Employee monitoring: do you keep a close eye on employees... or not?

HR/learning in organisations

Employee monitoring. Of course, the technical possibilities for keeping an eye on your employees are almost endless. Is this allowed just like that? And above all: do you have to want that?

Less than two years ago, working from home was unnegotiable in many organisations. The biggest objection was that you would no longer be able to control your employees remotely. Before you knew it, everyone was going to be lounging around. The production would collapse like a plum pudding and the company would evaporate. Then corona came and everything changed. Working from home was no longer a choice, but a necessity.

It was amazing how most companies held their own.

A lot of work from home also turned out to be fine (and sometimes even better!) to be able to be done. Of course, it sometimes took some creativity to find a good place to work, especially when schools or childcare kept their doors hermetically closed. But there were also business benefits to working from home: missed traffic jams were converted into productivity. And of course, it was awkward without chatting with colleagues, but it did increase concentration.

Do you keep an eye on them?

Employees have shown that they are perfectly capable of taking responsibility from home. You would think that would be the end of the old-fashioned mistrust of employers. However, that is not so obvious.

Research by CNV shows that as many as one out of eight employees in the Netherlands was and is being monitored remotely by business software.

Employee monitoring is therefore not reserved for distant, narrow countries where big brother keeps an eye on you all the time.

Even in our little country, many employers seem to be suspicious about whether their staff is working properly at home. The worrying thing is: the employee is often not even aware of this.

Of course, this raises some questions for us (and certainly for you, dear reader).

1. Is this allowed just like that?

Yes, it's allowed. It is not prohibited to keep an eye on your employees. But fortunately, within Europe, big brother's curiosity, even if he is our employer, is subject to conditions.

First of all, there must be a legitimate reason, which is more important than the interests and rights of the employee.

Especially with the increasingly stringent rules regarding privacy, you have to come from a good home to justify extensive control from employees.

Moreover, staff productivity should not be sneaked into. Everyone should be informed that the boss could be watched remotely. This should only be waived if there is serious suspicion of abuse, such as theft of company data.

But even then, the employer must be able to properly argue why an extensive check on the doings of an employee is being carried out.

2. Has trust in the employee not grown correctly in recent months?

You might think so, but the recent turnover figures of companies that employee monitoring software sales say otherwise. Software that allows an employer to track employees is increasingly being enthusiastically (but secretly) thrown into many online shopping carts.

Keeping track of working time, saving internet history, checking for inactivity or a productivity analysis: not only is it all possible, but it is also becoming increasingly easy to retrieve this type of data.

With one push of a button, you can just get it on your screen as a manager.

3. Do you have to want it?

Let's be honest: as impressive as they are, these types of classic staff checks are out of date. It may seem modern with all those smart technical gadgets, but it is far from it. It does not fit with the Dutch HR vision in 2021, which focuses on appreciative leadership, self-direction, trust and the mature treatment of employees.

If employees notice that they are being watched, this can have quite a few negative consequences for themselves and the organisation.

Control disrupts the employment relationship. It promotes distrust, gives employees a sense of not being taken seriously and restricting freedom.

In short: this is the recipe for high staff turnover and an organisational culture where people do not opt for innovation. They do not dare to be leaders, but remain cautious, conservative and, above all, do not stand out from the crowd.

Happiness at work and creativity are dying out, and competitors are happily hopping by.

Our conclusion? Trade that expensive one employee monitoring software I'd rather be in for a lot of trust. All parties are getting along with that!

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