How Technology Monitoring is Killing Productivity

It’s Monday morning and Kate starts her workday early ready to tackle the week ahead, and out of the blue she receives a phone call that a family member is seriously ill. Overwhelmed by emotions she calls her best friend to vent. Sadly, after just nine minutes go by, Kate tells her friend she can’t talk and has to get back to work because if her computer is idle too long she will get in trouble. 

We’ve all had crises like this, where we’ve needed a moment to recover. Unfortunately knowing you need a moment and having the space to take one are not always aligned in the workplace, especially with productivity monitoring. This example paints perfectly the negative side of digital productivity monitoring software. Here a dedicated employee was dealing with a stressful life situation, desperately needed time away, and did not have the work flexibility to provide herself with the selfcare she needed.

Today, digital productivity monitoring software is spreading among white-collar jobs, with the aim of measuring and monitoring productivity. Some companies are saying that technology is the key to optimizing productivity. But the truth of the matter is this monitoring destroys trust, company culture and psychological safety in the workplace. The Times recently published an article on this issue and cited that in interviews and written submissions to The Times, workers across a variety of jobs — pharmaceutical assistants, insurance underwriters, employees of e-commerce companies — said productivity pressure had led to problems with bathroom breaks. Technology has created a culture where employees do not feel comfortable to take a coffee break or bathroom break. 

We are in a time of increased work stress, where people are struggling to create boundaries between work and home, burnout is at an all-time high and job dissatisfaction has increased. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report found that job dissatisfaction is at a staggering all-time high and that unhappy and disengaged workers cost the global economy $7.8 trillion in lost productivity. It is clear that something in the workplace is not working. So why are we turning to technology for optimizing productivity instead of people?

With more research showing the success of remote work, working four-day weeks and working more efficiently not more hours, the key to optimizing productivity is not monitoring technology but employee wellness. Research has shown that over 80% of employees whose employers are engaged in their wellness say they enjoy work. Not only that, but about 85% say they intend to stay at their jobs. In contrast, of those whose employers aren’t engaged in their wellness, only about 40% say they enjoy work, and 58% say they intend to stay at their current company.

Circling back to the example above – how successful do you think the employee above was when they returned to the office overstressed and unable to talk? If you guessed, not productive at all, you are correct. Conversely, if they were able to take a break, talk to a friend, practice some stress management exercises and then return to work, their quality of work and productivity would have been immensely improved.

This leads us to the question – how do you improve your team’s productivity? Instead of depending on technology to track productivity, we should be working to set KPIs and goals that can be discussed and observed between an employee and their supervisor. Additionally, we should be connecting with our team and understanding their wellness needs so that they are able to work their best and live their best every day. This is why at R.E.S.S.E.T, we use our mental health assessments to anonymously understand the stressors employees are facing at work, so that their employers can better support them, make them feel safe and valued and as a result create a culture full psychological safety. To learn more about our process, click here.

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