Make room for the latest workplace trend — workplace surveillance. It’s on the rise, and it’s even scarier than it sounds.

Much time has been spent debating the most recent workplace trends, such as work from homework-life balancequiet quitting, and who can forget of diversity, equity, and inclusion. But have you ever heard of work surveillance?

Jodi Kantor, a reporter for the New York Times, delivered an alarming report about the rise of workplace surveillance on the August 24th episode of The Daily.

What is Workplace surveillance?

Workplace surveillance is when employers use various tools and methods of surveillance to collect information about their employees. These tools may include internet and software monitoring, video surveillance, keystroke logging, and more.

The purpose of workplace surveillance is to keep office assets and valuable information safe. However, employee monitoring is being used for more than just security; it is also widely used for performance evaluation and determining an employee’s productive work contribution.

Employee productivity score

Companies are now determining how much employees are paid by comparing their productivity to metrics and the productivity of other employees. You read that correctly! Your pay may vary depending on how you performed in comparison to company metrics and other employees.

One way they are doing this (which totally shocked me) is by taking a picture of your screen and a picture of your face every 10 minutes to verify whether or not you are working. So, if you happen to be in the bathroom while the pictures are being captured, you don’t get paid for that time period.

This is one of the biggest expansions of employer power in generations — Jodi Kantor

According to the report, work surveillance has already been implemented by companies such as Amazon, J.P. Morgan, and UnitedHealth Group, to name a few. Even more surprising is that this type of surveillance started prior to the pandemic. The pandemic only exacerbated the situation.

I’m trying to figure out if workplace surveillance has any benefits for employees, but I can’t find any. Workplace surveillance is, at the very least, an invasion of privacy. At its most extreme, workplace surveillance dehumanizes employees, and I believe it will lead to overwork and burnout.

Anyone who values progressive workplace practices, work-life balance, or employee wellness should listen to this podcast and read Jodi Kantor’s reporting on the subject.

What’s your opinion on workplace surveillance? Is there an upside to this practice?

Photo by Giordano Rossoni and Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash