None of us likes the feeling of being watched. This is no less true in the workplace, where it is becoming increasingly common for employers to monitor their employees’ online activities, be it through keystroke logging, e-mail scanning, or video surveillance. Software such as Little Brother gives employers the opportunity to read an employee’s e-mails and monitor which websites are being visited during the day, among other things.
There is doubtless some logic behind such actions: an employer’s goal is to achieve maximum productivity from his or her employees, and monitoring can be a useful tool for keeping workers focused on their tasks. It can also be used to deter any misconduct like the theft of confidential material.
Yet there are critics who suggest that – apart from privacy issues – this type of behaviour has more drawbacks than advantages when it comes to productivity. Joshua Brustein in Businessweek points out that there are many studies which have found that workplace monitoring can increase stress in employees. He writes that employees who work for corporations that employ such tactics have “reported higher levels of job boredom, psychological tension, anxiety, depression, anger, health complaints, and fatigue.”
So what can we do about this? There’s no question that managers need to know their employees are being as efficient and productive as possible. But the use of technology aside, is creating undue stress in workers not undermining their efforts to achieve results? After all, an anxious and depressed employee may take more days off work, be less productive, and feel less loyalty toward the company.
It is necessary to establish a relationship of mutual trust and respect between employer and employee. If an employer feels he or she needs to use monitoring software, then employees should be made aware of exactly what is being monitored and why.
Have you encountered monitoring in your workplace? Do you feel it was necessary? Let us know in the comments.