The pandemic helped usher in a new way of working as many organizations in which employees are essentially free to work from wherever they want or spend a significant amount of their work week in their home offices. However, many business leaders want employees back in the office more frequently as they fear that productivity may be suffering due to these flexible working arrangements, a phenomenon known as productivity paranoia.
In response, many companies have turned to employee monitoring software to track their employees’ productivity remotely, and that is leading the White House to investigate these tools and their impact on the workforce.
The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy is releasing a public request for information to learn more about the automated tools used by organizations to surveil, monitor and evaluate their employees with the goal of better understanding the design, deployment, prevalence and impacts of those tools.
According to a recent Microsoft report, 85% of global business decision makers say hybrid work makes it challenging to be confident in the productivity of employees, and employees may be focusing too much on productivity versus impact.
Further, 87% of employees report that they are productive regardless of where they work, but just 12% of leaders have full confidence that their team is productive, according to the Microsoft Work Trends Index.
The White House in a news release also cites a New York Times report that found that 80% of the largest private U.S. employers use employee monitoring tools to assess productivity.
According to the Biden-Harris Administration, these tools can provide some benefit, but they also introduce some risk and negative impacts.
“The constant tracking of performance can push workers to move too fast on the job, posing risks to their safety and mental health,” the Administration says in a news release. “Monitoring conversations can deter workers from exercising their rights to organize and collectively bargain with their employers. And, when paired with employer decisions about pay, discipline, and promotion, automated surveillance can lead to workers being treated differently or discriminated against.”
The Administration wants information on workers’ firsthand experiences with these tools, details from the developers of these tools and their customers on how they are developed and deployed, best practices for mitigating risks to workers, policy suggestions and other data.
Responses will help the Administration develop new policy responses and amplify best practices among employers, worker groups and technology vendors.
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