forced to work from home, companies no longer have the traditional options to monitor them. Hence, they turn to surveillance software that could do much more than retrieving your browsing history. According to ZDNet, the demand for such monitoring tools increased by 55% in June compared to the usual standard. Employers might see such tools as a necessity when employees are outside their physical surveillance loop, but there are downsides to it as well. Surveillance tools could give webcam access, retrieve browsing histories, record via microphones, and take regular screenshots of screens. Additionally, tools could perform keystroke logging, meaning employers can tell what you type during the workday.
Technology Used for Constant Monitoring
Work from home during the pandemic has been a lifesaver for millions. However, it has also forced us to use more online tools like Zoom, Slack, Skype, WhatsApp, etc.
Every trivial, as well as critical communication with employees, clients, and vendors, is recorded. Things have come to such a pass that employees have started pushing back against such brazen data collection methods. Employees have become guarded, and they don’t feel safe communicating even with their teammates. Hallway communications that were once a stress-reliever for many have turned virtual, and your employer knows about them.
Insane Level of Monitoring
Monitoring the workplace behavior of employees has existed for ages. However, virtual surveillance tools cannot be used without teams’ knowledge. In other words, if a company decides to monitor your activities secretly, they are not following the rules. Before any such monitoring can begin, there needs to be transparency and consent. Unfortunately, many highlight the issue that employees might not have any say in whether monitoring will be applied (and to what extent).
The pandemic has dealt a massive blow to the trust between companies and employees, which is a prerequisite for building a healthy and productive remote work culture. Lack of confidence has led companies to invest in monitoring tools and utilities to keep a tab on their employees. This trust deficit has dangerous ramifications, such as the accidental creation of a hostile work environment. A recent survey in the UK revealed that most employees are not aware of how their employers collect their data. Approximately 80% of participants also said they would not feel comfortable subjected to constant web camera monitoring.
Employee Monitoring: Benefits and Downsides
Monitoring was always projected as a threat to privacy and a catalyst for widening the trust gap. However, the benefits of employee time and attendance monitoring far outweigh the downsides. For example, productive workers can expect their data to be used by the management for accurate analysis of their performance. Employees can use the data to improve their productivity and better time management. Employees tend to focus better on their work when they are aware that they’re being watched, and their manager can help them make course corrections should they ever get distracted. Management using monitoring tools can gather critical evidence of bullying, racism, and even sexual harassment, which would have been otherwise overlooked.
Downsides of employee monitoring also exist, which can’t be ignored, and the biggest of them is the anxiety and stress of being watched. Employees often became less flexible when monitored as they had personal responsibilities during the pandemic that they had to ignore due to the pressure of staying connected. Eventually, this resulted in a huge trust deficit between the employers and their workforce, as employees treated monitoring as an unnecessary intrusion into their privacy. The fear of misuse of data also looms over the data storage technologies and tools used by employers.
Due to fears of being monitored, employees could try many options. Incognito mode might seem like a good option, but it is not as effective as people assume. Employees could also turn to a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to hide their activities from employers. Atlas VPN is one of the tools that encrypts all online traffic and hides your location. Besides the swift escape from overly intrusive employers, VPNs are nothing new in corporate environments. People could use them to conduct market research and reach different locations online. Additionally, it preserves the integrity of work communications, preventing outsiders from intercepting, or modifying them.
In the post-pandemic world, employee surveillance could become mainstream. However, companies should not stick to the positive aspects of monitoring. There are many downsides, and they need to be solved. If not, employees might become anxious and less productive during the day when they feel that their every move is monitored.
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