Increased monitoring of employees is reported

One in five employers are already using, or plan to introduce, software to monitor employees who are working from home, according to a recent report, despite evidence that employees are now more engaged and loyal compared to the start of the pandemic.

The survey of 2,000 employers found 12% of firms were already monitoring their staff remotely, while 8% had plans to implement monitoring. Another 6% were considering whether to implement monitoring in the future.

Surveillance was also more prevalent among larger companies, 12% of which were already monitoring their workforce, while 11% have plans to introduce monitoring. The findings led to warnings from experts about the legalities of employee monitoring. Transparency in particular is crucial when implementing or making changes to employee monitoring. Employers must tell employees about any new or increased monitoring and employees need to understand how monitoring is being carried out and the reason for it.

Increased monitoring could require employers to make adjustments to a number of their policies, including around email, internet and social media usage, as well as data protection and disciplinary and grievance policies, if the end result of monitoring is potentially facing disciplinary action.

This appetite for employee monitoring exists despite the survey revealing better engagement levels since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. Almost half of respondents said their employees’ loyalty had increased since the start of the pandemic, with staff less likely to leave.

What is important is reaching agreement on what level of output is expected and providing employees with the autonomy to achieve that in the way that’s best for them. This will reduce the need for monitoring.

Employers should recognise that enforced remote work will naturally impact productivity. If they have evidence that an employee’s performance has dropped below what’s expected, they should speak to that employee directly to gain a better understanding of what is hindering them, and what they can do to support them. Monitoring must be “proportionate to the legitimate business interests at hand”.

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