Productivity Tracking and How It Affects Employees

CoachHub · 2 December 2022 · 7 min read

With organizations embracing the work-from-home culture, there’s been a high demand for tools that help in tracking the productivity of employees. In workplace settings, managers often get their employees to work by monitoring them. However, the post-covid remote working wave is making companies seek new ways to ensure employees stay productive regardless of their location. Since the end doesn’t always justify the means, a number of methods for tracking employee productivity are becoming counter-productive. Employers and managers need to seek more ethical ways to monitor employee activities and enhance their productivity.

What is productivity tracking?

Productivity tracking is a process of using various methods to capture and analyze work activities, including software to ensure employees are on time, at their duty posts, and are effective at their roles. It has evolved from the use of time-tracking software into the use of various software for tracking idleness, screen activity, and taking workers’ images.

It also encapsulates all forms of surveillance including the use of CCTV cameras within the workspaces to monitor what employees are doing at their jobs.

Employee tracking and surveillance—What you need to know

Tracking the productivity of employees has evolved through various phases, the earliest known use of it was with Tesco. They required their employees to wear armbands that helped to track how they moved groceries within the warehouse and the speed with which it was done. It was easy to identify underperforming employees and helped save time generally.

The productivity surveillance process has far moved on from here. Companies now employ more advanced means such as employing software to download worker’s screens, frequent snapshots of a worker’s face at work, and even tracking smartphone data to monitor activities within work hours.

With recent research showing that employees work more days from home in 2022 than the previous year, employers now resort to using a productivity tracking tool. The intent is to ensure that their employees are working actively from home.

As it stands, the information from the software helps managers know that their employees are doing their jobs even when it’s not within an office setting. Using worker-monitoring technology helps them to determine if workers are making the most of their work hours and spending it on work-related activities.

productivity tracking

The challenge with employee productivity tracking

While most organizations have justifiable reasons to monitor employees, the means of achieving it is not always noble. Taking frequent snapshots of the face of an employee working remotely, for instance, may be invasive. You really can’t determine how a person chooses to do the job from the comfort of their home. With software taking frequent snapshots, it’s possible to have private moments captured while the employee isn’t at their desk.

In many cases, how a worker chooses to get the job done is not often a true measure of how productive they are. Due to years of experience on the job, some employees are likely to figure out how to get their job done faster than others. A productivity software that records screen time is likely to deem employees who spend longer time at their jobs as more productive than the one who has found an efficient way to do it faster.

Moreso, it can negatively affect how an employee perceives their work. It’s better to focus on results and performance measurement metrics than to use surveillance software to monitor workers. More often than not, the results from tracking might not necessarily be the best measure of productivity. It’s best to embrace an intrinsic approach than to apply extrinsic approaches to monitoring employee productivity.

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How productivity tracking affects employees

It’s important that employers get the utmost productivity from their employees no doubt, however, studies have shown that employees are negatively responding to being monitored. This is not the kind of response employers are looking forward to, unfortunately, it’s becoming the case. The downside is that the organization wouldn’t be getting value for the money spent in acquiring the productivity tracking tool. Additionally, employees may still not be productive and it could lead to an unexpected ripple effect which could mean the monitoring system backfired.

Employers might be risking a lot putting such systems in place due to how it affects employees and how they choose to respond to it. Here are some examples of how tracking employee productivity is affecting them.

Anxiety and reduced effectiveness:

Tracking employee productivity can negatively impact employee output. An employee who knows that they are being monitored can slip into a state of anxiety. They get under pressure to perform and the focus soon moves from being productive to impressing employers and meeting time trackers. This anxiety can further lead to reduced effectiveness and worse off, costly mistakes. Ultimately the purpose of the tracker backfires on the overall job performance.

Unfair estimation of work performance:

Since productivity tracking tools are often digitally operated, it means that anything done off the desktop or offline that’s associated with the job is not tracked. Sometimes, employees have to choose to make a quick work-related call over sending an email that may not get seen immediately. Depending on how long the calls take, the tracker may assume the employee to be idle within that time frame. This is definitely unfair tracking for a hardworking employee. If they always have to explain what went down in that period, the organization may risk losing that employee.

Work-induced health challenges:

While anxiety is common, further health challenges can stem from productivity tracking. An employee looking to meet up with their productivity tracker might develop habits that are detrimental to their health. For instance, someone who needs to take bathroom breaks might hold it off till the scheduled break time. This habit can lead to health challenges for that employee later on. Moreso, some employees may prioritize working at their desks over taking their much-needed rest and paying attention to their health in a bid to meet up with the tracker.

Increased chances of rule-breaking:

When employees are monitored at their jobs, it could induce a tendency to rebel in the employee. They may begin to take unapproved breaks from work just to do other things off their desks because they know they are being monitored. You may find others who intentionally slow down the pace of their work because they want the tracker to record that they’re busy working for a longer time.

Workers may lose their sense of morality and identity:

It may be challenging for workers whose performance is being monitored to retain their sense of identity. It can turn them into target-driven individuals who would risk anything and do anything to prove to their employees that they are productive at their jobs. It could even make them lose their sense of morality as they may begin to seek ways to bypass the tracker or tweak it in their favor. It could lead to an employee applying gimmicks to get free time to themselves because they know they’re been monitored during work hours.

Toxic work culture and poor employee experience:

In productivity tracking, employees have less time to relate with one another because they are conscious of being tracked. Additionally, it could breed an air of distrust where employees apply various gimmicks on the job, so they’re perceived as the most productive ones on the job. This breeds an air of toxicity in a work setting and leads to overall poor employee experiences.


Productivity tracking; An ethical way to go about it

Employers must begin to look at different ways to ensure employee productivity other than using surveillance and productivity tracking software. It’s important to estimate the cost of productivity tracking and how it’s affecting employees’ health and performance. The best bet is to employ a more holistic approach to enhance employee productivity. Some of these include:

Personalized coaching for employees:

Investing in employee coaching helps them to realize how to harness their strength for optimum performance. In fact, they get to share their work-from-home challenges with their personal coaches and gain insights into navigating them without letting it affect their productivity. Overall, they’re equipped with the right knowledge of work best practices that they can apply to stay productive. With an increased sense of self-worth, coached employees are less likely to be underproductive, as they have a higher tendency to go all out with their work.

Direct reports and accountability structures:

Setting up direct reports and accountability structures makes it easier for employees to stay as productive as possible. They are aware that they would need to report back on their work and are accountable to certain people on how well they’re doing. It’s even easier if metrics are in place to measure performance. This means there would not be a need for productivity trackers as employees are more likely to deliver as expected.

Final words…

Productivity tracking is taking its toll on employees, and it could have negative impacts on their overall performance. The best way to avoid taking this route while still ensuring employee productivity is to apply intrinsic measures over extrinsic approaches. This involves getting employees to report back on their progress to established accountability structures and also providing personalized coaching to help enhance their productivity.

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Samuel Olawole
Samuel Olawole is a freelance copywriter and content writer who specializes in creating exciting content across a wide range of topics and industries. When he’s not writing, you can find him traveling or listening to good music.

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