Business psychology services

Business psychology services

Clocking in and out of the workplace has long been used for employee monitoring. However, with advancing technology, there are now many ways to keep tabs on the workforce. Is this a good thing and if so, what is good practice?  


Fines for Excessive Employee Surveillance

In January, Amazon was fined for excessive employee surveillance. The activities of the warehouse team were so closely monitored that they had to justify a short break to visit the toilet. And, although the company disputed the findings, it suggests micromanagement at an extreme level. One breach of GDPR, identified by data watchdog CNIL, was that employees and visitors were not fully informed of the extent of the surveillance.

Amazon isn’t the only company to be fined for excessive employee monitoring. So, why do companies invest in employee tracking technology?

Why Monitor Employees?

As a business owner, it is important that you have a good overview of what all members of your team are doing. For one thing, you have a reputation to protect and want to ensure everyone is working in line with the company values and training. Equally, you want to ensure that processes are being followed to protect the safety of employees and customers. Productivity is another factor that you probably want to keep an eye on.

If you manage a small business, it is relatively straightforward to monitor activity. However, in larger or remote working companies, monitoring tools can help to flag up potential issues.

Monitoring Tools

Monitoring tools include:

·       Clocking in using access codes to check timekeeping and ensure necessary breaks are taken

·       Vehicle tracking to check fuel allowance and ensure that company vehicles are only used for intended purposes

·       Recording calls to ensure consistent and compliant customer service

·       CCTV for site security and to observe the productivity of employees in the workplace

·       Software to track keystrokes and laptop activity, including files and websites accessed. In addition to office surveillance, products such as InterGuard and VeriClock can be used to monitor remote workers

These tools are effective at tracking the activity of your staff, where ever they are located. As a result, you can check that company procedures are consistently followed, which aids cyber security, customer service and health & safety. Furthermore, issues can be promptly resolved. However, you also need to consider employees’ right to privacy, as some companies are stepping over the line.

ICO Guidance on Employee Monitoring

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has asked organisations to ensure they understand the legal obligations and employees’ rights before investing in workplace monitoring. To assist, they provide good practice guidelines**.

The guidance recommends that:

·       Employees are aware of the full extent of surveillance and the reasons for it

·       Only information of legitimate interest is collected and employees consent for it to be stored

·       The level of surveillance is proportionate

·       All data is securely stored and deleted when no longer required

If you have installed employee monitoring tools, check that the necessary measures are in place to be compliant to avoid the risk of a fine.

Are Employee Monitoring Tools the Best Option?

As a psychologist, I am fascinated by the impact of being monitored. Research conducted by the ICO revealed that 70% of the public find it intrusive. So, does it help keep everyone in line or is there a negative effect?

my belief is that surveillance breaks the connection between trust and productivity. When we are micromanaged and watched, we’re more likely to feel the pressure and make mistakes. In addition, our focus is on whether we’ll be pulled up for our actions, rather than doing a great job. Therefore, a lack of trust inevitably hinders productivity, lowers morale and fosters resentment.

In some cases, a lack of trust, coupled with the pressure of being watched, can cause anxiety and diminish well-being. As a result, absenteeism can rise and retention lower. I know people who are frightened to talk to colleagues at work for fear that their conversations are being listened to. This greatly reduces the chance of collaborative work practices and learning from more experienced team members. None of these outcomes are good for business.

“Employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies. They also suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance.”

— Paul J Zak – The Neuroscience of Trust

Alternatives to Employee Monitoring

If video surveillance and device monitoring impact negatively on trust, productivity and well-being, we need to consider alternatives. So, I’m asking whether your time and money can be better spent on building an empowering company culture and psychological safety at work?

My first question is ‘Do you value your employees’ opinions and skills?’. You recruited them because they were a good fit for the job description and had the right experience, attitude and skills for the role. So, are you allowing them to apply these assets?

In my experience, regular meetings with individuals and teams will help you and them understand their skills and strengths. Alongside this, explore employee engagement. Then, offer tailored training regular meetings and/or mentoring to support skills development and application. As part of this process, agree on measurable milestones and goals that encourage development, compliant practices and seeking support when issues arise.

Motivate, Increase Productivity and Boost Engagement

In every industry, there are poor performers, masters of work avoidance and employees who make their own rules. However, the majority of the workforce are genuine, hard-working individuals who want to do well and get job satisfaction from doing so. They deserve to be trusted and shown respect.

If your aim is to motivate the team, increase productivity and boost engagement, empower and support rather than track every move. And, if monitoring tools are used, explain what they are and why they are necessary.


* https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/uk-gdpr-guidance-and-resources/employment/monitoring-workers/

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