Employers to trust rather than monitor workers, new survey suggests
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Big Brother

Companies are rejecting surveillance technology and employee monitoring in favour of building work cultures based on trust and autonomy post-covid, a new survey of HR executives suggests.

Polling of 150 HR leaders in businesses with between 250 and 1,000-plus employees found that more than half (50.3%) of employers intend to give their staff greater autonomy and support in the coming years.

By contrast, just over one-in-seven (15.9%) respondents would consider surveillance technology, such as mouse-monitoring software, to help manage the performance of a remote workforce.

Chris Preston, co-founder and director of The Culture Builders, which commissioned the poll, said: “If you buy surveillance technology for your workforce, the cost will be the trust of your employee base. And once that’s spent, good luck getting it back.

“If you game the employee base with monitoring software then, guess what, they will game it right back. Just like me tying my step-o-meter to the dog, people will work out how to make it look like they are hard at work, when they are anything but.

“If you don’t trust your employees, you probably need to take a long hard look at your leadership style and cohort, not dash to the store and buy snooping software.”

Overall, around half (49%) believe an employee’s productivity should be best evaluated by a mix of both completing fixed hours alongside delivering against objectives and role competencies. Less than one-third (28.5%) believe employees’ productivity should be “purely based” on such performance and competencies.

Remote-working challenges

Managing hybrid and remote working was the single biggest challenge for companies with between 500 and 1,000 employees (63.3%) and the second-largest for employers with more than 1,000 workers (57.8%) behind staff absence, sickness, and isolation.

Overall, of the HR leads questioned, more than one-third (39.7%) said maintaining and cultivating company culture was their biggest challenge during the pandemic.

Other key findings in the report include how more than half (54.2%) of respondents, especially those in larger organisations, said that supporting the mental health and wellbeing of workers is their most time-consuming task.

Described as “poly-working” by its authors, the new report argues that hybrid working must evolve to incorporate the myriad of approaches required to blend the working needs, opportunities, and preferences of individuals, teams, and organisations.

Emma Berry, Pfizer’s senior director and global lead for colleague communications and engagement, said the pharmaceutical giant is responding to lessons learned during the pandemic, and changes in employee attitudes, to adopt a more sophisticated workplace model.

“We have a culture that puts colleague health and wellness first,” she said. “We work extremely hard, but we are empowered and trusted to get our work done in a time and way that suits us personally. My manager focuses on the outcome, not the hours I work.

“We have clear goals and these are regularly talked about and assessed every six months. And of course, the reality is that when you empower and trust people, they give you more. Equally, it is our responsibility as a colleague to build that trust and not take advantage of the situation.”