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VMware research shows employee surveillance could increase staff turnover

By Ryan Morris-Reade, Mon 15 Nov 2021

An increase in remote monitoring measures could threaten the rise in employee performance and trust within new hybrid working models, according to a new study by VMware.

The study, The Virtual Floorplan: New Rules for a New Era of Work, was conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of VMware and found that 70% of companies surveyed have either already implemented or are planning to implement employee surveillance measures to monitor employee productivity since the shift to hybrid working. Among those organisations, the measures taken include monitoring emails (44%), web browsing (41%) and collaboration tools (43%), as well as video surveillance (29%), attention tracking via webcams (28%) and keylogger software (26%). 

VMware found that 39% of companies that have already implemented device monitoring, and 41% that are currently in the process of doing so, are seeing drastically increased or increased employee turnover.

The findings indicate a delicate balance needs to be struck as businesses look for new ways to assess employee performance beyond presentism. Three-quarters of employees (75%) agree that moving to a distributed working environment has meant their performance, not traditional metrics such as time spent in the office, is valued more by their employers. And, 79% of employees agree that remote work technologies have enabled them to work more efficiently than before. 

Seventy-four percent of organisations have had to develop new ways to measure employee productivity. The new approach to monitoring productivity has been achieved through the use of performance-focused solutions, including regular catch-ups with managers to discuss workloads (55%), assessing output and agreed deliverables (53%) and using new project management software (47%).

However, says VMware, now that direct reports are not necessarily sitting a few cubicles away, employers are evolving new ways to monitor and quantify employee productivity. Even though six in ten (59%) employees recognise their organisations have had to develop new ways to monitor productivity as part of the move to hybrid working, they say transparency remains critical. A quarter of employees (24%) don't know whether their organisation has implemented device monitoring systems on their devices to monitor their productivity.

"Globally, we're seeing organisations shift permanently to hybrid work models that don't require knowledge workers to be office-based all the time," says VMware senior VP and general manager, End-User Computing, Shankar Iyer.

"With this shift, employers should proceed with caution when replacing presentism with monitoring tools. Monitoring and performance are two very different things," he says. 

"Digital workspace tools enable people to work from anywhere, and our research shows employees are feeling more valued and trusted. A lack of transparency and measurement by stealth and numbers can quickly erode employee faith and lead to talent heading for the door in a highly competitive and challenging skills market."

Employee surveillance is one of the topics addressed in the study. Other key findings include:

  • The stabilisation of hybrid work has resulted in a new office floorplan, a virtual floorplan based more on affinity, shared goals and shared values than physical proximity. The virtual floorplan comes with new rules and new success factors for employees, leaders, and teams. 
  • Transparency and trust are emerging as vital qualities that leaders must embrace to advance and unify their organisations in a hybrid-by-default world with less central control and in-person interaction. 
  • The virtual floorplan introduces countless freedoms for employees and just as many security risks for IT. IT is navigating a new paradigm where security is a team sport with less direct control over apps, devices, and networks.

 

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