Surveillance measures threaten employee trust

Rise in remote working requires new ways of monitoring performance and output but not simply through counting keystrokes and time at the desk.

VMware has shared results of a global study that revealed the rise in employee performance and trust established in new hybrid working models could be under threat from an increase in the implementation of remote monitoring measures.

The study, “The Virtual Floorplan: New Rules for a New Era of Work,” conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of VMware, found that 57 percent of UK companies have either already implemented or are planning to implement employee surveillance measures to monitor employee productivity since the shift to hybrid working. Among these organisations, the measures being taken include the monitoring of emails (47%), web browsing (45%) and collaboration tools (42%), as well as video surveillance (22%), attention tracking via webcams (20%) and keylogger software (28%). However, 49 percent of companies that have already implemented device monitoring, and 51 percent of companies who are currently in the process of doing so, are in fact seeing “drastically increased” or “increased” employee turnover.

The research findings suggest there is a delicate balance to be struck as businesses look for new ways to assess employee performance beyond presentism. From the employee perspective, almost three quarters (72%) agree that moving to a distributed working environment has meant that their performance – and not traditional metrics such as time spent in the office – is being valued more by their employers. And, 80 percent of employees agree that remote work technologies have enabled them to work more efficiently than before. 69% of organisations have had to develop new ways to measure employee productivity. Among these organisations, the new approach to monitoring productivity has been achieved through the use of performance-focused solutions including regular catch-ups with managers to discuss workloads (67%), assessing output and agreed deliverables (47%) and using new project management software (39%).

However, now that direct reports are not necessarily sitting a few cubicles away, employers are evolving new ways to monitor and quantify employee productivity. While over half (55%) of employees recognise their organisation has had to develop new ways to monitor productivity as part of the move to hybrid working, transparency remains critical. A third of employees (35%) don’t know whether their organisation has implemented device monitoring systems on their devices to monitor their productivity.

“Globally we are seeing organisations shift permanently to hybrid work models that don’t require knowledge workers to be office-based all the time. With this shift, employers should proceed with caution when replacing presentism with monitoring tools. Monitoring and performance are two very different things,” says Shankar Iyer, senior vice president and general manager, End-User Computing, VMware. “Digital workspace tools enable people to work from anywhere and our research shows employees are feeling more valued and trusted. A lack of transparency and measurement by ‘stealth and numbers’, can quickly erode employee faith and lead to talent heading for the door, in a highly competitive and challenging skills market.”

“Anywhere working should empower employees to be productive wherever they choose to work, not make them feel watched over 9-5,” says Spencer Pitts, Chief Technologist, Digital Workspace at VMware. “In the UK and Ireland, workplace strategies have shifted and employees have embraced hybrid working. The evolution of digital workplace tools that have enabled this and now needs to be matched with an evolution in the way hybrid team’s performance is measured, such as contribution to the business. Monitoring and performance are two different things. Trust is hard to win and easily lost among employees, so whatever performance metrics are used, there needs to be transparency with employees.”

Employee surveillance is one of many topics touched on in The Virtual Floorplan study. Key findings include:

• New ‘workplace tribes’ have emerged via digital tools used by employees. The stabilization of hybrid work has resulted in a new kind of office floorplan — a “virtual floorplan,” which is based more on affinity, shared goals, and shared values than physical proximity. The virtual floorplan comes with new rules, as well as new success factors for employees, leaders, and teams. View the infographic.

• We’ve entered a new era of transparency and trust. With less central control and in-person interaction, transparency and trust are emerging as vital qualities that leaders must embrace to advance and unify their organizations in a hybrid-by-default world. View the infographic.

• Security is a team sport. The virtual floorplan introduces countless freedoms for employees — and just as many security risks for IT. With less direct control over apps, devices, and networks, IT is navigating a new paradigm where security is a team sport. View the infographic.

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