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Is Remote Work Surveillance a Good Idea?

The pandemic locked us out of our offices and made us switch to remote work. Some of us liked the change, while others struggled to make peace with the ‘new normal.’ The new work environment put extra weight on employers’ shoulders, and many of them started using remote work surveillance systems to keep a closer look at their employees’ performance and time management.

Fast forward to 2024, and the landscape remains largely the same, employers and employees are entering a new year with work from home processes still in place. We wonder if attitudes have changed over time? Have we grown to be more accepting of work surveillance as part of this new work environment?

According to a recent study by ExpressVPN, the remote surveillance discussions remain far from over.

Pros Of Remote Work Surveillance

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1. Increased productivity and employee accountability

Employees being aware of their work surveillance policy can lead to better performances. Whether it’s sustainable or ethical is another discussion.  . Consequently, surveillance can positively affect staff productivity since some people find it motivating and like more structure in their workday. In the view of some employers, monitoring is a necessary move to ensure that work is running properly. It’s essential to any business that productivity expectations are met, whether you are in person or remote.

2. Improved workflow and better insight into projects

Sometimes it can be challenging to track everyone’s tasks and their workflows. However, many of these surveillance systems gather data that can later be used to analyze processes and project timelines. Employers can then oversee potential weak spots and adjust strategies for future campaigns. This type of data can help influence future project planning in that the approach can be tailored to improve any employee feedback.

3. Burnout awareness

Deloitte’s study showed that 77% of employees had experienced work-related burnout, and almost 70% of them think their employer isn’t doing enough to prevent those scenarios from happening again. Ensuring a healthy life-work balance can be challenging, and a surveillance system can be used to identify burnout before it occurs. This can be done through monitoring screen time to start conversations with employees over their well-being.

4. Security reasons

Staff monitoring can help strengthen the company’s cybersecurity plan since it makes it easier to spot risks and threats employees are faced with. This way, the IT team can keep track of system updates and solve any issues that arise more efficiently. Also, employees don’t have to worry about cybersecurity as much, and if they’re faced with a problem, it will take much less to resolve it. This can decrease the stress and anxiety level among staff since IT-related issues are some of the most common sources of frustration in the workplace.

Cons Of Remote Work Surveillance

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1. The feeling of distrust and increased stress among employees

According to the study, 56% of employees find online activity surveillance as an additional source of stress and anxiety. 41% constantly wonder if they are being watched, and 36% feel pressured to work extra hours and 32% feel the pressure of taking less breaks.

Earlier, we had mentioned the potential positive of increased productivity due to remote surveillance, however it is important to note that this may be unsustainable. Being aware that you’re constantly being monitored can cause negative effects to your relationships, work-life balance and mental health. If you combine these factors together, it doesn’t sound like an ideal work environment, and this was demonstrated by the fact that 47% of employees are willing to reduce their pay if it meant not being subjected to surveillance.

2. Reduced retention

Studies have shown that replacing an employee costs a company 6 to 9 months of her’s or his salary. In addition to that, implementing remote work monitoring tools can increase employee turnover by 51%. According to these statistics, monitoring tools can cause more harm than good. Employees often see surveillance tools as a threat – they feel their employer wants to recude them to robots and force them to use identical work ethic and aproaches as their coworkers. It can make them feel undervalued and cause a toxic environment within the company which eventually leads to resignations.

3. Lack of individuality

People often feel that their creativity has declined when they’re under constant surveillance. They may feel pressured to adopt work processes and methods their coworkers use which can hinder their individuality and originality. Additionally, work surveillance can intensify the fear of being questioned and eventually losing the job if anything doesn’t go according to plan.. Companies in creative industries should think twice before deciding on monitoring tools since a uniform approach doesn’t sit well with artists and individuals who need their own work pace and methods to give their best.

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4. An additional expense

Monitoring staff takes extra time and money. Companies that plan to use monitoring tools have to be aware that surveillance software isn’t the cheapest. Also, analyzing recording data requires additional staff, which can be time-consuming. Therefore, before jumping on the remote surveillance train, every company should consult with a financial expert to assess the cost-effectiveness of the investment.

5. Potential legal and ethical issues

Shockingly, 37% of employers admitted using stored surveillance data for firing staff. Even though surveillance recordings can be used as evidence, it’s crucial to ensure they’re being used only for legal purposes. Every country has its own laws and regulations for workforce monitoring. Those who decide to use remote work surveillance systems must be extremely careful to abide by those rules. If not, it could quickly turn into a legal saga without ending in sight.

Implementing surveillance tools into work processes can significantly change the office atmosphere and negatively affect relationships. Those who decide to use them have to ensure absolute transparency and effectively disclose their plans to their staff to prevent any issues in the future. The future is anything but certain, and it’s crucial for a business to remain flexible to change. Expectations and new research will surely arrive in the future, therefore any decision to incorporate more or less remote work surveillance must strike the right balance between business productivity and employee happiness.

About Bayan Bosinovski

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