FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, December 03, 2004

Monitoring Technology Lowers Productivity

For every knowledge worker liberated by telecommuting and flextime, there's at least one manager who is being driven crazy by the idea. And when these managers decide to use technology to impose old-school management controls on these workers, they do more harm than good.

A study conducted by the London School of Economics and sponsored by Microsoft reveals that managers' misuse of technology to control remote workers lowers worker productivity. Workers end up spending so much time demonstrating that they are "busy" that real work suffers. Not to mention the intangible reduction in morale that these measures cause, and the extra time managers spend in monitoring.

The study recommends that employers place more trust in their employees, and make greater use of groupware that allows workgroups to measure their productivity without being overtly intrusive. It also doesn't disapprove of all monitoring, noting that workers in some professions need to make their whereabouts and activities known. However, it recommends that new work tracking technologies be developed for greater accuracy and less intrusiveness.

This study comes at a time when remote working is more common than ever. Another recent survey of senior executives, sponsored by AT&T, found that two-thirds of those surveyed said that at least some of their employees work remotely some of the time. However, nearly half considered the difficulty of monitoring worker output to be the top obstacle to implementing telework.