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Should employers use software to monitor remote workers?

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Should employers use software to monitor remote workers?

Last year, Chris Dobbs discussed whether employers can monitor remote working; looking at the legal implications and what employment claims could potentially arise (you can read the article here).

In this article, Paul Burton, Head of Employment at Frettens, considers whether remote monitoring is necessary, outlining the key considerations for employers.

Are employers using remote monitoring?

Remote working has hidden employees from sight, causing some employers to worry about what their staff are doing during working hours.

The Guardian has reported that one of the world’s biggest call centre companies is planning to install surveillance systems to monitor what their staff are doing, whether that’s working, eating or going to the toilet.

Which employers are using remote monitoring?

Teleperformance, which employs 380,000 staff in 34 countries, works for big names in Britain such as the government, NHS Digital, Vodafone, Aviva and the Guardian itself.

The article says that there is nothing to suggest that these companies know about this surveillance plan and Teleperformance has now indicated that surveillance will not be rolled out in the UK.

Teleperformance has said that the surveillance plans evolved from employees saying that they felt isolated while working at home.

Do employers need to monitor remote workers?

There will always be some employees who take advantage of being invisible to managers. But in normal times, these people take a few minutes extra for lunch, hang out too long at the water cooler and do their online shopping while they should be working.

What are the disadvantages of monitoring remote workers?

Most employees understand that they need to get the job done, regardless of where they are doing it. Sticking a camera in someone’s face and asking them to tick a box before they go to the toilet is insulting and infantilising.

It is likely to breed distrust and cause the majority of hardworking employees to feel aggrieved. It won’t help businesses to recruit and retain the best people.

So, how can I make sure my employees are doing their jobs?

The best way to monitor performance is to do just that - monitor performance, just as you would in the office. Make sure to:

  • Apply clear and measurable targets.
  • Conduct appropriate day to day management.
  • Create an open dialogue between staff and management.

You don’t need a camera to see what your staff are doing. You need good management.

An Employment Solicitor's view

Paul Burton, Head of Employment, says: “While it is important for employers to know their employees and workers are performing when working remotely, there is a balance to be struck in not alienating employees for the sake of the possibility a minority are “swinging the lead”. 

Statistics show, on average, that people are actually more productive when working from home than in the employer’s premises.  Remote monitoring should only be used in exceptional circumstances and we do advise employers to have a Remote Working policy of some sort if they have anyone at all working from home. 

If you need assistance in drafting such a policy, please let us know.”

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