employee monitoring

Employee monitoring: How do companies generate mistrust?

Employee monitoring of work schedules, especially remote work, tests the trust between a company’s managers and the team members who support it daily.

Employee Monitoring for Remote Work

Whether consciously or unconsciously, companies deploy different styles of employee monitoring that impact employee well-being

Even before, but especially after the pandemic, more than one conflict has been highlighted in many companies with the control of employees in their schedules as a way of monitoring productivity and involvement, all this seasoned with the back and forth of work format.

The abrupt explosion of remote work (which is currently seeing a decline in Spain) set off alarm bells for managers everywhere, arousing the concern that employees would not work according to their established schedules now that they were working from home. This problem of mistrust continues to persist post-pandemic. It is not only a question of where employees work but also of knowing how many hours they work and how those hours are distributed.

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employee monitoring

It’s the number of hours worked that matters, not your productivity levels

Curiously, there is a lot of talk about employee monitoring but minimal talk about whether the work that needs to get done is done. Companies seem to care more about meeting the clock than meeting the famous OKRs, or the company’s objectives for a given period. 

Meanwhile, poor time management undermines the relationship between employees and companies. Mistrust, suspicion, and inefficiency take precedence over the things that really matter: getting the job done without harming the well-being of the employees.

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Styles of employee monitoring through scheduling

There are many ways to check whether employees keep to their assigned schedule. Ifeel’s team of workplace well-being psychologists has observed at least four styles of doing so.

1. Mutual mistrust

Open deception is a cat-and-mouse game: the company sees if they can catch employees slacking off, and the employees try not to get caught. This method of employee monitoring is a dysfunctional time-tracking strategy, especially at the corporate level. Additionally, it is motivated by a tremendous mutual mistrust between the managers and the employees. 

In addition, it is characterized by the utilization of useless time-recording tools (if any), an explicit manipulation of these tools, outright lying about the hours an employee worked and the place from which they worked, and inconsistent actions that combine strict monitoring of the schedule with no clear pattern.

2. Don’t ask, don’t tell

This phrase originates from the U.S. Army’s now-defunct military policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We use it here to refer to the idea that a company does not ask for or actively seek out potentially damaging information from their employees, and the employees avoid doing anything to make a company have to investigate officially. 

It is based on trust and may be so. However, it leaves the door open to a lack of control and the need to improvise. It also gives the impression that the amount of hours worked does not matter and that there is no need to take responsibility for such matters.

It is the least controversial of the four methods. Still, it is only useful when employees are entirely responsible for their tasks and schedules and demonstrate a good capacity for autonomy concerning managers. It is also useful when managers do not indirectly “pay” for a lack of control with other demands or recriminations through the back door.

That is, it’s fine as long as two conditions are met. The first is that if an employee reports back to the company that they did something, they show them that they did it. The second is that if the company tells its employees they do not care about the number of hours worked as long as the work is done on time, they’re showing them that they don’t care.

3. Clock in, clock out

Clocking in and out is the most common method of employee monitoring today, given the legal obligations that companies have taken on regarding the time registration of their employees. It seems to imply an “official” and apparently foolproof control of schedules. In reality, most of the time, clocking in and out is subject to alterations in order to comply with the mandatory schedule, either by being able to add on hours that have not been fulfilled or leaving out unrecorded overtime hours that the company “does not want to know about”.

When this strategy is misused, it only serves to cover up employees and feed supervisors a certain illusion of control over the performance of the workforce. Naturally, it fails to contribute to the well-being of the employees.

employee monitoring

4. Spying

This method consists of using computer tools to secretly monitor employees to verify whether what an employee records for their number of hours worked and the location in which they are working from is true.

This is probably the most dysfunctional style since it is based on hidden mistrust and methods of dubious legality, totally sabotaging a positive relationship between employees and the company and being incapable of solving the root problems that may exist with the management of the schedule or the format of work.

Employee monitoring is relative

The previous section above describes just a couple of examples of employee monitoring. Depending on the company, there can be multiple combinations as they are not mutually exclusive. For instance, a company may not ever ask their employees for their schedules but may still be spying on them, or an employee may falsify the official amount of hours they work, and the company may look the other way. While not all these methods are equally detrimental to the work environment, none can be called optimal. 

Moreover, the styles that have been mentioned concerning controlling employees and their schedules could easily be applied to other aspects that are not always objectifiable: performance (how much you make), attitude towards work (are you motivated, do you fit in this company?) or even personal life (what are your vacation plans, how come you can’t leave later the next day?).

At ifeel, we understand that anything a company does that employees perceive to be intrusive, unwarranted, or an outright sign of distrust (despite the glaring fact that objectives are being met) can come as a severe blow to their commitment to the company, which can decrease their motivation and engagement levels.

Employee monitoring is not exclusively bad – it just has to be done right. 

We hope you found this article about employee monitoring interesting. If you would like more information on ifeel’s emotional well-being program for companies, don’t hesitate to get in touch, and we will contact your team as soon as possible.

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