If you are watching your employees, it may be time to look away

Organisations who persistently monitor employees' work may be losing an opportunity to build workplace inclusiveness and belonging.
By: | June 28, 2024

Imagine sitting at your workstation in the office and having your manager standing over your shoulder checking if you are actively engaged at work.

Perhaps a transition to working from home (WFH) will resolve the issue. Or maybe not.

Last month, Wells Fargo reportedly fired over a dozen employees for “simulation of keyboard activity”, with a company spokesperson telling Reuters, “Wells Fargo holds employees to the highest standards and does not tolerate unethical behaviour.”

These employees had allegedly used “mouse jigglers” to create the illusion that they were working. While there has been no confirmation from Wells Fargo if these were indeed WFH employees, it is hard to imagine such a scenario taking place in the confines of the physical office.

Does this also represent another blow to the remote/hybrid work experiment?

Jeanne Achille, CEO, The Devon Group, told HRM Asia, “The financial services industry was one of the first to aggressively insist that employees return to their offices or, at the very least, agree to a hybrid work environment. That sent a strong signal throughout these workplaces that, post-pandemic, the return to office was expected and an important part of the respective corporate culture.”

Where Wells Fargo is concerned, Achille noted that they have suffered from significant reputation management issues in the past. Evidence of employees faking active work, she added, could be emblematic of larger fraudulent activities.

However, the financial services sector is not solely representative of the rise in employee surveillance, as more employers choose to monitor the work of their employees, particularly those working remotely.

Does this signify a trust gap that needs to be bridged and is it counterproductive to efforts to create a culture of trust and inclusion in the workplace?

READ MORE: Employee in Australia fired over WFH inactivity

Rather than seeing this as a trust issue, Achille believes that many organisations are making a direct connection between a “return to normal” with the return to office and are perhaps less tolerant of employees who do not share the same vision.

“I do think it’s important to provide an environment where employees can collaborate and learn. If employers are not willing to extend that dynamic to their WFH employees, many opportunities for both the employer and employee are lost. We need to accept different ways of work to ensure inclusiveness and belonging in the workplace,” she concluded.

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