The topic of employee monitoring is a tricky one. It’s understandable for employers to want to ensure no one is wasting company time and money, but employees can end up feeling anxious, undervalued and untrusted.
Susan M. Heathfield at About.com says “employee internet monitoring is an overbroad reaction to the activities of a small percentage of employees. It contributes to an environment in which employees feel untrusted. It encourages sneaky behavior. It causes employees to waste energy worrying about whether what they are doing is okay or not, and it encourages a 9 to 5 mentality.”
On the other side of the coin, Birch Grove Software recently announced that its employee monitoring cloud service, ActivTrak, has come out of beta testing and has officially launched. “It is already used by more than 15000 business owners and managers, who have stored over 90 million screenshots in the cloud, and every hour 35 thousand new screenshots are added.”
Their press release states “almost 90% of employees use the Internet at work for personal purposes – mostly for social networking, online games and online shopping.” I was unable to independently verify this statistic or find a source for it.
ActivTrak says their product will increase productivity. But is this true?
Here are some things to consider before implementing employee monitoring software:
Psychology Today points out that trust is a two-way street. If you want your employees to trust you, you should trust them. “As an employee, if you believe you’re trusted or you believe you aren’t, does it matter? The answer is yes. Trust, or the perceived sense of trust or not trust, impacts behavior.”
Two British Columbia professors, Sabrina Salamon and Sandra Robinson, discovered, “When employees in an organization perceive they are trusted by management, increases in the presence of responsibility norms, as well as in the sales performance and customer service performance of the organization, are observed.”
Their study involving 88 retail stores found: “In stores where employees felt trusted, they were more likely to rise to managers’ expectations and perform better in terms of sales and customer service.”
And if, indeed, your employees are “cyberloafing,” is that cutting into your bottom line? According to some studies, frivolous breaks actually increase productivity:
A 2009 study by a Ph.D. student at Massey University found that employees who felt they could surf the Web here and there without getting yelled at were happier. Not only did it alleviate boredom, it also showed them that their boss would be more open to flex time, working from home or other options.Another study, conducted in 2011 by researchers at the National University of Singapore, backs this up. That study found that mindlessly surfing the Web refreshed workers and made them more productive, even more than chatting with friends or co-workers did. The Web surfing provided what the researchers characterized as “an instant recovery” and gave them the energy to get back to work. “When you’re stressed at work and feel frustrated, go cyberloaf,” said researcher Don J.Q. Chen. “Go on the ‘Net. After your break, you come back to work refreshed.”Most recently, a new study out of Hiroshima University in Japan, published this September in the journal PLoS One, found that looking at cute pictures of baby animals actually served to increase concentration. The researchers write that in the future “cute objects may be used as an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work.”