More employers are tracking employees with digital tools, but striking a perfect balance between employee productivity and employee privacy is proving to be one challenge that has garnered concerns from the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
According to a report by SkyNews, ICO has issued a stern warning to employers about the use of workplace monitoring. The office emphasized the importance of transparency, urging employers to be open with their staff about the nature, extent, and reasons for any monitoring practices.
This advisory comes in the wake of a survey commissioned by the ICO, revealing that nearly 19% of employees believe they have been monitored by their employers. Such monitoring can range from tracking calls, messages, and keystrokes to capturing screenshots, webcam footage, and even audio recordings, according to SkyNews. With the rise of flexible working and the increasing number of employees working from home since the COVID pandemic, concerns about privacy invasion in one’s personal space have grown.
The ICO’s new guidance suggests that any monitoring in the U.K. should be necessary, proportionate, and respectful of workers’ rights and freedoms. Employers are also advised to ensure any data collected aligns with data protection laws and is accessible to staff upon request.
Notably, the ICO’s survey also shed light on generational differences in perceptions of workplace monitoring. While 23% of younger staff (aged 18-24) believe they’ve been monitored, this perception rises to 25% for those aged between 25 and 34. In contrast, only 11% of workers aged over 55 feel the same. Overall, 70% of respondents found the idea of being monitored by an employer intrusive.
The intersection of productivity and privacy will be a talking point for both employers and employees — especially for those with flexible work environments. As the boundaries between professional and personal spaces blur, the trend of workplace monitoring is likely to impact more in the workforce globally.
However, the success of employers monitoring employees will likely hinge on respecting individual privacy while working together to boost productivity. While monitoring can offer insights into employee performance and efficiency, it’s important that it doesn’t come at the cost of trust and mental well-being.