How to Make Monitoring Less Stressful for Employees
On May 30, 2023, the Guardian published an article citing how employees feel stressed at work due to the presence of employee monitoring solutions that regularly scrutinise their workflows. "Tracking doesn't allow for thinking time or stepping away and coming back to work – it's very intense," said one of the sources quoted in the piece. The article then went on to mention some employee monitoring tools (including CleverControl) and correlated them with the growing presence of stress among employees.
Of course, to outright disregard the effects of employee monitoring on employees would be disingenuous, and it is for this reason we decided to peer into the depths of the employee monitoring industry to further understand the influences and pressures built into monitoring functions across enterprises. Because as a pioneering vendor of employee monitoring solutions, we know first-hand that constant surveillance on granular workflows is not exactly the best way to build a healthy workplace.
For sure, employee monitoring tools are a vital cog in the workplace right now. Almost everyone we know relies on some form of employee monitoring solution, and, as we have pointed out in our earlier articles, such reliance has also led to an increase in employee productivity. Read through our article on how CleverControl supported businesses in amplifying employee productivity by more than 5% while they were experimenting with a 4-day work week.
For the purpose of this article, however, we want to stress the psychological effect of constant surveillance and how enterprises can actually go about leveraging surveillance solutions to create a more productive and healthy work environment.
What Makes Monitoring a Stressful Manoeuvre?
To mention a few, the following are perhaps the most common psychological factors associated with monitoring systems that are known to cause stress:
Feeling of being watched all the time — being unable to let off steam
Competition between employees based on monitoring results rather than performance
Fear of unnecessary intrusion — i.e., employers entering personal space
Different productivity hours and productivity levels
Feeling of distrust and disrespect, which leads to a lack of ownership and commitment to work
Unnecessary pressure associated with rushing the work, which introduces fear of making a mistake or missing deadlines, especially when being constantly monitored
The above problems are known to make employees feel stressed and dissatisfied with the working environment, and understandably so. After all, who would want to be under the constant watch of their colleagues and superiors, all while feeling undeserving of such scrutiny?
But are these problems really transpiring from the use of monitoring tools? Or is it something running deeper — something that can be addressed by implementing a healthy approach to monitoring?
The answer to this question points to "who" is using the tool and "how" they are going about that. In fact, all of the above-mentioned factors indicate that employees do not necessarily fear the use of the monitoring tool, but they fear the extent of its usage and possibility of monitoring data being used against them without adequate consideration. That's definitely something for enterprises to be concerned about.
What Can Organisations Do to Make Monitoring Less Stressful for Employees?
Cuing back to the Guardian article, a source says, "If I'm on a Zoom call that counts as 0% [activity], even though I'm in a meeting." This perfectly sums up the problem. Monitoring tools may be used effectively to gauge the working bandwidth of employees or to find new ways to boost employee productivity. However, using them in a way that discounts productivity and is detrimental to employee well-being is not something that bodes well for the organisation.
To that end, here are a few immediate measures that enterprises can take to address the problem:
Set Attainable Productivity Targets
Humans cannot be productive all of the time; they must get time to reflect, relax, and occupy themselves. Otherwise, they risk burnout. While setting productivity objectives, consider taking breaks and thinking about the job activity. Furthermore, when analysing monitoring data, take into account the specific traits of the workforce. Some people prefer to map their thoughts on paper rather than on a computer; the programme may regard this time as idle.
Establish a Clear Context
Employers must be transparent about why monitoring is being done and how it will help the company and its workers. It is important to set clear rules and regulations that specify what is being watched, how the information will be utilised, and what is expected of employees in terms of privacy.
Building confidence is crucial. Employers must keep in mind that monitoring is not about micromanaging or questioning the competence of workers but rather about improving productivity, enhancing security, and upholding compliance. Demonstrating trust in employees' capabilities and work ethics can alleviate stress.
Set Clear Monitoring Policies and Goals
Develop well-defined and easily accessible monitoring policies that outline the purpose, scope, and limitations of monitoring activities. Employees should have a clear understanding of what will be monitored and how it aligns with organisational goals.
Each employee should also know their productivity goal and tolerances (permissible deviations to those). They must be informed that the data about their productivity is not publicly accessible and is only used in the context of performance management.
The overarching idea should be to inform employees should about the kind of monitoring system that's in place and why. In fact, to reduce nervousness, start monitoring your employees gradually.
Make Privacy and Accountability Coexist
Strive to strike a balance between protecting employee privacy and making sure they are held accountable. Minimally intrusive monitoring strategies should be used, with a focus on work-related activities. Excessive monitoring that goes beyond what is required for genuine business reasons should be avoided – something that CleverControl seamlessly facilitates.
For example, webcam surveillance and audio recording functions are optional and not turned on by default. For security reasons, they could be necessary for some firms or job functions such as online teaching platforms, but if the employer doesn't need them or thinks they're intrusive, they might just leave them off.
Enforce Regular Feedback and Recognition
Establish a culture of constructive feedback and recognition. Use the monitoring data to help employees improve, not to punish and spy on them. And regularly communicate with employees about their performance, progress, and achievements. Recognition for their efforts can help alleviate stress related to monitoring and create a positive work environment.
Safeguard Data and Privacy
Take steps to safeguard the privacy and data of your employees. Ensure that the obtained data is securely kept (across both on-premise and cloud systems), accessible only by authorised individuals, and used only for its intended purpose by putting in place strong security measures. Clearly communicate the data protection measures in place to reassure employees.
Have a Grievance Redressal Body
Ensure that the employees always have a listener for their troubles concerning monitoring systems. To that end, put human aid in place to tackle issues that are introduced and overlooked by monitoring systems. Employees' comfort and well-being are as important as their productivity and, as such, must be given priority. Employers must not only assume that their staff members are aware of the monitoring system and consent to its use.
Having clear insights into the productivity details can be tempting enough to quickly consider them during appraisals. However, it is recommended that enterprises gradually introduce monitoring tools, always keeping in mind what employees are accustomed to regarding their work, and what it means for them. The idea should be to create a positive shift in mindset that makes employees feel more comfortable.
Employees' personal space and off-duty hours must be respected. So, avoid invasive surveillance practices that intrude on workers' private life outside of work. This is especially critical because it can lead to psychological stress — something that might lead to increased employee churn and pave the way for issues like quiet quitting.
So, What's Next?
Monitoring employees is a recurring practice, so it's crucial to have a clearly defined purpose for it and to keep stressing employee well-being. If the monitoring is done thoughtfully and with due attention to the pain points that employees are sensitive about, it will lead to positive outcomes.
Thinking about setting up a monitoring function? We can help you discover ways to make it more useful in the context of your unique business while respecting employees' privacy. Contact us today!