Big Brother Or Big Snoop? Creating a Culture of Distrust

An excellent, well written article in the Wall Street Journal by Sue Shellenbarger titled Work at Home? Your Employer May Be Watching discusses how employers are using advanced technologies to monitor employees who work at home (telecommute).

The technologies take screenshots (see image on this page) of workers' computer screens at random times throughout the day and their employers can view these screenshots (several hours worth at one time). This type of electronic monitoring is also used by some web-based freelance sites like which:

"takes random snapshots of workers' computer screens six times an hour, records keystrokes and mouse clicks and takes optional Web cam photos of freelancers at work. Clients can log into the system anytime and see whether contractors are working, what they're doing and how long it's taking them."

Are you kidding me?

I know something about managing telecommuters and contractors who work remotely so I feel comfortable discussing the topic. At our company, we allow all employees to work from home two days per week - and the employee selects the days. It was one day but with gas prices so high we increased it to two. We also employ contractors and other employees outside of our headquarters in California (some in other Countries). I can tell you that productivity and employee loyalty increase when employees work from home. And I have never for a moment considered monitoring employees.

Sue Shellenbarger's article also talks about call-center companies using advanced technologies to monitor home based employees:

"Call-routing technology at, Miramar, Fla., helps keep its 8,000 home agents so tightly tethered to their phones that they have to schedule unpaid time off to go to the bathroom".

I'm not making this stuff up.

What I'd like to know is the caliber of talent you are recruiting that actually puts up with this. I'd also like to know if these standards are applied to more senior employees who work from home. Are they monitored? Probably not.

And I am now hearing about companies who block employee access to social networking sites. David Meerman Scott estimates 25% of large US employers block access to social media at work (probably the same companies who monitor employees at home). David Meerman Scott wrote an EXCELLENT blog on this topic saying:

"If I managed a hedge fund, I'd sell short a basket of stocks of companies that block Social Media and buy stock in the companies that encourage employee use of these new tools".

Read his posting for reasons why - it's an excellent blog post.

Company's that don't trust employees to work from home or are afraid of employees goofing off have a cultural, management or recruiting problem. Show me a company that feels the need to monitor employees or restrict web site access and more often than not I'll show you a company with poor management. If a manager cannot tell if an employee is working without the use of monitoring software, they have a performance management problem.

But a bigger problem they have is these practices create a culture of distrust and decreased employee loyalty.

Posted by Mark Willaman.

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