Many businesses have turned to productivity monitoring tools as remote work has become the norm. Seeing how workers spend their time despite the physical distance is tempting, but it may not yield the results you’d expect. Many employers now find these tools hurt their workforce more than help.
While activity trackers provide insight and accountability, they also impact employee retention. As more data from companies using this software has emerged, it’s become evident that this impact is often negative.
Increased Monitoring Often Hurts Retention
“Over half of IT workers say they would reject a desirable position if they knew the business used productivity monitoring software.”
A recent survey found 28% of IT managers have noticed an uptick in employees quitting after implementing monitoring software. Similarly, 27% found it increasingly difficult to hire new workers. As a result, you may face sudden labour challenges after tracking remote workers.
Signs point to this trend growing from here, too. The same survey found over half of IT workers says they would reject a desirable position if they knew the business used productivity monitoring software.
Three-quarters of workers at companies without this technology say they’d be less willing to stay if their employers started using it. Of these workers, 30% would start looking for other jobs, 3% would quit immediately and 40% would become more open to other offers.
Why Monitoring Tools Turn Employees Away
“Even though you may have good intentions using monitoring software, it often comes across as a breach of trust.”
To address this issue, you must first understand where this turnover comes from. Most of it stems from stress. The same study that unveiled these high turnover rates revealed 30% of employees at organizations with monitoring tools felt higher anxiety because of it. Similarly, 28% felt burnt out faster and 26% felt decreased morale.
Even though you may have good intentions using monitoring software, it often comes across as a breach of trust. Employees feel like you don’t believe they’ll act responsibly or there’s more pressure to do things a specific way. That lack of confidence makes it difficult to remain engaged or feel happy in your position.
Interestingly, a separate study found employees are more likely to misbehave when they know you’re watching them. Ironically, feeling untrusted and watched makes workers feel less responsible for their actions. That lack of agency makes them more likely to act against their ethical standards.
How to Use Productivity Monitoring More Effectively
Despite this negative impact on turnover, productivity monitoring software has many benefits. It can help hold people accountable and offers a way to reward high performers. Tracking employee actions automatically also reduces human error rates, which can be as high as 4% in some workflows.
The solution isn’t necessarily to abandon employee monitoring software altogether but to approach it differently. Here’s how you can use these tools fairly and effectively.
“The most important step in using productivity monitoring software is to consider what you’re using it for.”
Reconsider What You Track
The most important step in using productivity monitoring software is to consider what you’re using it for. If you want to establish trust with employees, the less you record, the better. It’s also crucial to recognize not all metrics directly reflect productivity or performance.
Keystrokes, minutes worked and similar technical metrics may relate to productivity, but they don’t account for employee’s different methods or strengths. Workers can accomplish tasks unconventionally but still produce high-quality work. Consequently, tracking technical metrics may make them feel untrustworthy without even reflecting on their performance.
If you want to monitor outcomes, you must track results rather than the process. Metrics like customer impressions, project success rates and deadline adherence are more helpful, and following them is often less invasive than more common approaches.
It’s also important to be upfront and transparent about what you track and why. Informing applicants and current employees about these things helps establish trust productivity monitoring might otherwise hinder.
On average, just 30% of employees today are comfortable with their employers monitoring their email. However, when employers explain why they tracked it, that figure goes up to more than 50%. The more reasonable your justification is, the more likely you are to see a bigger bump in acceptance, too.
Respond to Results Constructively
You can also boost employee morale by viewing productivity monitoring as a way to encourage people rather than reprimand them. Reward high performers with cash bonuses, extra vacation days or other incentives. Instead of punishing diminishing performance, use it as an opportunity to check in on the employee and see if they need help.
Tracked factors like missed deadlines and productivity drops can indicate burnout. Use these to catch waning morale early and talk to employees about what you could do better. If you use monitoring tools constructively, workers will appreciate them more than fear them.
Productivity Monitoring Tools Require Care
Productivity monitoring software can be advantageous, but many companies use it ineffectively. Overusing these tools can make employees feel untrusted and stressed, but you can use them without accepting these negative outcomes.
If you reconsider what you track and why you monitor it, you can use productivity monitoring software to better ends. Being transparent and constructive are essential steps in ensuring the pros of this technology outweigh the cons.