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Employer Ethics: Should You Use Tech To Monitor Productivity?

– Contributed content –

Monitor eyes

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

26 May 2017. Privacy is an issue that more and more people are taking notice of in their personal lives, but it has considerations on a business level as well.

The idea of technology being used to monitor the productivity of employees is a controversial one. On some levels, it already exists. Companies use a variety of methods, including the likes of:

  • Using a swipeable time card in and out of the main office area. This can be used to monitor when employees are swiping out to go to the restroom or on breaks.
  • Record keeping that requires each member of staff to log what they are doing at any given point in the day.
  • Software that can show how active a member of the company has been and track what they have been doing. This can be advanced – such as with custom software – or it can be something as simple as checking through the “revision history” in Google Docs.

The above is just a taster of the huge amount of employee surveillance that is now available.

On the surface, it’s hard to see these innovations as anything but very good ideas. After all, when you are a boss or business owner, it’s your financial and business success that is on the line. If an employee is not pulling their weight, then you could directly suffer from it – so it’s completely normal for you to want to ensure they are doing all that they should be.

There’s no doubt that some employees may have a tendency to shirk work and do as little as possible. While you might be fully invested in your work and leave no stone unturned, it’s unlikely you will be able to completely surround yourself with people who think the same. For some, it will always be ‘just a job’; something to do during the day, and get out of as quickly as possible at night. Given the likelihood of this, monitoring seems the best way to make sure they stay on task and ensure they are doing what they are meant to be doing.

Surveillance camera


Nevertheless, there are numerous downsides to heavy, constant surveillance. For one thing, it is going to increase employee stress hugely. It also goes against the idea that trust should go both ways.

There is also the financial cost to consider in all this. While you can always consult sites such as for the relevant equipment, it’s essentially paying money to ensure something you’re already paying for: an employee to do their job. Isn’t that what you pay them a wage for? It can feel a little like a sunk cost in that regard, which is never a positive way of running a business.

Perhaps the best solution is found somewhere in the middle? Rather than constant, permanent, and daily surveillance – run random spot checks without staff being aware of it? This can help you identify patterns of idleness, without creating an Orwellian atmosphere in your company. It also lessens the likelihood of, through experience, employees figuring out a way to manipulate the system to their own advantage. This kind of checking also helps you stay on the right side of the law, as explained by

What do you feel about employee privacy and how it contrasts with monitoring?

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