Does Screenshot-based Employee Monitoring Reduce Productivity?

August 16, 2022

Ever since COVID hit our lives and decided to change things forever, most of the commercial world turned to new ways of connecting with their employees. In this search for connection, they found some good ways and some bad. One of these ways is the usage of time trackers - something the world now commonly calls, “bossware”. 

Now the question is: 

Is bossware a trust-eroding tactic or a much-needed productivity tracker? 

It might have started as a simple, valid desire to track employee progress and keep a check on productivity. But it has evolved at an alarming pace into something that would remind us of George Orwell’s nightmares. 

The entire concept of time trackers is currently based on sugar-coated spying. No one will come outright and say we’re watching every move you make. Instead, they’ll say we’re going to help you get insights about your work productivity. Soon, employees might start getting calls about activities that they never meant to share with their employers and which really did not affect their productivity at all, eventually losing trust in their employers and being on their tippy toes all the time. 

Of course, no business owner actually aims to get this kind of reaction; hey, we’re all doing what seems best. However, that best might sometimes erode employees’ trust in the management and its leadership abilities.

To combat the situation, most employees either wreck their brains in full-time anxiety or spend their time finding efficient ways of cheating the system (and this has become a market in itself).

New Mantra: No Trust, No Thrust

Invasion of privacy is one of the biggest issues in the current world, whether it be employee privacy, customer privacy, or general privacy. No one wants Big Brother looking over their shoulder all the time. Case in point, the recent privacy invasion suits against Facebook and Google

Time trackers, though, apply mostly to the employee situation. In a world that claims to value privacy so much, employers often unknowingly begin imposing privacy-invading time-trackers on their employees. The implications of this seemingly harmless and much-needed step are often not understood. After all, what’s the harm in looking at my employees' activity through screenshots or keystrokes? Aren’t they supposed to be working on their tasks anyway? Isn’t that what they’re being paid for?

No, that isn’t exactly what they’re being paid for. When a time-tracker begins to take random screenshots of an employee’s activity, it does not differentiate between sensitive data which must not be revealed and regular data which is okay to be exposed. This, in turn, makes employees extra vigilant. A bit too vigilant. Instead of being more alert and efficient, employees are turning to rebellious ways and using apps or other clever methods to fool the bossware. The usage of these software has begun to have paradoxical effects.

Instead of becoming more honest and serious, as intended, employees often just let apps run through different sets of pages or employ their dogs to move their mouse for them if working from home. If their employers won’t trust them to do the work, they often really won’t do the work. If employees realize the measure of their success is based on random screenshots and numbers, they’ll are more likely to focus on making only those look good without putting much effort into their actual output.

Further Reading: Why Modern Organizations Need Time Tracking Software

Are Screenshots a Reliable Measure of Productivity?

Now the question is, are screenshots worth the mistrust they foster in employees? Do they even really do the actual job that they’re assigned?

Screenshots provide small snippets of any random moment of productivity or nonproductivity during work hours. Now, this could be a moment of serious business or an instance where an employee suddenly remembered to look up the release date of their favorite show or tickets to an upcoming event (we’ve all been there, let’s be honest). 

It is human nature to be more productive and focused at some times than others. Some people work better early in the mornings and begin to lose interest by midday, after which they might slack off a bit (but is it really slacking off if you’ve done your portion of work for the day in early hours?) Some people start slow, pick up pace as the day progresses, and still fulfill their duties. 

Time trackers, though, work according to specific programming and cannot understand this (especially if they don’t give you the ability to set your own rules). All the while, they’ll be taking screenshots of employee activity throughout the work day and uploading them instantly without giving employees the simple luxury of choosing what best exhibits their productivity. 

Employers must understand too that these random screenshots cannot be any reliable measure of productivity. In fact, they often even have the contradictory effect of reducing productivity.

Further Reading: Employee Time Tracking vs. Employee Monitoring: Which Approach is Better and Why?

How Do Screenshot Policies Reduce Productivity?

Proof of work > Actual work

There is no doubt that when employees feel pressure for showing proof of work, they tend to focus on that rather than actually working towards the desired outcomes. This directly affects productivity and hurts the overall business due to poor quality of work and missed project deadlines. 

Anti-productivity forces: Fear and anxiety 

Employee anxiety about privacy and not being “productive enough” or getting fired for something unintended is yet another way that time trackers reduce productivity. 

Many businesses are notorious for basing the release and retention of employees on the “insights” gained from their bossware. This leads to ever-growing anxiety about what a person can do on their devices and what they cannot, what might be misinterpreted and what might be considered inappropriate enough to get a person fired. 

Sensitive data might also be in danger due to the screenshots policy. It might also cause people to overburden themselves with the worry that they might not have enough proof of work in the perspective of their employer.

Ah …the ever so notorious micromanagement 

The random screenshots may lead to micromanagement which is known to reduce employee productivity. Not everyone works the same way and not everyone’s productivity looks the same. Business managers might look at an employee’s work and conclude that he or she is not following the best practices, whereas, for the employee, this might be the most productive way since all minds are wired differently. 

Accounting for off-computer activities 

Some work is being done physically and is more productive than work done on the screen. No time-tracker based on screenshot policies can capture that and count it in an employee’s productive time, although that time might be the most productive time of said employee’s work day.

timegram: NOT Bossware (since control lies with the employees)

timegram is one true employee-friendly privacy-first time tracking software that says completely no to screenshots or any other form of highly invasive employee monitoring shenanigans. It gives complete control to employees and is more of a time management software (no, we’re not sugarcoating here). 

Privacy-First Time-Tracking: Our Strict No-Screenshot Policy

Instead of taking and immediately uploading screenshots at random moments, timegram uses the fair system of Highlights. All activity during work hours is consolidated under Highlights which the employees can then sift through to show their best performance. 

This saves time for employers as well since they now don’t have to look through countless random screenshots (and you don’t need to feel like a dirty spy either, since the employee chooses to show you this proof of work). Everybody wins!

Control lies in YOUR hands

Employers and employees both gain the specific benefits that they need to be productive without the invasion of privacy on either side. As an employer, you can stay on top of your team by using the Rules Engine to define the exact ways that you want to understand your team’s progress and growth. As an employee, you don’t feel spied upon anymore!

Productivity Plus

We help you plan and delegate your tasks efficiently. Using timegram, you can get actual insights about your team’s workload and availability. You can assign tasks accordingly, plan your projects efficiently, and set appropriate deadlines too since you now get a realistic picture of what your teams are doing. 

Not only this, you can set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and award points to employees upon meeting the set criteria in order to boost morale! This engages the trickle-down effect of productivity as well. You’re happy and productive and so is your team since everyone is able to put their best foot forward.

See how we’ve solved all your worries in one go? Click here for a deeper dive into what timegram does and how you can make the most of it by signing up!

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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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