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Monitoring Employee Productivity: Where To Draw The Line?

Monitoring Employee Productivity: Where to Draw the Line?

Unproductive workers cost your business a lot of money, whether due to excessive Facebook use, presenteeism, or even March Madness. U.S. companies lose $37 billion in salary costs a year because of unnecessary meetings alone, according to an infographic by software development and collaboration resource provider Atlassian. As such, some business owners, like you, are likely implementing ways to monitor your employees’ productivity.

The American Management Association (AMA) says that more than half of employers monitor internet connections and use special software to block distracting websites like social media or gaming pages. About 45% of employers in the U.S. also track their workers’ computer activity down to the keystrokes they make. There isn’t a law preventing you from tracking your employees’ activity during work hours, much less notify them about your monitoring efforts. However, you should draw a clear line on the amount of information you gather regarding your workers’ productivity.

Workplace Distractions, a Productivity Nightmare

When an employee is unproductive, there’s probably something distracting them from their work. A recent study on worker productivity by timekeeping platform TSheets says that social media and smartphones aren’t the biggest distractions. The researchers surveyed over 800 anonymous employees in America about what they think distracts them from their work.

Over 75% of workers say they get distracted by talkative colleagues. This is followed by co-workers who interrupt their work (71%), sick co-workers (66%), background noise like construction work or noisy equipment (56%), and meetings (52%). Less than half of them say that they get distracted by instant messages and their smartphone.

Udemy’s 2018 Workplace Distraction Report tells a slightly different story. The paper surveyed over 1,000 full-time office workers in America. Although it had similar results to the TSheets study – over 80% of respondents say chatty coworkers are a significant cause of distraction – 69% of the younger respondents say checking their personal devices such as smartphones and tablets interferes significantly with their concentration at work.

The researchers claimed that these employees lose over 10 work hours a week to checking their smart devices in the office. That’s a lot of time that they could have spent on more important work-related tasks.

Addressing the Productivity Problem

It takes about 23 minutes and 15 seconds for an employee to completely refocus on work after getting distracted, according to a Washington Post article, “Work interruptions can cost you 6 hours a day. An efficiency expert explains how to avoid them.” Apart from monitoring and limiting the websites employees visit, companies also use other ways to gauge employee productivity and see what’s distracting them.

  • Video Surveillance – Cameras are used mainly for security purposes, but they’re also used to track worker performance and behavior. You can use this to find out which workers spend too much time chatting with each other during work hours. The AMA report says that over 89% of employers who use video surveillance for productivity monitoring notify their employees about it.
  • Location Data for Fleets – Commercial cleaning services and cable providers often have multiple mobile employees working simultaneously. As such, they need accurate GPS receivers to find the locations they should work on quickly. Their employers also use this to keep track of where each fleet goes and how fast they respond to requests.
  • Email Tracking – About 43% of companies monitor their workers’ emails, the AMA says. Doing so lets business owners and managers see if employees are actually using their accounts for work-related correspondence. It’s also important that every email the company sends and receives is archived, as courts may use them as evidence for cases the company may encounter.
  • Timekeeping – Some companies also use timekeeping platforms not only to record employee attendance but to check the amount of time each worker spends on a task, too. This lets managers find workers who are not utilizing their time properly.

Drawing the Line

Manager talking to an employeeWhile these monitoring tools give you peace of mind knowing that your employees are all doing their jobs properly, they may not feel the same. A 2015 review paper entitled “Monitoring Employee Behavior Through the Use of Technology and Issues of Employee Privacy in America” concluded that while businesses get to protect themselves from losses caused by problem employees using tracking tools, they should also be careful in implementing them. The reason is employees may find your efforts too intrusive and promote a culture of distrust within your organization. As such, the author recommends two things you can do to appease your workers’ concerns:

  • Educate your workers about your monitoring procedures and policies. Circulate a memo or hold a meeting before you implement a new one. It also helps to get employee consensus before you enforce policies like limiting social media use, as banning it outright may bring down morale. And don’t forget to update your employment contracts so new workers can review it.
  • Focus on quality of work instead of time spent on the office or a specific task. People have their own way of doing things, despite the standards and guidelines you may have set for your company. Some finish their work fast, and others take time to create excellent output.

Excessive time tracking is a sign of micromanagement, according to productivity expert Robby Slaughter in an article called “Time Management Tips from A Productivity Expert.” Help your employees showcase their work ethic by simply trusting them to do their job.

Another study called “Human Autonomy in Cross-Cultural Context: Perspectives on the Psychology of Agency, Freedom, and Well-Being“showed that giving employees more autonomy may improve their commitment, performance, and productivity. Give your workers space to breathe, and you’re sure to get better output from them.

Monitoring your employees’ productivity is a slippery slope. For one, you have to implement different systems like timekeeping and internet usage tracking to find and assess the problems. There’s also the possibility that your workers are thinking that these methods are too intrusive and that you’re micromanaging them. Keep productivity and privacy balanced by properly educating everyone about how they will be monitored. Maintain high employee morale by assuring them that they have full autonomy over their output. As the adage goes, trust is a two-way street.

Get Quality Video Surveillance for Your Business

Cameras keep your business safe from harm and help you track worker behavior. As such, it’s important to have a reliable surveillance system that records high-quality video. Here at TED Systems, we design and install video surveillance and recording systems to keep your commercial establishment secure. We source our equipment from trustworthy brands such as Axis, Infinova, and Bosch so you can rest easy knowing that you’re getting comprehensive protection.

Contact us today to keep your business secure.

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