Home workers should be monitored according to over half of bosses

Posted by: Sarah OBeirne


A new survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) in partnership with HR software company HiBob has revealed that more than half of bosses (55 per cent) agree with collecting information on regular home workers, including the amount of time spent on laptops each day and email sending behaviours to identify risk of burnout. However, only three in 10 (28 per cent) leaders say their organisations are using software to monitor the productivity of home workers. Where workplace monitoring is in place, the CIPD and HiBob are urging employers to consider its purpose, and to be clear to staff about what is being monitored and why. The survey of over 2,000 bosses and which is 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 home workers, and whether any monitoring software is used.

Key highlights of the survey include:

  • Thirty-nine per cent of bosses don’t feel any measures to collect information on regular home workers are acceptable; six per cent don’t know; and 55 per cent agree with at least one measure, which may include: * Tracking the amount of time spent on billable tasks for clients (24 per cent) * Observing email sending behaviours, but not content, to identify if an employee is at risk of burnout (24 per cent) * Recording how much time employees use their work laptop each day (22 per cent) * Sending automatic alerts to managers if employees work outside normal working hours (18 per cent) * Passively monitoring website activities e.g. Time spent on non-work-related websites (18 per cent)

  • Senior bosses (CEO, partner, owner, etc) are more likely to agree that collecting information on home workers is acceptable, compared to senior managers. HR staff are less comfortable with these measures, than non-HR.

  • Three in 10 (28 per cent) respondents say they use at least one type of software to measure home workers’ productivity, while over half (58 per cent) say their organisations don’t use any. This falls to 53 per cent of bosses in the private sector.

Hayfa Mohdzaini, Senior Research Adviser at the CIPD 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 home workers 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.” Responding to the research, Andrew Mawson, Founder of global consultancy, Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) said: “If a manager can monitor an employee and see that they are working intensively online from the early hours until late into the evening, then I think it’s quite reasonable to do so if they are strictly doing this to monitor employee burnout. However, burnout isn’t going to 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, MD of workplace design and strategy architects, WILL+Partners commented: “As a leader of an organisation I am more concerned about the human experience and culture. I also wonder how helpful monitoring home workers 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 home workers 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.”