Big Brother is watching, and he happens to be your employer. Although courts leave such monitoring to the employer’s discretion, the decision to do so may have an adverse effect on employee well being. Experts say the extent of employee monitoring has increased steadily due largely to the growing array of data-gathering gadgets known as the Internet of Things.
A recent Daily Democrat Business article on the subject notes that a number of companies encourage their workers to [voluntarily] wear fitness devices to record how much exercise they get. Smart wearable gadgets give users an opportunity to take charge of their health and wellness.
Companies that invest in Corporate Wellness programs see the following benefits, according to research.
- Create a culture of well-being;
- Improve participant health status;
- Increase employee productivity; and
- Increase employee acquisition and retention.
On the surface, these qualities promise a win-win scenario for both employer and employee. Healthier employees beget increased productivity. But University of Maryland law professor Frank Pasquale believes that even when the data gathering is voluntary, many workers would feel compelled to participate, fearing their bosses will suspect they’re hiding something if they refuse.
“Eventually the game gets to where everybody has to do it,” he said. “You have to nip it in the bud or very rapidly it becomes the norm.”
Some companies use software to track what their employees do when working on their computers at home, including which websites they visit and how much time they spend on assigned tasks. Excessive monitoring of any kind can make employees anxious, depressed and “less active.” Other studies have found that monitoring can cause exhaustion, indigestion, back pain, sore arms and legs, numbness in fingers and wrists, and make them less willing to take creative risks.
“The very act of being measured, being put under the microscope, changes behavior, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way,” said Harikesh Nair, professor of marketing at Stanford. As a result, companies have a choice to make when implementing such measures.
Forrester Research analyst J. P. Gownder believes most employers will refrain from using technology to bird-dog their employees, because “people are going to vote with their feet and not want to work for a company that is overly snooping.”
For more information on the pros and cons of employee monitoring, read the full Daily Democrat Business article.
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