It’s easy these days to feel disturbed even when you’re quiet working from home.
The messages are constant. The pings ring in your ears and leave a nasty echo.
And then there’s the espionage.
When the pandemic hit, companies worried they could no longer observe their employees like they used to. They couldn’t loom over them, see how long it took them for lunch — or a bathroom break.
It’s frustrating to be a boss and not have full control. You should have it, right? You’re the boss.
Upbeat tech companies dropped by to provide what these bosses really needed: spy software that could remotely track their employees’ every keystroke and body movement.
Why, one technology company? insisted it could provide bosses with a productivity number for each employee.
Because it warms up the bosses everywhere. And, of course, because it’s a tremendously cost-effective way to force employees into ever-increasing productivity.
Or is it?
I was taken to several levels of total standstill, you see, reading a… expose about surveillance software in the Wall Street Journal.
It described the different levels of privacy offered by different types of software. It explained that Microsoft is one of the companies that does not believe that simple activity translates into material productivity.
But then it offered the opinion of two professors: Valerio De Stefano of York University in Canada and Antonio Aloisi of IE University in Madrid.
They have written a book called “Your boss is an algorithmSo, many people must feel that this is true now.
However, their sharpest conclusion about surveillance software is certainly the most painful for those who succumb to it every day because they feel they have no choice.
As Aloisi said to the WSJ: “There is absolutely no research to suggest that this increases productivity in any meaningful way.”
I can already hear you muttering that science, like the law, is always too slow for the rapid innovations of technology. I hear others of you sniff that this may be so, but wouldn’t it be nice to have objective, peer-reviewed evidence that surveillance technology makes people more productive?
There is, it seems, some scientific evidence that the reverse may be true.
But think about basic human psychology. Are you ever at your best when you know you’re being spied on? Are you offering the best version of yourself when you are aware that every move you make is being recorded? It’s not easy to dance like no one is watching.
Or maybe you are most productive when you work for people who rely on your talent and judgment?
There is another aspect. What does it say about managers ability to manage if they have to constantly monitor those they manage? Would this indicate a lack of confidence in their management skills? Or even a simple lack of their management skills?
I wonder who will invent it surveillance software that only works for a certain time and then says: “Yes, this employee can be completely confident that he will get to work with it himself. Turn off the surveillance now.”
Wouldn’t that at least have a chance to be productive?