Why businesses need to prioritise transparency over surveillance

With living rooms evolved into office spaces and family members, pets and roommates potentially co-inhabiting the space, distractions for remote employees are everywhere. Many small and medium-sized business leaders are tasked to manage remote workforces for the first time and need to ensure the transition doesn’t impact negatively on productivity.

For some business leaders, the desire to maintain high levels of productivity has prompted gravitation to surveillance measures, with technologies being used to monitor the activity levels of their team as they adapt to a new way of working.  These technologies can monitor web browsing, record the amount of time spent on an application, and even screenshot a worker’s screen.  

The unfortunate outcome is the damage to employee trust and team morale and the risk of raising concerns around employee privacy. A large majority of the workforce (72 per cent) are expecting flexible working conditions even after the pandemic, it makes sense that small business leaders are looking into “productivity” tools to ensure they are prepared for the future of work. But how can they ensure they strike the right balance between achieving productivity with effective management and a culture of transparency, without stalking employees and ultimately, compromising on trust?

Problems with the over-the-shoulder manager

In difficult times like these, ensuring productivity is an important ingredient for survival. However, surveillance tools designed to track employees is not the ideal way to achieve this. Nor, is it the most conducive to team culture. The reality is that the costs of surveillance technologies outweigh its productivity promise. This is not merely the cost of investment, but the cost of its adverse effect in creating a barrier of distrust between employers and their workforces.

Workers will feel inclined to look busy rather than focusing on thinking strategically about creating positive outcomes. The worst-case scenario would be breaching employee privacy rights, should employees be unaware of the extent to which they are being monitored.

Generate productivity through transparency

Instead of exerting big brother powers over employees, small business owners need to focus on establishing a positive remote working culture by enforcing transparency regardless of where the employee is working. Transparency is a much healthier way of fostering productivity among teams, as employees need to feel supported, not intimidated by surveillance techniques.

SMBs can build a culture of transparency by enabling seamless communications. Managers and leaders need to open the lines of communications to ensure regular and open dialogue with employees. Whether it’s checking in on a regular basis or organising scheduled catch-ups, increased communications between teams will create natural opportunities to discuss workflows and identify any issues on productivity. It is a much more open way to tackle productivity.

Business leaders can also work on increasing workflow visibility. For any small business, time and resources are already limited. Collaborative work management solutions help cut down on the time team members spend checking in with each other for updates on projects and tasks. An efficient collaboration tool for workflow visibility and project management helps free up time for important actions.

These are simple ways small businesses can nurture a culture that encourages transparency at all levels. Employees need not to feel paranoid about being monitored by their managers and peers, but rather, feel they are trusted and supported to be autonomous in their work. It is only then that they will feel empowered to work collaboratively and with transparency, boosting productivity no matter where they’re located.

Fintan Lalor, Regional Manager – APAC, Wrike

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