Are you electronically monitoring your employees? Is it affecting their mental health?

These days, office, manual labor, and customer service employees are routinely monitored electronically by their superiors to ensure productivity. According to the APA’s 2023 Work in America survey results, just over half of workers, 51% of them, recognize their employers are using technology to monitor workers while at work. doing.

Additionally, monitored employees are more likely to report negative psychological outcomes than unsupervised employees.

[Related: 5 ways to improve employee mental health]

Data show that 32% of employees who are being monitored using technology by their employers while at work report their mental health is poor or fair (rather than good or good), compared to 32%. , 24% of unsupervised employees are not. They found that 45% of those who were monitored reported that their workplace was having a negative impact on their mental health, compared to 29% of those who were not.

Additionally, 28% of those who are monitored say they have experienced mental health harm at work (versus 16% of those who are not monitored).

[Related: Worker well-being is in demand as organizational culture shifts]

“Many organizations make the mistake of adopting new monitoring technologies because they don’t know how to manage their remote workers,” said John Richard Butler II, professor of Human Resources and Labor Relations at Michigan State University. Dr. Behrend says.

Behrend, who is also president of the Society of Occupational and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), said, “This is wrong, because this tool is about what really matters: how workers contribute to their organization and create value.” because we have not measured the “Our data clearly shows that these productivity monitoring tools are working. do not have Leads to better performance. It’s counterproductive for the organizations that use them. “

[Related: Striving for mental health excellence in the workplace]

We thank Dr. Behrend Hammer and Leslie Hammer, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Portland State University and Co-Directors of the Oregon Health Workforce Center at the University of Oregon Health Sciences, to encourage employers and employees to use electronic monitoring to I asked for an overview of how to deal with the impact.

The results demonstrate an association between electronic surveillance and workplace stress. Data show that 56% of workers who experience surveillance feel tense or stressed at work, compared to 40% of those who are not supervised. What are the psychological effects of electronic surveillance on employees and employers?

hammer: Studies show that close monitoring of workplace behavior is extremely stressful, restricts employee autonomy, and creates anxiety about job insecurity. Additionally, stress and burnout are risk factors for poor mental health.

Some workers feel that their employers don’t trust them and that their privacy is violated. They also experience stress and anxiety. How does this affect employee-employer relationships?

hammer: When employees feel valued and untrusted by their employers, they are more likely to perceive lower levels of commitment to the organization, lower psychological safety and higher levels of stress. All of these negatively affect the relationship between employees and employers. Especially managers and supervisors.

Behrend: When surveillance is used as an intrusive method of microcontrol, it violates the implied agreement of mutual respect between workers and employers. When that trust is broken, people are much less likely to go out of their way to help the organization. They basically retreat to doing the bare minimum.

Some workers who are monitored report that they feel unimportant, unappreciated, and micromanaged at work. Importance at work is one of the five components of a healthy workplace identified by the US Surgeon General. What can employers do to help workers feel valued and understand why they use technology?

Behrend: Involving them in the design of the technology is a good first step. By asking employees what they think is a meaningful and unbiased way to measure performance, the metric is more likely to be useful and more likely to be accepted by employees upon implementation.

When asked what employers can do to protect the emotional and psychological health of their employees, some survey participants said they would simply stop spying and invading privacy. How seriously should employers take these concerns?

hammer: Very serious. When you compare the stress, strain, and burnout associated with electronic surveillance against the benefits, most professions don’t justify this. It can send a message of distrust, create feelings of insecurity, and negatively impact employees’ psychological and physical health and job performance.

There are monitoring programs that track chat room conversations to gauge employee moods and conditions, providing early warning indicators of employee mental health. Are there other psychological benefits to monitoring?

Behrend: Successful monitoring provides valuable information for training and feedback. For example, video footage of top sales performers can be used to train new sales reps. For employees who feel their efforts go unnoticed or are uncomfortable with self-promotion, monitoring data can help demonstrate their impact in a positive way. But it all depends on a culture of respect and trust. There’s no upside if surveillance data is used to punish people or justify treating them like machines.

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