Remote Teams

How Managers are Battling Employee Backlash Over Monitoring

September 2, 2022

It is an established fact that people do not like being monitored all the time. Take a look at these interesting headlines:

It is also an established fact that businesses cannot do without monitoring of all sorts, especially for remote employees and workplaces, in our context. 

Most managers feel insecure about their employees working remotely or about not having enough data about their activity. Many feel that their employees might be taking advantage of remote working or that freelancers might not be giving their best. Hence, monitoring them during work hours seems to be the best solution. 

Employees, however, are not happy about this. There has been severe backlash over this issue and more and more people have been feeling threatened by the monitoring technology turning into surveillance. 

In many ways, the backlash makes sense too. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out and understand the reason for this backlash. If not done correctly and fairly, employee monitoring definitely can, and in most cases, does cross lines of privacy. 

So, Why the Backlash?

1. Invasive “surveillance” rather than ethical monitoring

Most employers implement surveillance technology without realizing its complete implications. In many cases, the level of technology offered is not even needed but is implemented because it is offered. This creates an overload of data and insights for managers to dig through and try to make use of, undermining their more important managerial duties. This data may look like a lot of screenshots, webcam shots, and keystroke counts when it has been proven time and time again that these metrics do not exhibit any actual productivity anyway. Instead, this practice opens the gateway to leakage or exposure of sensitive information.

2. Lack of transparency and awareness

Many offices have implemented surveillance software on employee devices without informing them. 

The BBC reports that, “Much of this surveillance software has since been installed on work computers, with or without employee knowledge. Dubbed by some as ‘bossware’, … often, this technology runs undetected, meaning workers can be unaware that their boss is effectively spying on them. ”

Most places don’t have clear laws regarding this yet and so employers are able to surveil without notifying their employees. So when employees do find out at some point, they feel an utter violation of trust has taken place. When there’s no trust between employer-employee, how can anyone expect real productivity?

3. High levels of monitoring = Higher levels of stress 

The environment of stress and anxiety that invasive monitoring creates is the tragedy of the current work era. This tragedy is why when most of us think of work, we’re not thinking of work. We’re actually stressing out about work.

Think about it, managers: 

  • If you have to be calculative about every time use the restroom during your work day;
  • If you have to be defensive about each time you have to spend time doing other important work off your computer screen (like reading something, scribbling out ideas, discussing strategies with colleagues, helping a fellow out, y’know… the actual essence of work); 
  • If you have to resort to things like “mouse-moving triggers” and “window-changing software”

Wouldn’t you lose your mind too? Wouldn’t this take all the heart out of your work and make your movements robotic? How then would you talk about loyalty to the company?

So yes, the backlash makes sense. But what can we do about it? Some measures of monitoring are definitely still required. After all, we do often have employees slacking off while on duty. 

You'll find this interesting: Employee Surveillance: Is it Actually Affecting Work Productivity?

How Some Managers are Battling this Backlash (And How You Can Do It Too)

Most managers are now on the lookout for ways to preserve the sanity of their employees while meeting their monitoring requirements too. Here are some ways that really work.

Be Trustworthy 

Here’s a top tip: Don’t use software that causes this backlash at all. Instead, use a privacy-first solution like timegram which can accommodate all your ethical monitoring needs. There’s zero invasion of privacy and no risk of micromanaging either.

Be Transparent 

Reddit said it right. No one needs to be unhappy if they already know and understand why something is being done, right? Let your employees know the why and how of your monitoring strategies. Let them know that they have control over what their productivity looks like. Because if you’re using timegram, it actually does give control to your employees. 

How? The Highlights feature allows choosing which activities best exhibit their productivity (it’s up to them to exercise their time wisely in order to show that). And you, the managers, get to use the Rules Engine to outline what metrics are to be used (so you have control too). 

Be Inclusive

Sue Odio, head of people and operations at Stellate, a data analytics start-up in San Francisco, believes that some extent of monitoring is actually useful when it comes to hybrid and remote work. However, she insists it should be done with proper transparency and inclusivity. Odio says, “You have to bring teams along to the ideas and the intent behind monitoring, then align on the process.” 

It’s not so much about letting employees choose what is monitored, but rather just letting them know how and what will be monitored so that they too can pitch in about what is appropriate and what’s not. It is obviously a terrific idea to let employees in on the insights and perhaps hold one-on-one, casual meetings with them about their productivity + proactivity levels. 

We don’t just mean meetings about regulating performance and discussing weak points to improve upon; we mean meetings to let employees know what they’re doing right and maybe, just maybe, use the gamified KPIs feature on timegram to harness positive competition!

And there you go. Three ways that you can incorporate in order to become “the” favorite manager. If you’d like to learn more about how timegram can help you with it, see our full list of features here. And if you like it enough, sign up so you can be the top manager!

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Moniba Mehboob

About the author

Moniba Mehboob is a published author of prose and poetry. She is currently interested in writing children's picture books and occasionally dabbles in watercolors too.

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