Digital Workspace News & Highlights

New VMware Research: How to find the balance between spying and performance measurement in the new world of hybrid working  

Ralf Gegg, Vice President EUC, VMware EMEA 

Did you know that since the shift the hybrid working, 70% of companies have either already implemented or are planning to implement employee surveillance measures to monitor employee productivity? 

This worrying statistic is one of the headline findings from our new study, “The Virtual Floorplan: New Rules in for a New Era of Work,” that looks at how companies are adjusting to the new distributed working model. What it reveals is that, in their quest to find new ways of measuring productivity outside of traditional office parameters, businesses are in danger of confusing surveillance for performance management. 

If they aren’t careful, they could find themselves following in the footsteps of the 39% of companies that have already implemented device monitoring, and 41% of companies who are currently in the process of doing so, seeing “drastically increased” or “increased” levels of employee turnover.  

Hybrid working is here to stay and for good reason. With secure, flexible access to all the tools that they need to work productively, 79% of employees agree that remote work technologies have enabled them to work more efficiently than before. To retain this productivity, engagement and talent, managers need to find ways to support employees wherever they are working, including making them feel valued rather than having their every move scrutinised.  

Successful performance management in today’s hybrid work environment relies on transparency and trust between boss and employee, working together to develop new measurement approaches. And doing so without falling down the rabbit hole of intrusive activity-based monitoring. Here’s how:  

Monitor output to improve the employee experience  

Monitoring shouldn’t be about spying on staff but about understanding how bosses can provide employees with the best tools and experiences in the office and remotely. As journalist Rachel Connolly put it, “… the best measure of productivity is simply the quality and quantity of a person’s work. Monitoring what people are doing is not the same thing as measuring their work output”.  

Three quarters of respondents say that moving to a distributed working environment has meant that their performance – and not the traditional metrics such as time spent in the office – is being valued more by their employers. Using employee engagement measuring tools, backed with machine learning capabilities, organisations can now gauge how employees are feeling over time and in-the-moment. A much more valuable pool of data, in conjunction with output, as an indicator of someone’s productivity and how to support or improve it than simply the number of emails they’ve sent.  

Collaborate to agree performance-based metrics 

Organisations should be looking to measure performance using performance-focused metrics – transparently with employees – to focus on what they bring to the business. This will be particularly important when trying to attract Gen Z workers who want to be valued for their contribution. For example, regular catch ups with managers to discuss workloads – how that person is managing that workload and where they might need help; assessing output against agreed objectives and deliverables helps both the employee and the manager celebrate achievements but also understand where and why certain objectives aren’t being met. Is there a need for training? Or an opportunity to improve process or technologies?  

The meaningful monitoring of work, what it reveals and how that information is used needs to be a collaborative effort between employers and their staff.  

Be transparent 

If you keep employees in the dark about any new measurement or monitoring tools you put in place, then you can guarantee that trust – fundamental to the success of a distributed workforce – will be eroded. Currently, a quarter of employees don’t know whether their organization has implemented device monitoring systems to monitor their productivity.  

Employers need to be open with employees about why they’re monitoring and how they’re doing it. Of course, it’s a legal requirement across much of the world, to stay in line with country or state-wide privacy laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), or employment law regulated through Workers’ Councils. There are cases where surveillance is vital for health and safety, but this must be on a job-by-job basis with full buy-in from the employee. 

Market trends and projections indicate that hybrid working will be the working model of the future for many organizations.  The technology exists and continues to adapt to help employees work from outside the office, providing frictionless onboarding experiences, collaborative working environments and productivity. Flexibility is what people are craving and the workplace tools can support companies adopting this posture.  

This is a golden opportunity for businesses to adapt how they engage and measure happiness and performance. Many of the existing tools – checking in, one to one meetings, setting clear KPIs etc. all work and are valued by employees. 

With flexibility around where and how people work, employees are finally feeling valued for their work and the contribution they make to the business. It’s up to organizations now to maintain and/or drive that experience through transparent, performance-based measurement; not keystrokes, time at the desk or eyes on the screen.  

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