Lovewell’s Logic: How far should employers go in monitoring staff?

Debbie Lovewell-TuckHow happy would you feel if you knew your employer was watching every little move you made?

If you’re anything like me, I’d imagine the answer would be not very. That’s not because I’m ever trying to get away with spending the day internet shopping or trying to do as little as possible, but because a significant part of my engagement and motivation comes from knowing that I’m trusted to work and do a good job without the need for constant supervision and micro-management.

So I can completely understand the uproar among Daily Telegraph employees earlier this week when they discovered that heat and motion sensors had been placed underneath their desks. While the organisation claimed these were intended to help it to gather environmental sustainability data (and far be it from me to suggest otherwise), I can understand why staff felt their movements were being monitored.

With so many studies now showing that one of the keys to engaging and motivating an increasingly diverse and multi-generational workforce is the flexibility an employer can offer around how, when and where an employee works, surely if they feel they are being watched that will negatively impact motivation and engagement?

Of course, if individuals aren’t performing, then I agree that this is a moot point.

But, for some job roles, looking at staff attendance in one fixed location simply isn’t practical.

Going back to the Daily Telegraph example, journalists and commercial staff are actively encouraged to spend time away from the office meeting key contacts. In fact, that’s one of the most valuable ways of building relationships. If someone were never to leave their desk during the working day I’d be questioning their actions far more than if they were out and about.

So, are such devices a valuable corporate tool or are we edging ever closing to the Big Brother concept imagined in George Orwell’s 1984?

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck
Tweet: @DebbieLovewell