WORKPLACE / JUN. 01, 2016
version 5, draft 5

How Workplace Monitoring Can Hinder Productivity

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Employee monitoring is designed to help businesses check up on their employees’ work and track performance. The idea is that a company can take effective whenever an employee is not doing his job properly or uses time and company resources incorrectly. While this sounds perfectly logical for a company that wants to succeed, there is much evidence that shows there are disadvantages to this approach.

Companies use employee monitoring in an effort to increase productivity but don’t realise that it is actually counterproductive. It hinders productivity. As assistant professor, Ethan Bernstein from the Harvard Business School writes in the Harvard Business Review, “wide-open workspaces and copious real-time data on how individuals spend their time can leave employees feeling exposed and vulnerable.”

See Also: How Employee Monitoring Software Can be Used to Monitor Remote Employees  

Talking about ‘transparency’ in business – working in open workspaces and having access to real-time data, Bernstein refers to the “the transparency trap” and argues that there should be a sense of privacy within work environments. According to Bernstein when workers are observed they tend to change their behaviour. This happens because employees want to feel more trusted and secure in their work.

But, when they know they are under surveillance, they go to great lengths to prove that they are doing their job right when they really don’t have to. This shows that monitoring affects how well employees do their job and how much they enjoy doing it.

Many studies showed that there are more tangible elements that show the differences in the performance of employees while being monitored. The first is a change in the behaviour of employees when they feel they are being watched – in an attempt to do their best they go out of their way to please their boss but aren’t as productive. Employees are more likely to work faster when they aren’t being watched which means that is when they are most productive.

Employees perform better when they can try out new ideas and approaches within certain zones of privacy. Some organisations allow employees to use four types of boundaries that can help improve their effectiveness. These include:

  1. ‘zones of attention’ – when they are around teams of people
  2. ‘zones of judgment’ – between feedback and evaluation
  3. ‘zones of slack’ – between decision and improvement rights
  4. ‘zones of time’ – for set periods of experimentation.

During each phase employees are allowed to do different things at their own pace – without feeling pressured, and being excused for it. This helps achieve a proper balance between transparency and privacy which is essential to any company that want to boost productivity and spark innovation and creativity.

See Also: Tesco Staff Productivity Monitored With Digital Tracking Device

Companies are tracking employees’ activities in all kinds of ways to preserve productivity, but too much transparency only produces the opposite effect. Providing employees with a combination of privacy and transparency is necessary for development.   

What’s your view on employee monitoring? Let me know in the comments section below…

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