Tracking and surveillance of remote employees can easily destroy trust and hurt company culture. We’ll examine other strategies you can use to empower your workers instead.
While remote worker surveillance is becoming commonplace, some people consider it toxic, intrusive, or even an invasion of their privacy. If your employees feel that way about your workplace, you’re certainly not cultivating a culture of trust and empowerment. Instead, you’re likely creating an environment of mistrust and fear — which is not the way to motivate employees to do their best work.
Why companies use employee surveillance
As workers started transitioning to remote work, many companies feared productivity would plunge. Because managers were unable to see whether employees were working, it conjured up visions of slacking off and spending all day online on social media instead of doing their job.
There are benefits to using tracking and monitoring for employers. It can monitor work hours, help companies understand which tools employees use, and determine how efficient they are at certain tasks. It can help companies analyze the process for improvements and remove impediments to productivity.
Some companies are using keylogging, remote screen captures, periodic camera access, and remote audio surveillance to monitor their remote workers. However, remote surveillance can also cause all sorts of problems in the workplace.
The downsides of employee surveillance
Surveillance, especially without transparency, is one of the fastest ways to destroy morale in the workplace.
In an office, employees understand someone’s watching them work, and they have little expectation of privacy when using company equipment. They are also aware there may be coworkers or even cameras overseeing them and that their company email and internet use are monitored. When they are at home, and possibly using their personal equipment, that’s different. While companies can monitor employees working remotely as long as they follow the law, doing it improperly can be devastating.
Surveillance, especially without transparency, is one of the fastest ways to destroy morale in the workplace. Otherwise, you risk upsetting the trust balance between employer and employee. It can also have serious consequences.
Trust motivates employees in tangible ways. Workers at high-trust companies perform better benefit themselves and their employers, including:
- 74% less stress
- 50% higher productivity
- 13% fewer sick days
- 76% more engagement
- 29% more employee satisfaction
- 40% less burnout
Clearly, losing employee trust is costly.
How companies can empower employees instead
The alternative to using employee surveillance is to deploy an empowerment strategy that motivates. Creating a culture of trust, guidance, and appreciation fosters an empowering workplace.
Here are 7 ways companies are building a culture that supports team members rather than surveilling them.
1. Setting challenging but attainable goals
When you set goals and trust employees to meet them, you can greatly improve effort and performance. Clear expectations let employees know what you expect.
Research shows that just the act of thinking about achieving goals is an effective motivator and leads to greater work productivity.
2. Appreciating employees
One recent survey asked employees what motivated them and kept them interested in their work. The top 2 responses were interesting work and recognition.
It’s easy for remote employees to feel unappreciated especially when their performance is judged by a checklist of goal completion. Showing a little sincere appreciation can go a long way. It helps create a positive culture and reminds employees that you value their contribution.
3. Keeping workers engaged
Keeping workers engaged — and challenged — is essential for success.
It also helps with retention. A Harris Poll of more than 1,400 workers at 310 workplaces showed that a third of the employees quitting their jobs cited they weren’t learning new skills to advance their career or improve their performance.
4. Focusing on goal completion rather than effort
Whenever possible, let employees figure out how to complete goals and execute projects on their own. This demonstrates trust and empowers team members to find solutions on their own. It also increases engagement and puts control in the hands of workers. A Citigroup study showed how important this is for employees, as early half of those surveyed said they would give up a 20% raise in exchange for greater control over how they work.
Surveillance measures effort, but often falls short in measuring the quality of the work.
5. Defining remote workplace expectations
One of the reasons many employers choose to use surveillance is to hold employees accountable and ensure they are working productively when off-site. Having formal policies for proper work behavior while working remotely can help alleviate these concerns.
A remote work policy lets employees know how you measure productivity. It also defines availability for work hours and clarifies expectations for responding to coworker or manager requests. When you set clear guidelines for how people work, it sets expectations.
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6. Communicating effectively and consistently
When employees understand how their contributions impact overall company success, they are more likely to perform at a higher level. It’s essential to align individual goals with the company’s value, purpose, and mission.
According to a McKinsey report, when employees receive regular communication and feel connected, productivity improves by as much as 25%. With many people working remotely today, communication is more important than ever. It’s too easy for remote workers to feel isolated and disconnected from their company. Over time, they may even lose sight of a sense of purpose.
when employees receive regular communication and feel connected, productivity improves by as much as 25%. With many people working remotely today, communication is more important than ever.
7. Building relationships and teams
Company performance requires collaboration and effective interactions among team members regardless of where they work. When employees have shared goals and enjoy working with team members, they work together better.
They are more like to work cohesively as a team and share knowledge, and companies benefit greatly from such positive team dynamics. Employees don’t want to let their team members down or see them fail, so they are more likely to work collaboratively to help each other solve problems and overcome challenges.
Want more tips about strategies to motivate employees? Download our free eBook, How to Motivate Your Employees.