Surveilling your employees? You could be putting your company at risk of attack

Are you watching your employees? Though the question may incite thoughts of “Big Brother” and an all-seeing or all-knowing entity, it isn’t quite as ominous as you might think. Employee productivity surveillance technology, or EPST, often tracks statistics such as keystrokes, time online, mouse movements or clicks, etc., across your workforce.

employee surveillance technology

EPST may seem like a strange concept, but it has become increasingly popular with the transition to remote and hybrid work over the past several years.

Beneficial – or just plain bad?

Even though these tools can provide what appear to be helpful insights to organizations, there are major downsides.
The first – and the reason many companies choose not to use it – is that most employees aren’t fond of it. In fact, according to our recent survey, 73% of IT managers revealed they would not be comfortable instructing their staff to deploy EPST. 52% of IT workers would even turn down an otherwise desirable job if they knew the company used EPST.

Even more worrying is that 30% of IT managers saw a decrease in company culture, a negative impact on employee mental health, and even increased burnout because of employee productivity surveillance technology.

It’s clear that these tools have a negative impact on employees and their morale. While any organization should consider the opinions and feelings of its workforce before implementing these technologies, there’s also a lesser-known – but just as important – downside: security risks.

Surveillance technology and security

The main security concern with this technology is that employees find workarounds. According to the survey above, 72% of IT workers would help their colleagues find workarounds to EPST.

For example, let’s say your employee believes that you’re monitoring them. They then download an automatic mouse-mover app that will make it appear as if they are online when they are not. Unbeknownst to them, the app that they download contains malware and infects their computer system. All their data, including their organization’s data, is now at risk. A threat actor could be holding onto that data and demanding a payment to not to leak it or they might mine it for anything of value they can sell on the dark web – all because your employee thought you were “spying” on them.

Additionally, keylogging software can lead to security breaches, since it monitors which keys are pressed, meaning it known the passwords, online banking details, and other confidential information the user entered. If this data is stored, it can be stolen by bad actors.

If your company suffers a data breach, customer trust will plummet.

Just (don’t) do it

Measuring productivity output through quantitative EPST measures (e.g., number of meetings set up or keys logged) instead of qualitative data is an outdated approach. The fact is you’re not measuring “productivity,” only activity.

If you are only monitoring mouse clicks and keyboard taps, you’re not measuring business impact or actual productivity, and your business will be left behind by those who leverage technology to help their employees rather than monitor them.

You know what reduces productive output? Reducing employee happiness and eroding trust. It’s best to shift the mindset here and measure employee productivity qualitatively. This reduces the chances that you’re measuring the wrong things and increases business value and overall employee satisfaction.

The decision to use EPST within an organization is a major one and, at the end of the day, it’s best to omit these tools from your tech stack. Not only do they cause disdain among employees, but the security risks are detrimental, and the tools don’t measure productivity. Instead, explore Digital Employee Experience (DEX) tools.

The focus with DEX tools is on ensuring that you identify and fix roadblocks to end-user productivity, like problem devices, unwise configuration changes and “dodgy” software versions before they cause problems to end-users and negatively impact their ability to be productive.

IT teams should ensure that the digital tools users need operate in the best way possible. By setting qualitative, value driven goals, monitoring progress towards these goals, and ensuring employees can achieve them, you can truly drive results that EPST will never provide.

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