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Quantity vs Quality: How Productive Is Surveillance Software?

We've all dealt with or knew a manager who preferred to be more involved in and hands-on during ongoing work projects. Sometimes it can be beneficial to have someone else to work with and bounce ideas off of: other kind of wish they would just let you work independently. This is not behavior exclusive to just managers and is also frequently practiced by companies. Even before the pandemic and working remote became a more common option for people, companies were implementing surveillance software; tracking clicks, mouse movements, activity, etc. From a manager's perspective it makes sense to think, "this will keep people honest about actually working and not scrolling social media while working from home." Instead, it has instilled in employees this feeling of constant overwatch.

So what does implementing surveillance software actually accomplish? Does it help "keep employees honest" about the hours they're working? Are productivity levels going up? Is surveillance software an asset or a company culture time bomb?

"78% of employees believe that the more hours they put in at work is directly correlated to getting promoted." conducted a survey in September 2021 of 1,250 U.S. employers and found that 60% were using monitoring software of some type to watch over their remote employees. Of those companies, 90% said they terminated workers based on the information from that software. What that software didn't track was the quality of the work that these employees were doing; just keystrokes and clicks.

While some software is aimed at security maintenance, usually in the case of industries that work with details like bank information, credit cards, or other sensitive information, others are purely just looking to see if employees are 'staying active.' And with constant reports back to managers showing who on the team is 'not as productive as other teammates,' this leads to the termination of potentially really strong employees.

Monitoring software like this just further solidifies employees' concern that quantity (i.e., the number of hours you put in at work) is valued over the quality of work. We've all experienced seeing coworkers staying late at the office, working weekends, and then lo and behold they get promoted! In fact, 78% of employees believe that the more hours they put in at work is directly correlated to getting promoted according to a study by Bridge by Instructure. In reality though, "employee productivity actually starts to decline once a given worker puts in 50 hours within the same workweek," according to a Stanford University study.

So, the obvious problem from all sides here is that employees and employers alike feel like the indicator of a 'good employee' is time spent, hours put in, once again, quantity over quality. When in reality, the main indicator of employee productivity and overall success is employee wellbeing. Here are some of the facts:

- Happy employees are 13% more productive (siting an Oxford study)

- Happy employees are also more likely to stay at their organization (reducing the cost of training new talent)

- Happy employees take 1/10th the amount of sick leave compared to their unhappy coworkers (due to less stress and burnout)

- A culture of happiness can actually translate into increased customer loyalty

Instead of software tracking clicks and mouse movement, companies need to focus on understanding employee pain points and facilitating overall employee wellbeing. If their goals are productivity, retention, and leadership development, analyzing and prioritizing employee happiness will be a much more accurate indicator of the success of teams and the company as a whole.