Employee surveillance: Three alternative ways your business can invest in employee engagement

employee surveillance

Employee surveillance: Three alternative ways your business can invest in employee engagement

With three-quarters of businesses now offering hybrid working policies, more employers are exploring how the use of surveillance technology can be used to manage and monitor their teams from afar. In fact, at the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, the global demand for remote employee monitoring software increased by 74%. The demand for tools such as artificial intelligence, algorithms, keystroke logging and even facial recognition to track employees and their work throughout the day has continued to skyrocket ever since. 

Ensuring employees remain productive and motivated while working away from the usual office backdrop is a very real problem for employers, but this type of intrusive monitoring has faced a significant amount of backlash. While monitoring employees has been long recognised as one of the primary functions of management, there’s a high risk that keeping tabs on employees in a way that crosses privacy lines and erodes trust within a business will do considerably more harm than good. Evidence shows that employee turnover at companies that use monitoring software is almost twice as high as that at organisations that do not. On top of this, one in four employees is willing to take a 25% pay cut to avoid being surveilled.

Employee surveillance is a divided subject – but ultimately, if approached in the wrong way, it can be damaging to your workplace culture and employee engagement. We’ve explored why your business might want to think twice before implementing employee monitoring software and alternative ways you can invest in boosting engagement and productivity from afar: 

Why might employee surveillance do more harm than good?

One of the biggest issues with employee surveillance is that it demonstrates to employees that their employers don’t think they can be trusted. Trust is a major component of a positive, collaborative workplace culture. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, people at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 50% higher productivity and 76% more engagement. A lack of trust is therefore a major problem in the workplace. It can lead to a toxic working environment, it can put a strain on manager-employee relationships and it can have a hugely detrimental impact on employee wellbeing and morale.

On top of this, the extensive monitoring of employees can lead to a fear and suspicion-based working environment. Employees who know their every move is being monitored may feel so worried about the reprimands of doing something wrong that they don’t feel they can take their usual breaks, take time off when they’re unwell or clock off when their contracted hours are complete. All of these things stop them from being able to set healthy boundaries which, in turn, can lead to burnout and an embedded culture of presenteeism.

Three alternative ways your business can invest in employee engagement

Remote and flexible working can be a daunting prospect for businesses who have only ever known the office 9-5. The good news is, there are lots of alternative ways your businesses can invest in employee engagement and productivity that don’t involve direct surveilling:

Introduce or update your management training

Pre-covid, many team leaders had no idea that remote management would become such an integral part of their job and, therefore, haven’t had the training required to do this effectively. Rather than opting for a surveillance approach, your business could choose to invest in comprehensive management training such as mentorship programmes, webinars, conferences and workshops. After all, your managers’ individual leadership techniques and abilities will directly impact the happiness and engagement levels of every member of their team. A good remote manager will set expectations early on, set up effective technology, communication channels, and workflows and encourage their team members to embrace ownership. Ultimately, leadership sets the tone of the workplace culture and acceptable behaviour patterns – so it’s crucial to get it right.

Invest in collaboration tools

One of the biggest hurdles that comes with remote working is its isolated nature. Without the buzz of a busy office, it can be easy for individuals to forget the value of their work and the importance of the role they play in reaching business goals. This is what causes motivation, engagement and productivity to drop. In order for employees to really engage with their work, they need to be continuously connected to the wider business picture. Rather than investing in programmes to monitor employees, why not invest in programmes that will make remote collaboration more accessible and enjoyable? Whether that involves updating your current video conferencing service or introducing a new collaborative cloud-based platform, there are lots of tools out there to help you connect teams and boost productivity and engagement.

Reward and recognise hard work

Employees who are consistently reminded that their work is valued will be happier and more motivated day-to-day as a result. The Employee Experience Index research study shows that 83% of employees report a more positive employee experience when they receive recognition for doing good work – with lack of recognition being one of the top reasons employees leave an organization. If your business is looking for a way to boost the productivity and engagement of its remote workforce without defaulting to surveillance technology, a virtual reward and recognition programme could tick all of its boxes. An online space where both managers and employees can thank one another in a timely and frequent manner will not only help create a positive, collaborative culture but also encourage certain behaviours to be demonstrated and a certain standard of work to be upheld each day.

Using our reward and recognition solution, we give businesses the ability to celebrate success in their own way and create a culture of everyday appreciation. Many of the businesses we work with incorporate their values into their programme to reinforce and celebrate certain behaviours that align with their culture and mission. Employees are then given agency to log on to a centralised platform and send thanks to their peers whenever they like via a message, photo or video. Head to the reward and recognition page on our website to find out how our reward and recognition solution can be tailored to suit your business’s unique needs.

Final thoughts

To summarise, if your business is contemplating how employee monitoring software could benefit its overall productivity and output, think twice about how it could negatively affect your company culture and employee morale. Whether through training, the introduction of collaboration tools or a reward and recognition programme, there are lots of alternative ways that your business could spend that investment on bettering your employees’ day-to-day working lives rather than on technology used to control them.

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