Despite the steady return to in-person living, employees are still seeing the value in working from home however a key question for employers persists:
How do you know if your employees are working productively… or working at all?
Remote employee monitoring increased dramatically in popularity during the pandemic.
At first, some companies believed it necessary to track their employees’ every move, subscribing to the belief that employees will only work in a structured system of punishment and reward, aka financial motivation.
Recent research and management theory, however, indicates that employees are motivated by non-financial rewards as much as if not more so than financial rewards. Each employee’s source of motivation is unique, though there are some generalizations that can be made. Gen Z in particular is motivated by opportunities to contribute or make an impact. Millennials are motivated by recognition and will often take on challenges or put in extra effort to stand out from the crowd. In addition, humans as a whole are motivated by the sociological need to contribute to society in a meaningful or impactful way. We live in community; contributing to that community is a part of what makes us human.
In summary, many of your employees just want to do a good job. Yet these well-intentioned, hardworking employees have a very real fear of being monitored. Here’s why.
Electronic monitoring provides employers with barebones data, disallowing the human element that would typically be present in an office. Any time away from the computer or keyboard becomes stressful for the employee, especially as they continue to adapt to the new reality of a combined work/life location. Monitored employees find themselves thinking things like:
- Was my bathroom break too long? Did they check on me?
- My kid had a question with their homework and I was away from my desk for 20 minutes… will I get in trouble?
In addition, personal preferences and ways of working are not always considered when electronic monitoring. For example:
- I prefer to write drafts by hand before typing them – will my computer think I’m not working?
- I need to consider possible solutions before I put anything on paper, but my Teams icon will show I’m not working if I go for a walk to think this challenge through. What do I do?
It is also important to consider neurodiversity when speaking of employee monitoring. People think differently, and your standards of tracking may not allow for that. In addition, the sensation of being monitored can be triggering for employees with a history of trauma or mental health issues, so be aware of and sensitive to your employees’ needs.
On the other hand, there are benefits to monitoring employees, notably peace of mind for leadership. With respect to employee performance, digital monitoring can point out an employee’s strengths, such as speedy report-writing or going the extra mile for a customer. Data can be used by managers and employees as a starting point to recognize and discuss inefficiencies in an employee’s working habits and correct them constructively.
If you are going to monitor your employees, keep the following in mind.
- Be transparent. Let the employees know that they are being monitored and what methods you are using to monitor them. Explain how you will be using the data and what exactly you are tracking. Provide them with the opportunity to express any concerns about how this might add stress to their work style or family life, and take those concerns seriously.
- Respect privacy. Do not monitor personal devices such as mobile phones, even if they are used for work. Do not use invasive monitoring techniques like keystroke loggers – which can record personal data, passwords, and private messages – or record video or audio. This is especially important in a work-from-home situation.
- Allow employees access to their own data. Let them gain the same insights you are seeing about their productivity and efficiency. Provide space for discussion of the data collected and allow each employee the opportunity to address any concerns you have. The data is only part of the story – allow your employees to enlighten you as to the rest.
- Know the law. For every jurisdiction in which you are located, be aware of the current (and possibly changing) laws regarding employee monitoring or digital employee data collection. A transparent, written policy regarding employee monitoring is now a legal requirement for all employers with more than 25 employees in Ontario. Alberta, BC, and Quebec require employers to disclose all data collection as per their respective privacy laws.
Your Engaged HR Assignment: This would be a good time to review your policies, your practices, and your intentions as it relates to employee monitoring. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. Pondering your options and not sure what to do next? Call us, we can help!
Looking to learn more about other HR topics? Check out our Art of HR series!