Employees unclear about surveillance in their workplace, new report reveals

new report from Capterra has found that more than a third of Canadian employees are being monitored with software at work.

The survey of 752 employees in Canada revealed that while most companies were using such tools since before the pandemic, many employees still continue to show lack of awareness of workplace surveillance practices.

Of the 752 surveyed, 49 were at training level, such as interns, apprentices and experience-gathering roles. Two hundred and fifty one of the surveyed employees were at junior levels, 289 were at intermediate levels, such individual contributor with management responsibilities but no direct reports, and 163 were at management level.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some businesses turned to digital tools to help make the transition to remote work easier. Using technology in the workplace has become a norm and some companies have chosen to use monitoring software to provide insight into employee workloads, productivity management, and for timekeeping and HR purposes.

While the tools are designed to give managers virtual oversight of employees, some data-collecting practices can leave employees worrying about their privacy and security, Capterra reported. 

According to respondents at management level who currently using monitoring tools, 81 per cent are using tools that track employee attendance.

Source: Capterra

At the moment, over 30 per cent of Canadian employees surveyed work in a company that uses at least one employee monitoring tool. Twenty eight per cent of that group have been using this tool since before the pandemic, and seven per cent of them had employers who implemented these tools after COVID-19 began.

Forty seven per cent said their employers are not using any employee tracking software, but Capterra said this may vary depending on their position in the company. According to the report, employees at management level reported they were not under workplace surveillance at higher rates than those in entry-level positions, indicating that employee surveillance could be used more often for those at lower ranks.

Source: Capterra

Outside of Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec, there are no concrete laws on how much of employee data may be monitored, although unionized workplaces can organize agreements including such rules. However, this does not mean companies have zero responsibilities when it comes to employee privacy. Employees can report concerns regarding invasion of privacy or misuse of data to the Privacy Commissioner, who could start an investigation of an organization’s privacy practices.

Some provinces may be in the process of legislating the disclosure of electronic monitoring to employees, but they are currently not obligated to do so. The majority of employees working in companies using monitoring software have been trained on it, and 37 per cent of them have signed consent agreements. However, the survey revealed that not all employees were provided the same information. 

Outside of those who’d signed consent agreements, employers took varying approaches to informing employees that they were being monitored: Twenty four per cent were verbally informed, 23 per cent were informed via email, and 16 per cent were never informed. 

Employees have mixed feelings about being monitored at work. 

Of those surveyed, 65 per cent said the implementation of monitoring tools had no perceived effect on the work environment, and 23 per cent said it made the workplace more “hostile” by adding more stress to the job.

The report revealed that, according to respondents, companies had the following reasons for implementing employee monitoring software. Almost 50 per cent believed it was used to improve productivity, 25 per cent believed it was to verify employees worked their exact hours, and just 13 per cent believed it was to track their workload.

With hybrid work models slowly being rolled out, Capterra suggested that employers considering implementing employee surveillance programs need to be careful not to taint opinions of the remote workplace. 

In fact, a Gartner report revealed that employees feel more comfortable being monitored if they know exactly what is being monitored and the reasons behind it. While obtaining consent for employee surveillance isn’t a legal requirement in Canada as of now, according to Capterra it can help staff feel trusted and considered.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Samira Balsara
Samira Balsara
Samira is a writer for IT World Canada. She is currently pursuing a journalism degree at Toronto Metropolitan University (formally known as Ryerson) and hopes to become a news anchor or write journalistic profiles. You can email her at sbalsara@itwc.ca

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