Some managers have turned to using advanced software and AI to closely track everything employees do during work hours – their keyboard inputs, websites visited, documents accessed, emails sent and more. However, experts argue this level of invasive monitoring can undermine employee engagement, trust, creativity and overall performance.

Micromanaging Productivity Kills Morale

Extreme monitoring essentially micromanages employees’ use of work time. It imposes pressure to be continually working and limits flexibility around taking short breaks, handling personal tasks, or simply powering down mentally for periods. This hyper-managed, always-on expectation fuels stress and burnout. Some companies have employee monitoring software already in place to track productivity, internet usage, and other metrics. Employees feel chained to their workstations under constant surveillance, eroding job satisfaction and well-being over time. Such rigid productivity tracking also signals employees are not trusted to carry out work responsibly on their schedule. This destroys morale and goodwill toward the employer.

Creativity and Risk-Taking Suffer

Excessive monitoring changes employee behavior in ways counterproductive to innovation, problem solving and other creative outputs. When people feel watched at every moment, they become more self-conscious, risk averse and less imaginative. They shy away from exploring new ideas or knowledge domains on work time, sticking only to sanctioned tasks. They become less likely to reach out for help, share ideas freely, or collaborate openly if their exchanges are being recorded and analyzed. Such inhibition, self-censorship and consciousness of surveillance during creative processes severely limits idea generation and breakthrough thinking.

Added Stress Distorts Performance Metrics

The strain imposed by pervasive monitoring also distorts key performance metrics. While strictly controlled employees may seem more output-focused on activities like emails sent, documents drafted, calls made etc., the quality of that output suffers. For example, closely watched customer service reps may try to shorten call times at the expense of resolving customer issues. Likewise, time-pressured writers and analysts will sacrifice meticulous thinking, fact-checking and editing in order to meet expected productivity quotas under the panopticon of oversight software. Such surveillance-driven metrics say little about true performance, output quality or customer satisfaction.

A few examples of popular employee monitoring software include Controlio, which tracks activity levels, Teramind, which monitors employee behavior, and ActivTrak, which provides analytics around productivity.

Fairness and Retention Issues Emerge

Invasive monitoring feels inherently unfair, creating resentment between employees and management. Employees perceive it as a signal of distrust, while supervisors insist technology removes human bias from productivity assessments. Such one-sided surveillance with no insight into managers’ work time/activities seems doubly unfair. Employees also balk at extensive data gathering by software tracking their biological responses like eye movements or emotions. The most talented, creative employees often have options to work elsewhere and exit when monitored excessively. Being treated with dignity and respect becomes paramount. Excessive monitoring undermines that, fueling turnover that hollows out the workforce.

The Future Lies in the Right Technology, Used Wisely

While critics make important arguments around preserving employee autonomy, the reality is that technology for monitoring remote workers will continue advancing. Managers cannot ignore attendance issues, productivity gaps or output quality problems. However, technology also offers solutions tailored to support employees’ capabilities and growth areas through positive coaching rather than punitive tracking of work patterns. More managers are turning to employee monitoring software to monitor workers’s activity, including tracking productivity metrics, monitoring internet usage, and logging applications accessed during work hours.The ideal path forward emphasizes tools focused on balance, dignity and human betterment.

For example, ‘nudge tech’ can remind employees to take adequate breaks, change tasks, stretch physically or check in with colleagues rather than demanding nonstop work time at a keyboard. Likewise, automated assistants can compile personalized analytics on productivity spikes and dips to identify conditions where employees thrive and understandably lag. Anonymous surveys can detect restlessness, stagnation and low engagement so managers proactively help employees refresh skills, advance, and feel valued beyond singular tasks. Even simple reminders about maintaining work-life boundaries and self-care can promote responsibility and discretionary effort.

The key is using empathetic technology aligned with understanding what employees need to unlock their talents. Anything experienced as cold command-and-control bureaucracy will backfire on motivation. If surveillance-oriented systems become the norm, it could necessitate a parallel revival of labor rights around workplace monitoring protections. Laws in Europe already provide firmer rights around employee control issues compared to the U.S. However, the wisest course is simply management practices rooted in human dignity. Leadership supporting employees to elevate their best work selves is universally recognized over domineering productivity enforcement. The most enlightened approaches treat remote performance technology as one tool among many to enable every team member’s growth and purpose.

Conclusion

Pervasive monitoring of remote employees through invasive tracking software and constant surveillance risks damaging workforce solidarity, innovation capability and collective purpose. However, balanced use of supporting technology aligned with human aspirations still charts the path forward. Trusting managers and employees to progress together, without chronic oversight but with appropriate assistance tailored to align unique talents with shared objectives, remains the optimum model for home-based work’s next horizon.