Should you need software to monitor remote workers' productivity?

Microsoft has come under fire about a software feature that is being described as "workplace surveillance."

The Microsoft 365 'productivity score' allows managers to track each individual employee's activity, from emails to group chats. Critics have condemned the tech as "the most invasive workplace surveillance scheme yet to hit mainstream."

As someone who was worked remotely, as both a freelancer and an employee, for several years, I'm always intrigued as to why managers feel the need to micromanage the activity of remote team members. Managing remote workers does require some different or additional skills to in-person management, but productivity measures should be broadly similar.

If you already have a good system in place to manage your staff, set and communicate clear goals, keep track of progress and address any shortfalls, where does the need arise to monitor every keystroke or login? Would you feel the need to do this if they were working in the office?

It's not even a question of trust. When you have strong management structures in place to give you clear oversight of your team's workload, there is no need to simply trust that your staff are working. You'll be able to prove it!

Among employers who remain sceptical about the value of remote working, there needs to be a raised awareness of the impact that overbearing scrutiny can have on staff morale, productivity and retention. Also, if there is a genuine belief among management that employees cannot be trusted to behave like responsible, dutiful adults when out of sight, there may be something lacking in the hiring process!


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