It is a suspicion long held by many people in the workplace – their bosses are using surveillance equipment to keep tabs on performance.
But such practices put employees under increasing strain, a survey has found. The constant monitoring leaves staff feeling exhausted and anxious, experts said.
More than half of the employees in a British survey said their managers use electronic systems to keep a log of their work. But a study for the Economic and Social Research Council found managers in a fifth of workplaces in the United Kingdom admitting to monitoring their employees using computer-based systems.
Dr Michael White, who co-directed the study with Dr Patrick McGovern of the London School of Economics, said: “IT systems are bringing surveillance to most workplaces. Now for the first time we can see how this development is damaging well-being of the employees.”
Dr McGovern said over the past 10 to 15 years many more workers had found their tasks and performance being monitored, and the trend was set to continue. The research found that sales, deliveries, contact with customers, phone calls and the time taken to complete tasks were routinely logged and the information used by bosses to evaluate staff. Other surveillance includes the monitoring of e-mails and web pages visited, to overhead cameras watching staff movements in offices.
Researchers questioned 2,132 employees and 2,000 employers across all industry sectors as part of the study. However, senior managers quizzed by Emirates Business said they did not use surveillance equipment to monitor staff performance.
Osman Sultan, chief executive of du, said telephone calls were monitored for the benefit of customer services but the company did not use any other surveillance techniques. “It’s indicated to our customers when they phone our call centre that some of the calls are recorded. It’s a standard procedure and supervisors ensure we have a proper level of answers on new products, accuracy and efficiency,” he said.
But some industries, such as banking, require higher levels of monitoring such as CCTV cameras for safety and security reasons.
Lou Scotto, who has worked in banks in the Middle East for 17 years and was head of retail banking at Emirates Bank, said surveillance was used not to trip up staff but to protect themselves and reduce fraud. “All calls to our centres are recorded for our support and the safety of staff as much as the customers. Camera surveillance is on the banking floor, on the tellers and in cash-counting in the safe. It is an honourable institution and we trust our people.”
Other business sectors said they had been approached by companies about using some form of software to monitor staff but had not implemented such strategies.
“We’ve got a tried, tested and proven methodology for ensuring excellence in service levels, which obviates the need for surveillance,” said Mike Wallis, head of public relations firm Wallis PR. “We have not deployed any hardware or software to monitor staff but it has been presented to us.” (Inputs from The Daily Telegraph)