Why employee monitoring software can harm wellbeing

A quick summary:

  • The rise of employee monitoring in the modern workplace 🔎
  • The consequences of employee tracking on workplace wellbeing ❌
  • Address employee productivity and performance the right way 💚

In recent days, there has been a lot of buzz on social media and in leadership teams around employee monitoring software. As the working world continues to battle for and against flexible working, some organisations have now considered employee tracking solutions - but what does this mean for workplace wellbeing?

The workplace as we know it today doesn’t entirely reflect that of a pre-pandemic world. More of us are working from home, and fewer people are spending hours commuting back and forth to an office. 

Harvard Business Review recently published a piece on the damaging effects of employee monitoring software. Now, we want to dig a little deeper into the emotional and psychological implications it can have when it comes to workplace wellbeing. 

Similar read: Here’s what’s crushing team morale in your organisation

The rise of employee monitoring software

As reported by HBR, the global demand for employee monitoring software more than doubled in 2020. Leaders were thrown into the deep end when it comes to trusting employees, and the 1,700% increase in searches for “how to monitor employees working from home” shows just how little trust there is in the workplace.

Nearly immediately, businesses were concerned with keystroke tracking, location tracking and general employee activity. What’s more surprising is that in midst of the global pandemic, employee tracking sometimes felt more of a priority than wellbeing in the workplace. 

As sales for tracking software, application and tools increased, so to did rule-breaking by employees. Harvard Business Review has revealed that new studies found employee monitoring increased rule-breaking, discreet work breaks and damage to company property. 

HBR’s survey of hundreds of employees found that when under monitoring and surveillance, people can feel “less responsible” and “more likely to act immorally”. Ultimately, and quite surprisingly, monitoring employees can trigger the opposite behaviour of what it intends to prevent. 

If this survey of 200+ US workers tells us anything, it’s that monitoring can impact employees negatively. It’s clear people do not like to be monitored or micromanaged. Now, we’ve going to look at the different consequences of employee monitoring software, considering a number of ways in which it does more harm than good to employees. 

After all, employee wellbeing is essential to any business – without it, you’re left with an unhappy, disengaged workforce – and quite clearly one that will underperform regardless of performance tracking. 

Why employee tracking software does more harm than good

Employee tracking software may be all the new craze since the COVID-19 pandemic, but how does this influence workplace wellbeing? How does or would your team feel knowing their every move was being assessed by managers? Here are just a few ways in which employee monitoring software can impact wellbeing at work…

Obliterates employee trust

Let’s start with quite possibly the most obvious consequence of employee monitoring software - wiping out employee trust. It’ll come as no surprise that the use of monitoring software for the purpose of performance tracking will hinder workplace relationships. And if there’s one thing we all know about trust, it can be broken much more easily than it is built.

The best teams all have one thing in common, they can trust one another. This means trusting a colleague to complete a project, arrive on time or deliver the best results. Monitoring productivity and performance tells employees that you don’t think they are capable of getting the job done.

Millie, COO at Heka says...

The success of a business is down to its team, and trust is a big part of how employees interact, feel day to day, and their level of output. Heka has one of the most open and honest management styles I’ve ever seen, and it’s what helps everyone work so well together.

Creates more rule-breaking and less moral responsibility

As we touched on above, employee monitoring software creates more rule-breaking and less moral responsibility. Harvard Business Review’s research shows that employees blame those responsible for examining their productivity and performance for their own behaviour. 

In a nutshell, employee tracking is a messy situation. The rise of poor performance, unconfirmed breaks from work and general rule-breaking makes for another reason not to consider monitoring your team. 

This particular point is especially important, given the severity of rule-breaking that could occur. For instance, employers who feel as though they can take unapproved breaks from work may begin to fall behind and cause huge implications for the progress of the business.

Encourages a culture of burnout

The majority of employee monitoring software has one objective – to ensure employees remain productive, perform well and generate results. However, it should be a priority of leaders to support people to work at their best, instead of adopting technology in a way that records their efforts. 

Leaders should be compassionate and understand that no two days are the same. Sometimes people are at their best, and other days not so much. The problem with using technology to track employee output is that it doesn’t hear both sides of the story. Great leaders listen, understand and act on the best route to support employees. 

All too often, it’s work environments that prioritise performance and productivity over wellbeing that become toxic, encouraging or glorifying burnout. 

Although employee tracking may seem like the right solution for your business, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is. With the rise of holistic work environments (those taking a more people-centric approach) “hustle culture” continues to decline in popularity.

Address employee productivity and performance the right way

Employee tracking has really taken off since 2020, and while its clear as to why, leaders must refrain from tracking employees. We all feel capable of our skills and qualities, and the close monitoring of management can create feelings of doubt in the best of employees.

Employee monitoring software should be swapped for things like wellbeing meetings, general progress check-ins and other initiatives to ensure the ship keeps sailing. If anything, employee tracking is intrusive and will gradually disrupt even the best of workplace relationships. 

Our advice to leaders is this: Monitor your employees progress, productivity and performance with compassion. Understand that there’s maybe more at play that laziness or disrespect for ones role. Approach your employees on a regular basis, and case-by-case. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, employee wellbeing has to be personalised. 

If you’d like to find out more about how Heka helps thousands of employees with their personal health, happiness and wellbeing, book a demo with our experts today!