Authors Herpreet Kaur Grewal
A study shows that more than half of bosses (55%) agree with collecting information on regular homeworkers, including the time spent on laptops each day and email sending behaviours to identify risk of burnout.
Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and HR software company HiBob, also found that only three in 10 (28%) leaders say their organisations are using software to monitor the productivity of homeworkers. Where workplace monitoring is in place, the CIPD and HiBob urge employers to consider its purpose and to be clear to staff about what is being monitored and why.
The survey, part of the CIPD series ‘Technology, the workplace and people management’ highlights that workplace context, such as job level and sectors, can influence attitudes towards collecting information on homeworkers, and whether any monitoring software is used.
The survey of more than 2,000 bosses found:
39% of bosses don’t feel any measures to collect information on regular homeworkers are acceptable; 6% don’t know; and 55% agree with at least one measure, which may include:
Tracking the amount of time spent on billable tasks for clients (24%)
Observing email sending behaviours, but not content, to identify if an employee is at risk of burnout (24%)
Recording how much time employees use their work laptop each day (22%)
Sending automatic alerts to managers if employees work outside normal working hours (18%)
Passively monitoring website activities eg, Time spent on non-work-related websites (18%)
Senior bosses (CEOs, partners, owners, etc) are more likely to agree that collecting information on homeworkers is acceptable, compared with senior managers. HR staff are less comfortable with these measures, than non-HR.
Three in 10 (28%) respondents say they use at least one type of software to measure homeworkers’ productivity*, while over half (58%) say their organisations don’t use any. This falls to 53% of bosses in the private sector.
Hayfa Mohdzaini, senior research adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said: “The move to increased hybrid and remote working has fuelled the debate on employee monitoring practices and what is acceptable.
“Depending on the context, collecting information on homeworkers can be a positive thing, supporting employee performance and wellbeing, by identifying signs of excessive workloads and burnout. And certainly, it can be necessary in specific roles and industries, for example where there are billable hours. However, when used without a clear reason it will likely be treated with suspicion by employees.
“We recommend that employers be transparent about what they’re monitoring and why, consulting with staff to make sure these measures are necessary and relevant to their role. Employers need to demonstrate how any monitoring software used can benefit employees, while also respecting their privacy and encouraging a culture of trust.”
Ronni Zehavi, CEO and co-founder of HiBob, said: “Ultimately, how a business decides to measure performance, growth or company success will reflect on that organisation’s culture. Progressive businesses understand that a healthy culture based on transparency, communication and flexibility drives sustainable growth and positive business outcomes. It is intrinsically tied to being able to attract and retain the best talent. Survey findings bear this out, with HR decision-makers placing organisation culture in the list of top five business focuses for the next 12 months.
“It’s understandable for businesses to want to gain insight into what their staff spends time on or how long anything takes them to do, but collecting more information than is needed to fulfil any audit purpose could undermine trust and impact the relationship between staff and employers, irrevocably damaging employee engagement – the cornerstone of any HR strategy.”
Andrew Mawson, founder of global consultancy, Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA), said: “Burnout isn’t going to be identified by simply monitoring laptops or devices. It’s more about cognitive load. The wider and more pressing issue is the participation of people managers in overseeing the mental capacity of their workforce. These managers in the hybrid working environment may not be able to see the “invisible” strains on workers who are juggling home life and their workloads.
“Our own research found that competing demands have an exponential impact on the brain’s performance which is potentially profound both for people’s mental wellbeing and the productivity of their organisations. Therefore, awareness, management and mitigation of the factors that impact the mental workload of workers should be central to the culture of high-performing organisations.”
William Poole-Wilson, managing director of workplace design and strategy architects, WILL+Partners, said: “As a leader of an organisation, I am more concerned about the human experience and culture. I also wonder how helpful monitoring homeworkers really is because its accuracy, relevance, and reliance are digitally led. You can only monitor so much through a device.
“We need to ask, does the data from monitoring homeworkers provide worthwhile evidence and analytics? We need to be more human about these questions. Clearly, people suffer more burnout working from home and then efficiency drops. There are more fundamental questions to be explored around culture, communication, and community.
“Remote working has driven a much larger reliance on digital connectivity. There is an onus, in the same way that the phone allows to monitor how much use you have, on monitoring our digital usage. It goes up in the case of remote working and it isn’t healthy. Perhaps we are reaching digital saturation? But we need human experience first and foremost, and it is too easily forgotten.”