As the weather turns colder and winter draws, this article in the Guardian got us hot under the collar last week! ‘Shirking from home’, as the title suggests, it’s about the increasing number of employers digitally monitoring their team at home, checking they’re not skiving off. Sorry, ‘so they can keep an eye on productivity levels’.

Hmmm…we’re not convinced either!

Neither are others in our network, here’s just one of a selection of comments we had when we shared our thoughts on this on LinkedIn…

“I once worked for a company who used the selling point ‘totally remote company’ to lure people in. What I didn’t realise was that actually meant clocking into Slack 9 a.m. to 6 p.m every day, telling them when I was going on lunch and back from lunch, when I was nipping away from the keyboard and my manager would always bring up in conversation whenever she noticed some people’s ‘green’ lights not on. It really did just confirm the organisation’s inability to lead or manage great people.”

You’d hope the recent deluge of employers extolling the benefits of remote working in light of COVID would lead the charge for flexibility. Now that homeworking is here to stay for the much longer-term, however, many ‘bosses’ are starting to show their true colours.

Digital surveillance software providers like Hubstaff are four times up on sales since the start of 2020, and a recent report from the CIPD found that 45% of employees believe they are being monitored.

These employees also hit the nail on the head when it comes to the real issue at play here…Trust.

Seventy-three per cent (73%) of employees told the CIPD they felt workplace monitoring damages trust between workers and their employers.

Trust and other reasons why spying on your staff isn’t a good idea…As unreal as it feels to even have to write that subheading, it seems that some employers really do need this explaining!

Firstly, when it comes to trust, in simple terms, strong, healthy relationships are built on it.

If you cannot establish trust with your employees, you won’t have a good relationship with them and if you don’t have a good relationship with them, they won’t work hard for you.

Putting surveillance software onto an employee’s computer and/or monitoring people using other technologies is not a good way to demonstrate that you trust them.


The other downside to doing this is that you could make employees LESS productive by monitoring them. Enter ‘Presenteeism’.

‘Presenteeism’, according to the clever people at the OED is ‘the feeling like one needs to work all the time. The practice of being present at one’s place of work for more hours than is required.’

This phenomenon is driven by monitoring technologies as people fear not digitally ‘clocking on’ and off at the right time. This is damaging to both parties.

The employee is focussed on putting the hours in and not on the quality of what they are producing, which is surely bad news for the employer?They are also forced to adopt work patterns they aren’t in control of, work through any illness or stress, so that performance is eventually impacted. Also, bad news for their employer?

Working in this way where trust is completely lacking is also damaging for mental health.

Wise words that chime with us on this front come from Silkie Carole, director of the anti-surveillance charity Big Brother…

“Some employers aren’t realising that yes, some employees are working from home, but the home still remains a private space. It’s important for people’s sense of autonomy and dignity, and their mental health, that the home remains a private space and we don’t go down the route of this really invasive constant monitoring of people’s homes.”

The Productivity myth…

Understandably it’s a hard time to be in business right now. Many leaders feel under huge pressure. With furlough and redundancies, they’ve got fewer people, so they need to make sure they are productive.

The catch is this – monitoring people and putting them under constant surveillance doesn’t mean they will be any more productive.

The way to a productive team is through strong healthy relationships built on trust.

Ironically, surveillance is a sure-fire route and one of the most invasive ways to quickly prove to your team that you don’t trust them at all. So, completely counter-intuitive to boosting productivity!

The Station Rd. Way

Our agency has been built with trust at the heart of relationships between our team, where everyone is equal, and respect is earnt. Our culture of care and wellbeing is at our core and we put our team first. We know that if our team is thriving, the rest will be taken care of – it’s served us, our team and our clients well so far.

We don’t need to monitor apps or be sat right next to our team members to know if they are doing good work or not. Our people are empowered to work how they want and when they want to get the job done well. By doing this, they can work in the way that’s the most productive for them, and us!