When people work from home, should their employers simply set performance goals for them and then evaluate them based on whether or not they met these or should employers monitor employees work at home to ensure that employers are where they say they are and doing what they say there are doing?
The Wall Street Journal, 30 July 2008, reports that “companies are stepping up electronic monitoring and oversight of tens of thousands of home-based independent contractors.”
Home-based workers have been increasing steadily over the years, with over 16 million home-based workers now in the U.S. That is huge!
But work is not care-free for these home workers. They can’t be sitting around working in their underwear, watching YouTube, or playing Sudoku. Employers are more often monitoring their employees by “taking photos of workers’ computer screens at random, counting keystrokes and mouse clicks, and snapping photos of them at their computers.”
That’s the visual inspection going on; then there is the audio piece. Companies are “plying sophisticated technology to instantaneously detect anger, raised voices, or children crying in the background on workers’ home-office calls. Others are using Darwinian routing systems to keep calls coming so fast workers have no time to go the bathroom.”
Is this big brother watching mentality too invasive or is it appropriate when we’re on the clock?
Well even well intentioned monitoring of home employees can certainly be taken to an extreme. One company, Arise-com “keeps its 8,000 at home agents so tightly tethered to their phones that they have to go schedule unpaid time off to go to the bathroom.”
From an enterprise architecture perspective, I believe it’s important to consider not only the performance aspect to the organization in terms of productivity and cost-effectiveness of these workers, but also to look at from a human-capital perspective with respect to treating the employees with trust, respect, and integrity.
I believe that people should be given the benefit of the doubt and treated kindly and humanly and not subjected to undue and invasive monitoring like photographing them on a webcam. Instead, let’s set ambitious, but realistic performance goals for our employees. Most the time, work at home employees end up exceeding performance expectations. For those that don’t meet their goals, then additional monitoring is appropriate to further assess their performance and to decide whether the privilege of working at home should be continued or not.
Trust but verify. Let’s start off with a core dose of trust, but have the verify ready to go for those that abuse it.