Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have sought new ways to manage their employees, many of whom are working away from the office for the first time.
GetApp surveyed more than 800 employees and 500 managers to see whether the pandemic has increased the use of employee monitoring software and how both groups are experiencing the change.
COVID-19 is driving the adoption of monitoring software
Working habits have changed drastically in the past 12 months. Many organisations have transitioned to remote or hybrid working, meaning the workforce is more geographically dispersed. Working from home brings its own challenges in terms of employee wellbeing and productivity, but it also demands new styles of management and HR.
In the survey conducted by GetApp, 35% of respondents shared that they have transitioned to remote working from an office-based role. A further 11% stated that they split their time equally between home and the office, and 16% were already working remotely before the pandemic.
36% of workers in total (employees and managers combined) say that their company uses monitoring software. For 19%, their employer already used an employee monitoring and/or surveillance tool before the pandemic began. A further 17% have seen one implemented more recently. 52% say no such software is in place, while 12% are not sure.
The uncertainty of the pandemic is driving increased spend on monitoring software. Nearly two-thirds of managers who use the tools (63%) say they are spending more than planned—with 18% saying their projected budget has doubled. 71% of managers say they will continue to invest in this type of software in 2021 and beyond.
When it comes to costs, most businesses (90%) are spending under £200 a month for the monitoring of all employees. 54% of managers say that they spend between £51 and £150 for their entire workforce. Given that all respondents to the GetApp survey represent companies of less than 250 employees, managers can expect a rough cost of less than £1 per employee per month.
45% of monitored employees would not opt-out
The use of employee monitoring software raises inevitable questions of trust. For managers: Can employees be trusted to do the work they’re paid for if they’re not under the watchful eye of their boss? And for employees: Does my manager trust me to do my work without spying on me?
Overall, workers in the UK overwhelmingly feel a high level of trust. Most rate their manager as trusting (49%) or very trusting (46%) towards their commitment to perform daily tasks. Workers also broadly feel they have the freedom to manage their own time. Just 7% feel micromanaged, 29% say they could be left more to their own devices but management is not overbearing, and 54% say they have a lot of freedom to self-organise.
Of those employees who are monitored, attitudes towards monitoring software are favourable. 45% would not opt-out, even if they had the option to. Managers, too, are broadly in favour: 46% of managers overall say it’s positive or very positive compared with 30% who say it’s negative or very negative.
Among employees in general, however, opinions lean slightly towards the negative. 31% say monitoring software is positive or very positive, while 35% say it’s negative or very negative. 27% say such tools would make them feel less motivated at work, but the same proportion say it would make them feel more motivated.
Attendance logging is the top use case for 58% of respondents
Employees and managers see a range of benefits to monitoring software and show an understanding of how the tools can be used to their benefit.
58% employees say monitoring software is useful for logging attendance, including overtime. 51% say that a major benefit of the software is that managers can ensure all hours and overtime are taken into account, which has a direct influence on their paycheques each month.
40% of employees also see that it can help manage workloads. The same proportion ranks the fact that managers can optimise working hours and delegate tasks based on staff load among their top 5 benefits.
Just 22% of employees see monitoring software as being useful with regards to computer activity (time-tracking, web browsing, mouse movements, and keystroke logging), while other areas, such as location tracking, phone use, and video surveillance of the workplace, for example, all scored poorly—below 20%.
Managers who use monitoring software tend to agree on the major use cases, with 58% using it to log attendance and 56% tracking employees’ computer use.
However, managers see it as being useful for a wider range of applications than employees. 23% use it to track social media usage by employees, while just 10% of employees feel it is useful in this area. 30% of managers use it to monitor digital communications (emails, instant chat, video conferences), while only 19% of employees see a use case. 35% of managers use video surveillance measures despite only 13% of employees agreeing that this is useful in a professional context.
54% of managers have taken positive action based on monitoring software
Far from being used as a tool for control and coercion, managers view monitoring software as a positive thing for their workforce. 54% of those using it have taken positive measures towards an employee as a result of using the software. These include bonuses, promotions, new projects, or extended responsibilities. This sits in contrast to the 23% who have taken negative steps such as handing out warnings or firing an employee.
In companies that use monitoring software, managers see similar benefits to employees —the biggest one being the ability to ensure that all hours and overtime are taken into account. 52% list this as a top-five benefit. 50% also cite the ability to optimise working hours and delegate tasks based on staff workload, while 42% say that mistakes can be caught before they escalate.
*Data for the GetApp Employee Monitoring Survey 2021 was collected from 24th February to 3rd March 2021. The sample comes from an online survey of 1,918 respondents that live in the UK.
The survey data used for this article comes from 1,444 participants who have qualified to answer. According to their answers, these were divided into several groups of respondents and subjected to questions adapted to their situation: 855 employees (training, junior and intermediate positions) and 589 senior and management profiles (manager/senior manager/executive manager and owner).
Respondents are over 18 years old, reside in the UK, and their professional situation is active. They work full-time (74%) or part-time (26%), in various sectors of activity and work in companies from 2 to 250 employees.