Last September, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella identified a problem plaguing managers: productivity paranoia.
This was based on a Microsoft study of 20,000 people in 11 countries, which found a disconnect between workers feeling productive in hybrid and remote environments and managers struggling to “see” productivity in this new context. Has been established.
About as many workers reported being productive as managers reported a lack of confidence in that productivity (87% and 85%, respectively).
Unfortunately, to bridge this gap, some business leaders have turned to a new and intrusive form of micromanagement. With employees working out of sight, managers are looking for alternative ways to achieve the old “keep eye” approach they had in the office.
These tools have been particularly appealing to managers who have been forced to adapt to a new way of working without proper preparation, so it’s not surprising that Google Trends says searches for “remote employee monitoring” peaked in Spring 2020.
So there grew interest in authoritarian-sounding employee monitoring software like StaffCop and Time Doctor. Some vendors reported increased demand for their software, with business tripling after the pandemic hit.
Employee monitoring can be as simple as creating attendance lists and automated timesheets, or extend to screen monitoring, keystroke logging, and even location tracking. Some, like Time Doctor, can even activate a computer’s webcam to take a picture of the user every 10 minutes.
A 2020 report by Eurofound, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, found that more than a quarter (27%) of organizations in the EU use data analytics to monitor employee performance and that the use of such data analytics is not the case techniques were in the uptrend.
Although there are no specific rules for employee monitoring software in the EU, the GDPR is applicable as it involves the processing of personal data.
And unlike some privacy laws in the US, the GDPR provides protections for employee-related information.
One of the cornerstones of the GDPR is consent to data processing, and this consent must be obtained without coercion on the data subject. Due to the imbalance of power in an employee-employer relationship, it is assumed that consent cannot be given voluntarily in this case and employers must therefore find further legal grounds to justify their data processing.
Most employers justify monitoring of employees with a “legitimate interest”, but this does not give them scope for intensive monitoring. Every aspect of monitoring must be demonstrably necessary, legitimate and proportionate to the risk of a perceived threat (e.g. unauthorized disclosure of confidential information).
It must be clearly demonstrated that no other surveillance measure, such as simply blocking specific websites or apps on corporate devices, will suffice. And only the data necessary to achieve those legitimate goals should be collected.
Barring rare exceptions, which typically require a criminal investigation, employers must disclose their surveillance practices to employees, detailing what data is processed, how, and for what purpose.
Some EU member states may have even stricter data protection and labor requirements than the GDPR, which allows member states to introduce their own specific rules for the processing of personal data in the context of the employment relationship. For example, countries such as Belgium, France, Italy and Spain have introduced a right to separation.
But rules and regulations aren’t the only reason employers should be cautious about workplace surveillance. A recent survey by IT outsourcing company 1E found that nearly half of IT workers (48%) would reject a good job if they knew a company was doing it.
If you are uncomfortable with your current employer’s surveillance practices, you can always search for new vacancies on the House of Talent Job Board.
Microsoft, which is advocating practices that better support and enable productive hybrid working, is one of many companies with current vacancies in Germany, Ireland, the UK and beyond.
The latest Eurofound research found that employee performance monitoring is most common in Croatia and Romania and least common in Germany and Sweden. Large companies with 250 or more employees used it the most, small companies with 10 to 49 employees the least.
If you are interested in a job in Germany, Hero Software is a medium-sized SaaS company based in Hanover that is currently looking for a DevOps Engineer.
Stud-IT is a small IT company with offices across Germany, currently filling several junior positions.
And if you’re among nearly three-quarters (73%) of IT managers surveyed by 1E who have felt uncomfortable installing productivity monitoring software for their teams, you can look to sustainability-focused consultancy Metabolic for new opportunities like this in Amsterdam or this one at BeCap Consulting in Rennes in north-west France, which offers a flexible working policy that combines time in the office and remote work.
Search the House of Talent Job Board now for other available positions