Home Technology Workplace surveillance opens a chasm of mistrust and doubt

Workplace surveillance opens a chasm of mistrust and doubt

Workplace surveillance opens a chasm of mistrust and doubt

Most employees don’t believe their employer is upfront about using workplace surveillance techniques (photo: CC0 Public Domain)

Employees are “deeply uncomfortable” with digital surveillance and automated decision-making in the workplace. However, many are not convinced that they are aware of what data their employer is actually collecting about them.

In a survey of more than 1,100 technology workers, research agency Opinium Research found strong resentment against all forms of digital surveillance in the workplace and concern over the possibility that important work decisions will be made by an algorithm.

Regarding the use of portable tracking devices to monitor their location, for example, only 15% of employees said they would feel comfortable if their employer used such technology.

Employers’ use of cameras to monitor workers in the office and at home is also unpopular: 69% said they would be uncomfortable doing so. Another 59% said they would feel uncomfortable with the practice of monitoring keystrokes to gauge how intensively they are working.

The survey also reveals that most employees (62%) are uncomfortable with HR software being used to make automated hiring and promotion decisions.


Many express additional concerns about the implementation process. 45% believe they think their employer is unlikely to consult with their workers about the introduction of new technologies to track work activity and how they are used. One in three admits that they are not at all sure that they know what data the employer collects about their employees.

Lack of dialogue

“The research shows the deep level of anxiety many workers feel about new and more invasive forms of digital surveillance. Too often it is introduced by employers without proper dialogue with the workforce,” said Andrew Paix, deputy general secretary of Prospect, which commissioned the study.

According to him, the desire of employers to monitor their workers through various technological means creates tension and mistrust, acting detrimentally to motivation, morale, and hence productivity.

“Employees surveyed describe how they ‘feel like a working machine instead of a human being,'” Pax adds. People reveal that they feel intimidated and believe they are being watched because their employer doesn’t trust them.


The onset of the pandemic has prompted many businesses to begin using worker monitoring techniques to monitor employee productivity while working from home.

However, now that the pandemic has passed and many working people are back in the office, surveillance and monitoring practices have not stopped. They have become something permanent, ubiquitous. Surveillance applies to both those who work remotely and others who visit their workplaces.

Follow-up rate

Numerous statistics and studies from the past 2-3 years have addressed the question of when, how much and how employees are tracked in the workplace. According to some analyses, one in five workers is subject to surveillance of their work activities. Other figures speak of a higher share: 60% are subject to some form of surveillance or monitoring by the employer.

Entry of AI

Many monitoring practices go even further: they are backed up with AI-based algorithms that automatically analyze work processes and productivity. This demotivates workers even more.

“Massive monitoring and goal-setting technologies are associated with pronounced negative impacts on employee mental and physical well-being, as workers experience the extreme pressure of constant real-time micromanagement and automated assessment,” Opinium’s study concluded.

The feeling of constant surveillance and the feeling of mistrust lead to a collapse of motivation, but also of respect for the employer, the study suggests. The tension that such practices create in employees is capable of creating a negative response in employees as well.


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