It looks certain that working from home is the new normal.
With the current restrictions possibly set to stay in place until the spring there is very little chance of a widespread return to the office in the next few months.
And even after that it seems likely that employers will be reluctant to head back into the office to resume the sort of working life we knew this time last year. The benefits of working from home – for both employers and employees – look certain to mean that more flexible working arrangements will continue long into the future.
One spin off of the working from home revolution is that software companies are reporting a big increase in interest in devices which track or monitor staff remotely.
A range of major software suppliers say they have seen inquiries about monitoring equipment soar as bosses try to find a way of ensuring that they can keep an eye on staff even though they are no longer in the office.
So should your company be looking at introducing such measures?
Our advice would be to tread very carefully at the current time.
This is not simply a matter of checking up on staff as if they were in the office, but involves the complexities of GDPR and data protection, privacy and also the terms and conditions laid out in employees’ contracts.
In terms of GDPR there could be all manner of steps you will need ton take to comply with the current legislation if you do install monitoring software. You’ll certainly need to conduct a detailed assessment of the impact on privacy for all staff who will be caught up in the new system.
You’ll need to be open and transparent about the steps you are taking, update the contracts of all those affected to reflect the new monitoring and set out in detail how the information you gather will be stored, who will have access to it, how it will be used, and how it might be deleted from the system in due course.
And if you introduce such software only sporadically, you run the risk of individuals feeling singled out, and possibly bringing discrimination or constructive dismissal action as a result.
There is no legal right to privacy at work under current laws, so technically there is nothing to stop you monitoring computer usage to measure productivity and protect your businesses interests. But the European Convention on Human Rights does safeguard privacy, and anything which is seen to infringe on it in an individual’s home could be problematic.
What’s more, what would monitoring say to your staff about the regard in which you hold them? Unless you can show a marked drop in productivity as a result of the move to homeworking, measures to track staff activity are likely to be seen as Big Brother snooping on the workers.
Rather than start from the premise of using technology to solve any problems in this area, how about using your management skills to identify key areas of concern and then address them in more conventional ways.
By focussing more on areas of trust, empowerment and team-building, you are likely to enjoy much longer and wider benefits than by simply reverting to technology and alienating your staff.
It’s a complicated business – and staying on top of everything in the middle of a global crisis is far from easy. But we are here to help. If you need support on any of these issues just click the button for a free consultation and expert advice from people who care.