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Does Workplace Surveillance Makes a Remote Team Productive

Workplace surveillance

2020 has been a year of massive changes in the corporate world. Remote work has become the new norm, and every day more companies are implementing flexible arrangements for their employees. But not everything is rainbows and butterflies, and within these arrangements, some managers are still looking for ways to implement workplace surveillance methods in their remote teams.

Microsoft is a clear example of going too far in terms of workplace surveillance. They recently announced the new Microsoft 365 features that have the purpose of tracking remote workers’ productivity and wellbeing. However, their new Productivity Score feature allowed managers to closely trace what their employees were doing while working from home at an individual level.  

Microsoft Productivity Score Surveillance Tool

Now, some of you might be wondering what’s the big drama with the Microsoft Productivity Score surveillance tool if there are many other monitoring tools as well.

The thing is that this tool is not like other tools. This one is more invasive. In the words of the researcher Wolfie Christl via Twitter:  

“Employers/managers can analyze employee activities at the individual level (!), for example, the number of days an employee has been sending emails, using the chat, using ‘mentions’ in emails, etc.”

Wolfie Christl

Forbes even defined Microsoft’s tool as a “privacy nightmare” because it broke the boundaries between managers and their employees. The Productivity Score service allows managers to see closely technical information about their network. They can understand how employees use the features and identify which employees didn’t contribute enough or use the tools in the long-term. 

Despite Jared Spataro, Microsoft 365’s corporate VP, stated in October that the tool was not for work monitoring, last week, he announced that Microsoft will remove individual usernames from the tool entirely. Spataro explained:

“Going forward, the communications, meetings, content collaboration, teamwork and mobility measures in productivity score will only aggregate data at the organization level – providing a clear measure of organization-level adoption of key features, no one in the organization will be able to use productivity score to access data about how an individual user is using apps and services in Microsoft 365.”

Jared Spataro

Is Workplace Surveillance Necessary? 

Working from home is hard for everyone. Most employees struggle to learn and use the tools. Others have a hard time creating a routine or trying not to overwork. 

On the other hand, managers need to learn how to build trust and encourage productivity in a digital environment. For some leaders, this has been easy, but others are struggling to find the right strategies. At the beginning of the pandemic, they were managers who thought their employees were taking naps instead of working. 

Micromanagers, specifically, that were used to spy on their employees at the office, thought the world was ending when they had to lead their teams from home. Therefore, many of them felt that remote employee monitoring was the solution to everything. It was the key to make their employees productive.

What happened recently with Microsoft lead to an interesting debate regarding the limits and boundaries that work from home surveillance has. 

Many managers are okay with it because they genuinely believe it’s the best way to encourage productivity. However, the downside of these trackers is that trust is harmed. Employees feel that their employers don’t believe in their word and in their capability of doing their job. 

If you’re looking to boost productivity, get results, build a healthy culture, then your answer is not in workplace surveillance tools but in creating trust in your team. When you build a team based on trust, your employees will be more engaged and motivated to work.

As Sharon Koifman, DistantJob’s President explained in his bestseller at launch book, Surviving Remote Work:

Surviving remote work quote

Boost Productivity by Building Trust in Your Team

Now the challenge is in building trust 100% remotely. But honestly, this sounds more difficult than it is. You just need to make time for your employees and apply the right methods. 

While employee monitoring is one of the tools you might be tempted to use, you can use other strategies to help you build trust rather than an environment filled with fear and pressure.

Here are some tips that can help you build trust remotely:

1. Daily standups

At DistantJob, we love implementing Agile practices. The daily standups consist of 15 min daily meetings (we make them via Zoom) where every employee shares what they did yesterday and what they will do today. This way, you know what everyone is up to or if someone needs help.

If you feel meetings are a waste of time, you can change the format and do it by Slack or any other tool you like using.

2. 1:1’s

Feedback meetings are beneficial for both managers and employees. Make time to talk to each one of your employees individually, ask them how they feel in the company, in their role. In other words, care about them. 

You can also ask them for feedback; this way, you’ll know if you’re doing things right or if you need to change something about the way you lead.

3. Empathize

Maybe you have employees who are parents and need to take care of their children while working from home. This means they won’t be working from 9 to 5 because maybe their smallest kid ate a butterfly, or their dog is biting the couch. You don’t know exactly what’s happening on the other side of the screen.

By empathizing, you are trusting that they will provide the results you need. Focus on the output, not on the time they spend working in their home office.

4. Have fun

Building trust is also getting to know each employee. While 1:1’s and meetings help you know a bit more about the people you work with, virtual water cooler activities will make that process even faster.

You can set up coffee dates once a week or make virtual tournaments of the things your team enjoys!

5. Hire the right people

Hiring the right people is a path directly to trust. If you hire a candidate you feel might not fulfill your expectations, they likely won’t. You’ll feel forced to use workplace surveillance tools, to ask them frequently about their job, if they need help, or correct them in everything, making you waste time and making them waste energy and motivation.

The point of hiring someone for your team is to let that person take charge of several tasks while you go and do other important tasks. If you try to do everything, you won’t only get exhausted, but your team will not feel valued, and again, trust is damaged.

But when you hire a talented remote worker, it’s easier to build trust. You know their abilities, and you know they will do an awesome job, so there’s no need to check on them 24/7.

If you haven’t found the right person for your team, let us help you! We are experts in hiring top tech talent and helping companies scale their remote teams successfully. 

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Gabriela Molina

Gabriela Molina

Gabriela Molina is the writer and editor of the DistantJob blog. As a former freelancer, she has covered a wide range of topics throughout her career. She is currently specializing in the areas of technology, leadership, and remote work.