In April, Amazon was criticized when warehouse workers in the United Kingdom who were tracked for how fast it took them to pick and package items revealed unseemly work conditions, including having to urinate in bottles because they didn’t have time to go to the bathroom. The company denied the allegations.
It’s one example of monitoring in the workplace allegedly going to the extreme by setting unrealistic productivity goals for employees.
Measuring productivity should never involve either micromanaging employees or taking away basic human needs, said Khiv Singh, senior vice president of marketing at Sapience Analytics, a people analytics company in Frisco, Texas.
“Unfortunately, management in many organizations are going about the wrong way to measure productivity. Measuring time spent in the office or on desk is a poor measure of productivity and can in fact promote bad behavior,” he said.
Companies also should not look at productivity in isolation, he added. What drives productivity is the employee’s talent, the effort they put in and the processes they follow to do their work.
“Just asking employees to put in more effort or time at work won’t increase productivity,” Singh said.
What organizations need, he added, is a way to capture the true effort of a team in a transparent manner, correlating it with productivity and collectively finding ways to improve productivity while maintaining employee privacy, wellness and engagement at the core.
The monitoring itself is not the problem in unhealthy work environments, according to some experts. Rather, it’s the goal of the organization and what they’re using the data for.
Unrealistic goal-setting is what compels people to behave in a way that’s unhealthy, said Tara Behrend, associate professor of industrial-organizational psychology at George Washington University. “It would happen with or without the monitoring,” she said.
Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editor. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.