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The case against monitoring employees using software

Considering monitoring employees at work? We’re here to show you the case against implementing it in your team.
Published 8 Apr 2022
Updated 16 Nov 2023
6min read
employee monitoring software

Cast your mind back to April 2020.

It’s a Tuesday, and you’re going about your day in the office just like any other workday. You head out for a coffee with your co-worker and then sit down at your desk. It’s business as usual.

The next day, the office is shut down, and you find yourself requesting your entire team to start working from home for the foreseeable future.

Anxiety is high, and knowledge of running an entire workforce remotely is low. How could this possibly work…?

It’s a challenge, but your workplace does it, and now many of your team continue with this method of working.

gif of a woman saying 'whats going on?'

When you had to switch your entire workforce to remote working overnight.

Switching an entire workforce to remote work in the middle of a pandemic was no easy feat. It was a stressful process for businesses all around the world, and many had to scramble within hours to adapt to the pressures of the pandemic.

The reality is that when anyone is forced to make a huge change in a short period of time, it presents a whole new range of problems and anxieties. One of them is monitoring your team online.

Which would you prefer?

Remote work is here to stay, but some employers are still sceptical. Here are some example scenarios for you to consider.

1. The transparent and trusting manager

Jacinta values the trust of her team above everything. She wants to empower them to do their best work and is aware that the most creative ideas don’t come to fruition when you’re chained to a desk.

Jacinta focuses on output over hours and expects that her team will get all of the work done. She acknowledges that everyone has their own life to live and that work can fit around your personal life.

She’s a big advocate for remote work and allows her team to work in ways that are best for them. Her team happiness scores are consistently high. Her team are company advocates, and the company has a strong employer brand.

She’s an inspiring leader who has created workplace values that embody trust and hard work. She’s made an effort to embody it in her workplace culture and always finds ways to champion it in her day-to-day.

image of a man dancing - when you realise theres no employee monitoring software

When you realise you can work without constantly being watched.

2. The controlling micromanager

In the office, Steven could see his team. He could see if Jessica had been in the break room for 2 hours and still hadn’t turned her computer on. He had visibility over what people were working on, what they were looking at and who they were talking to.

Steven was your textbook micromanager and only gave praise based on the amount of time his employees spent at their desks.

When remote working came into the equation, everything was turned upside down. He lost control of the visibility he had of his employees and the anxiety set in. What if my employees aren’t actually working? What if they’re watching Netflix all day? Am I paying my team and no work is getting done?

Steven hates remote work and wants everyone back in the office full-time even though his team doesn’t want to. Now, he’s searching for a way to make sure he can get back that visibility he once had in the office.

He turns to employee monitoring tools so he can watch his team like a hawk.

gif of a sad employee who realised theres employee monitoring software

When your company introduces starts monitoring employees 

We know which manager we’d prefer…

Considering employee monitoring technology? We’re here to show you the case against implementing it in your team.

What is employee monitoring software?

Put simply, it’s a monitoring tool that records and tracks employees when they are working online. Employee monitoring software has increased in popularity since the pandemic hit. There is a range of tools on the market today which report on employees’ time spent on the computer and task-based tracking.

Some pieces of employee monitoring technology are much more intrusive. They can go as far as logging keystrokes, taking screenshots of your open windows, detecting mouse movement, monitoring website usage and even remotely controlling devices.

It’s a surveillance tool that allows employers to monitor employees with an eagle eye on their team as they work.

The issues with monitoring employees

And while some workplace surveillance tools might be necessary for security purposes (security cameras in office locations, GPS tracking devices on work laptops, etc), you might want to think twice about introducing a tracking software that monitors employees every move online. Why?

1. It erodes trust and creates stress

In a professional and remote working environment, trust is everything. Give your team the power to choose where and when they work best, and they’ll produce great results.

Monitor their every move through their computer, and you’ll create an anxious, burnt-out workforce that likely won’t remain loyal to your business.

In our recent 2022 Wellness at Work Report, we found that most of us are feeling the full force of the last two years and it’s presenting us with increased rates of poor work-life balance and burnout.

Our major finding in the report was that the majority (53%) of workers in Australia agree with feeling burnt out from their work in the last three months.

Unfortunately, it goes hand-in-hand with work-life balance. 52% of Australian workers rated their work-life balance as poor or average, which has the ability to seep into every aspect of our lives and impact our mental health.

At the end of the day, employee monitoring tools erode trust and create stress amongst your team – and we all know that a lack of trust in a professional environment is never a good combination.

It’s important to be aware that adding another worry to the vicious work-life balance/burnout cycle might do more harm than good!

Read more: How can you retain remote employees better?

2. It impacts employee morale

No one likes to feel like they’re constantly being watched or monitored. It can impact how employees feel about their employer, especially if questions are asked about their browsing history or time spent away from their computer.

It can make employees feel as though the work they’re doing isn’t valued, but rather the only indicator of success is time spent at their desk.

Unless there is a legitimate business reason, the thought of an employer spying on an employee can cause increased anxiety and stress.

It can erode morale – especially if the employer uses the employee activity report as a single source of value rather than their contribution or input.

Read more: How can managers support remote employees?

gif of a man saying 'i don't like this' when he realises theres employee monitoring software

3. Questions around privacy and ethics with employee data

Is workplace surveillance legal and ethical? There are different sets of rules and regulations surrounding security and monitoring in different states and countries, meaning the answer is not straightforward.

However, if an employee is viewing sensitive information, the employer may have access to recordings or screenshots of this confidential data. This could present a range of security risks, whereby security breaches could occur – landing you in hot water.

Read more: A ready-made remote working policy template

4. Work processes will change, and employee monitoring will be front of mind

We all work in different ways. Some prefer to write everything down on paper and brainstorm. Some prefer to think about solutions to problems on a walk.

When employers start to monitor employees and use time spent on the computer as a measure of success, the ability to expand your creative horizons and think outside the box reduces greatly.

Read more: How to keep remote employee engagement high

Focus on output over hours

With so many businesses continuing to work from home, the focus needs to shift to output rather than the number of hours and location of work. The goal is to create a results-driven team where trust is instilled in the culture.

Strict employee monitoring has been proven to impact employee productivity levels and lower workplace morale. The last thing any employee wants is to feel as though they’re continually being watched.

In truth, your employees may well be snacking away at their seats or scrolling through various social media channels. Still, the real value of remote and flexible work is the ability to empower employees to manage their time and productivity better.

Employees need to be in charge of their own work and learn how to apply themselves.

Are you looking to hire globally? Employment Hero’s global PEO service helps recruiting international employees a breeze. Book a demo with us today to find out how.

Download now.

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