What is the value of “Tattle Technology” in the modern workplace?

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Employee monitoring technology was a bit controversial before the pandemic. Who likes to think their boss is watching their every digital move? But these tools have become more popular, making it possible to track physical location, phone transcripts, meeting activity and biometric data, paving the way for a new techno-dystopia that is losing millions of businesses to attempts. unsuccessful checks.

Most bosses and business leaders believe that more employee reviews and follow-ups increase worker productivity. It turns out that this is not the case. A Gallup poll found that just 14% of employees said their reviews made them feel better. Traditional performance reviews and other forms of feedback cause performance to decline about a third of the time, according to a study published in the Psychological Bulletin. Worse yet, setting up and performing traditional employee reviews requires hundreds of hours for organizations’ most valuable employees, costing millions. Automating employee monitoring and assessments could reduce much of the administrative cost, but it is not clear whether the technology is able to overcome the other negative impacts. The terminology around the practice is even fiercely contested. For privacy advocates, remote surveillance is a euphemism for corporate surveillance, itself a euphemism for “tattle tech”.

A YouGov study found that 20% of companies are now using technology trackers to monitor employee online activity. One in seven British workers reported increased surveillance and surveillance at their workplace, according to a report by the Trade Union Congress. A separate report from Top10VPN shows that the use of employee monitoring software has jumped 50% this year, with workplace strategies adjusting to the rise of remote working. The survey by global consulting firm Accenture found that 62% of organizers were using new tools to collect data on employee performance.

A Gartner survey found that “half of large companies use monitoring techniques on their employees,” up from 30% in 2015. or calendar usage data. Gartner expected 80% of companies to monitor their employees by the end of 2020.

Employee surveillance is nothing new, offices are designed with a lot of glass for construction lines, time cards have been used for centuries, cameras for decades. The latest form of remote monitoring technology goes one step further. Employers can track keyboard data and mouse movements to know when you are typing and how fast they can access your webcam to know when you are looking at the screen. The technology can tap into your computer’s microphone and speakers to record ambient noise. Smartphone apps can track an employee’s physical location. Businesses have been tracking internet history and email for years. Amazon has made headlines for its intense employee monitoring practices that cause some workers to piss in bottles to keep their metrics up to date. The line between control and surveillance is rapidly blurring, reducing employee privacy, trust and productivity.

“In general, you have very, very, very light protections, if any, for employee privacy,” said Emory Roane, privacy advisor at the nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. , at the Seattle Times.

The lack of privacy and employee rights around surveillance means companies can track anything they want, as long as it’s detailed in an employment contract and on a corporate device. Workers can refuse work, but if they do, that’s pretty much the end of privacy protections, unless you live in one of the few states that has laws prohibiting some form of worker surveillance. employees. Employers may find these tools useful, but they come at a high cost.

For years, companies have strived to build better employee-employer relationships to combat burnout and retention. Monitoring employees is contrary to these objectives. Accenture found that 52% of employees believe that poor data management erodes trust, a major problem when only 30% of executives believe data is used responsibly. Remote monitoring increases employee stress levels at a time when mental health suffers from a global crisis and many workers feel they have the capacity to respond in a labor market that favors first-time workers For years. The kind of surveillance technology that crushes workers’ rights views my employers as unreasonable and intrusive, according to a University of British Columbia study.

Even before the rise of remote working ushered in the wave of employee monitoring technology, businesses faced backlash because of aggressive monitoring. Each new technical development reignites the debate on confidentiality issues. In 2019, Google employees made headlines when they went public with their reaction to spy tools. Microsoft faced a similar backlash when it added a “productivity score” for employees using its Microsoft 365 platform. PwC was in hot water when it was revealed that they were developing technology for facial recognition to monitor employees. Fujitsu has developed a tool capable of measuring facial muscle movements to track concentration during meetings.

Ultimately, the conversation comes down to trust, which quickly eroded during the pandemic. Employers can’t help but think that remote workers don’t work at all. Colleagues are convinced that they are the ones who do all the work. A lack of face-to-face interactions has many reasons for filling in strangers with negative assumptions about coworker behavior. There are many valid reasons for missing a meeting when working from home, but too often bosses think the worst. Remote monitoring technology can help fill knowledge gaps about employee activity, but creates other problems.

“There is a reason we have offices. It’s not by accident, ”Brad Miller, CEO of Awareness Technologies, which sells software capable of recording employee screens, told Fast Company. “There’s a reason we have managers and supervisors – so they can manage and supervise the people who usually sit in front of them in the office. “

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“Supervision is interpreted by employees as not being trustworthy to do their jobs, which affects their sense of control over their work and their confidence in their manager and the organization as a whole,” Anita Keller, professor Behavioral and Social Sciences Assistant at the University. from Groningen in the Netherlands, which is leading an ongoing study into the impact of Covid-19 on work, well-being and performance, told the BBC. “When leaders start to supervise, employees are less motivated and feel less responsible for their work. ”

Remote monitoring platforms tout themselves as productivity enhancers, but there is little independently reviewed evidence to suggest this is the case. Technology can monitor productivity, but it does not increase it. More than anything, remote monitoring is a form of micromanagement. Just because an employee works doesn’t mean he’s necessarily productive. The problem is, remote monitoring relies on extrinsic motivation to increase productivity, which behavioral psychologists have found to be far less effective than intrinsic motivation. Relying on an extrinsic motivation for productivity, a high-speed highway leads directly to employee burnout and turnover, erasing any gains that “productivity” software has temporarily made. It’s no coincidence that Amazon, a company with the most aggressive employee monitoring programs in the business world, has a staggering 150% annual turnover rate. To put this in perspective, Amazon is losing about 3% of its hourly workforce every week.

Remote monitoring software and employee monitoring are only capable of measuring entry. Hours, keystrokes, focus, calls, clicks. They are only inputs into the process. Employers using employee monitoring monitor the sausage making rather than inspecting the quality of the sausage. Bad managers focus on feedback. Good managers watch production, what workers actually produce. When focusing on contribution, things start to take longer because employees know they will be judged on the level of contribution. Focusing on production speeds things up when employees know they are being judged on what they produce, not how long it takes to produce.

Remote monitoring software contrasts sharply with basic common sense. People do their best when they feel appreciated. When you are suspicious of employees, they start to feel mistreated. Just like you can’t hack productivity with desktop design, you can’t hack productivity with monitoring software. Business owners may have the illusion that increasing productivity is as easy as installing software, but it’s a fantasy. Increasing productivity is the same basic blend of tough ingredients it always has been; communication, trust, appreciation and compensation.

Business owners and office managers are always on the hunt for the latest productivity hack, the latest iteration may be the most invasive yet. Performance reviews are not a substitute for a good office environment. Remote monitoring is a management outsourcing, which decreases its overall quality. Good management, optimized by face-to-face communication, remains the most effective strategy. What good managers understand is that employee productivity fluctuates and that’s okay. It is absurd to expect the best from your employees every day. Building trust and appreciation, instead of using remote monitoring to eliminate it, produces the kind of extrinsic motivation that can actually make a difference in employee productivity.


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