Employers may want to keep better tabs on their remote staff, a study suggests.

More than half (60 percent ) of remote workers surveyed by Elements Global Services believed their employer would be “upset with them” if the company tracked their location and how much they work.

In comparison, only 31 percent of onsite workers said their employers would find fault with their work habits, the poll of  1,000 full-time U.S. employees found. Elements Global Services is an international provider of human resources and payroll services.

At the same time, 58 percent of men and 44 percent of women surveyed said their employer would be disturbed to learn how little they work. Almost 70 percent of all respondents admitted software that tracks productivity would likely make them more productive.

The report shows that remote staff aren’t thrilled with that prospect.

About three-quarters of remote workers polled said they are concerned about their employers monitoring how much they work and where they complete their duties.

A matter of trust?

“There is much room for progress in building trust and accountability at the center of employee-employer relationships, and the exponential rise in time spent working remotely will only make this more important,” Elements Global said in the report.

“Additionally, HR managers should take note of the many thousands of queries being made in Google each month, and look for ways to better answer these questions up front,” it added.

The survey was conducted after Elements Global did an analysis of Google search terms relating to HR issues

The study also revealed that workers are trying to hide their online activities from their supervisors.

Hidden activities

The survey found that, among all workers, 64 percent deleted their browsing history while 53 percent had deleted a Slack or instant message.  In addition, people working in finance, accounting, and human resources were most likely to say they have hidden things from their supervisors.

One reason why remote workers may be worried about errant messages winding up in the hands of supervisors is that some managers have a dim view of employees who work outside of a traditional office setting, studies show. They also are keener on having workers return to the office than many of their employees.

A recent Society for Human Resources Management  (SHRM) survey found that 67 percent of supervisors said they believed that remote workers were more easily replaceable than their on-site counterparts. Another 62 percent believed the career prospects for full-time remote workers are limited.

“With COVID-19 forcing a leap to remote work in many sectors of our economy, and organizations struggling to determine the best workforce strategies, there’s one fact that can’t be ignored — remote work is not ideal for everyone,” SHRM Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor Jr.  said in the report. “Remote work can offer benefits, but employers need to take a closer look at whether remote and onsite workers have the same opportunities and whether managers have the tools they need to be effective leaders.”

Indeed, many managers are unsure how to manage remote workers.

In a Harvard Business Review international survey that included 215 supervisors and managers, about 40 percent expressed misgivings about their ability to manage remote workers and keep them motivated. The survey was conducted in 2020.

“More than 20 percent of managers disagreed with the statement ‘I am confident I can manage a team of remote workers and another 16 percent were unsure about this ability’,” according to HBR. “A similar proportion of managers had negative views about remote workers’ performance. Thirty-eight percent of managers agreed that remote workers usually perform worse than those who work in an office, with 22 percent being unsure.”

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