New Zealanders refuse to accept employer monitoring while working from home - survey

While the attitude is understandable, some of the monitoring can help the employee.
While the attitude is understandable, some of the monitoring can help the employee. Photo credit: Getty Images

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic many Kiwis have had to adapt to working from home over the last 20 months or so, but they won't accept being monitored by their employers while doing so, according to a new survey.

Global IT solutions company Unisys surveyed 1000 people in New Zealand to gauge attitudes on a wide range of security-related issues and found the majority weren't comfortable with monitoring technology, regardless of its purpose.

The findings signal a need for new approaches to performance management and open conversations about privacy, acceptable purpose, trust and permission, say Unisys experts.

The most acceptable kind of monitoring was the recording of logging in and out times, but that was still unacceptable to 59 percent of respondents.

The survey found nearly three quarters of Kiwis wouldn't be happy with mandating webcams being turned on for video conferences to ensure attendees were paying attention while 90 percent were unwilling to accept their microphone being monitored.

Self-employed small business owners are the most comfortable with monitoring, the company says.

"Privacy is a top concern and people are protective of their home space," says Leon Sayers, director of advisory at Unisys in Asia Pacific.

"Employers must gain trust and permission to introduce monitoring technologies into that space. A two-way discussion is critical to successful organisational change management. And just because the technology allows you to do something doesn't mean it is always appropriate."

That requires a rethink on how managers monitor both performance and productivity, according to Sayers.

"First you need to look at the type of role. What is more critical - the input (time spent on a task) or the output (the deliverable)," he says.

"Using technology to monitor how quickly call centre staff working from home answer a call and resolve a customer's problem is a key metric of the role. Whereas for other 'knowledge' jobs it would be more relevant to measure if they delivered something of the agreed quality by the required deadline."

While the attitudes to being monitored at home may be understandable, they can also be problematic as not monitoring is 'Big Brother' style surveillance.

The survey found 73 percent of Kiwis weren't happy with the response times of software applications being tracked so IT support teams could proactively fix issues.

"But adding new function and purpose to an existing tool requires a fresh conversation: We accepted webcams at home to aid collaboration - not security," says Sayers.

"Employers need to lead open discussions about the intended purpose and benefit of such measures if they are to be accepted in the home workplace.

"The willingness to use a technology is critical to the successful roll out of any digital transformation."

The survey also found the top three security concerns for Kiwis were identity theft, hacking and bankcard fraud, overtaking natural disasters - including pandemics - which topped the list last year.

"Consumers' concerns are driven by their personal experiences," says Andrew Whelan, vice president client management, Unisys in Asia Pacific.

"Last year's fears of the unknown around COVID-19 have been replaced by the data loss and privacy threats that many Kiwis have personally experienced over the last year.

"This will have factored into employee unwillingness to allow employers monitor them when working from home."