The Take: Some Companies Consider Surveillance Technology to Ensure There’s a “W” in WFH


What’s News

As more companies realize that remote working is likely here to stay in some form, they are also considering ways to measure job presence and performance.

Surveillance technology is not new and has been used for years in industries including trucking and call centers. Yet, 60% of companies with at least 1,000 workers that responded to a Gartner survey said it had adopted these technologies by the end of 2021, compared with 30% pre-pandemic, Morning Brew said citing Gartner spokesperson Teresa Zuech.

SAP’s Take

Companies considering these technologies should weigh all the possible effects, said Lauren Bidwell, SAP SuccessFactors senior research scientist for growth and insights. The cloud technology helps employers manage their workforce while helping employees get the most out of their careers.

“You’re sending a pretty powerful message to your workforce around your level of trust and belief in their commitment as employees when you utilize these types of technologies,” Bidwell said.

Her team recently launched a research program, titled “Exploring the impact of intelligent technology on employee experience.” Findings, based on a global workforce survey, are due out later this month.

The pandemic has forced many companies to try new work strategies to retain and attract employees while keeping an eye on the bottom line. Compensation is most companies’ No. 1 expense. Surveillance practices, which involve things such as monitoring employee presence via web cam or keystrokes, could be especially off-putting to employees during the current labor shortage cycle.

“When we think about the psychological impact and message that this would send, it feels quite short-sighted to assume that people will just stick around because they don’t have a choice — because that’s not true,” said Bidwell.

The pandemic-induced blurring of work-life borders means many employees are working longer. In this context, employer surveillance could be particularly incendiary.

“People are not going to stick around to be treated as mice in a cage, as part of an experiment, particularly in these times where people are giving more probably than they should or can,” Bidwell said.

Using such technology also can mask a bigger problem: bad management.

“It’s like you’re trying to skip the hard work of having good job design and good management practices and good talent management practices by incorporating surveillance technology to make sure people are sitting at their desk. But you can sit at your desk and not do anything meaningful all day,” she said.

Like online privacy, which took years to become an issue, new laws likely will arise to control employee surveillance and violation of privacy.

“People are in some ways, throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks and how far they can push it,” Bidwell said. “I think people are going have to backtrack on some of the things.”

Joellen Perry, Head of Global Public Relations, SAP
+1 (626) 265-0370, joellen.perry@sap.com, PST