HomeBusinessEmployee productivity tools and privacy: monitor performance, not the person

Employee productivity tools and privacy: monitor performance, not the person

In today’s fast-paced work environment, employee productivity is a critical component of organisational success. To ensure optimal performance, employers often resort to various productivity tools, which range from time-tracking software to project management applications. However, some of these tools can infringe on employees’ right to privacy, leading to negative consequences.


Employee-monitoring software, for example, is a common productivity tool that has gained popularity in recent years. These tools capture and track employees’ activities, such as keystrokes, screen time, and web browsing. While this technology may seem like an excellent way to gauge productivity levels, it often results in a breach of privacy, and employees feel as if they are under constant surveillance. In light of this, how should organisations approach the task of ensuring their employees are functioning optimally?


 Many monitoring tools are counterproductive  

In order to answer that question, it’s important to understand why so many employee monitoring tools are actually counterproductive (despite forming part of an industry that’s expected to be worth US$2.1 billion by 2030). Instead of enhancing workforce productivity, a considerable portion of these tools elicit a sense of being monitored among employees.


If you’ve ever had to complete an urgent task with somebody standing over your shoulder, you know how detrimental that can be to productivity. Suddenly your ability to type, design, or run spreadsheet formulae flies out the window. Having a machine do the digital equivalent is scarcely any better. That’s to say nothing of the fact that they focus on employees as the primary vector of productivity, rather than processes, fragmented software ecosystems, and numerous other factors that play a role in determining productivity.


Trust is a crucial component of the employee–employer relationship, even in traditional office settings where employees are trusted to do their jobs. The use of employee monitoring software, particularly for high-performing employees, compromises this trust.

Moreover, many productivity tools measure poor proxies for actual productivity. For instance, an advertising agency employee who produces three high-quality briefs in the morning before running personal errands may be more productive than an employee who takes the whole day to compile one brief. However, some monitoring tools focus on bums-on-seats, rewarding the latter employee instead. This approach can demotivate high-performing employees, leading to a higher staff turnover rate.

 Measure the right things, reap the rewards  

Good task management software will easily allow businesses to manage and track the life cycle of all projects in the pipeline. They cannot just monitor performance against set tasks, they also need to make it easier for employees to be productive by converting emails into tasks, for instance.


Furthermore, they allow organisations to filter out employees who are overburdened, distribute work evenly, and also keep track of important key performance indicators (KPIs). Using software that takes this approach means that you can measure performance against work done, rather than time spent online. Additionally, because it’s less intrusive than employee monitoring software, it doesn’t provide the same dispiriting sense that you’re constantly being watched. A good task management software can also help firms identify bottlenecks. Managers can then create processes to overcome them.  


 Embrace change now  

Asynchronous work is becoming more prevalent, and successful four-day workweek experiments have shown that traditional work models may no longer be effective. Consequently, businesses must adopt a performance-based approach to monitor productivity that aligns with their goals. Employers can make data-driven decisions that result in positive and productive changes for the organisation.