Wednesday, 27 October 2021 10:07

Australians reject work surveillance: Unisys


The office and work setup is now an indispensable part of the home as expedited by COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean employees want to be monitored when they work from home, according to Unisys Security Index.

The Unisys Security Index indicates there is a need for new, outcome-based approaches to performance management and open conversations about privacy, acceptable purpose, trust and permission.

When asked if they would be comfortable if their employer allowed them to work from home but required a certain level of monitoring, the vast majority of Australians do not support monitoring measures regardless of whether they are for productivity, security or support purposes. (See table below):

Overall, female Australians and self-employed, small-to-medium business owners are the least comfortable with monitoring measures.

The 2021 Unisys Security Index for Australia, the overall measure of security concerns of the Australian public, scored 159 out of 300, recording a 16% growth, up two points from 2020 and the highest in the 15-year history of the study for Australia.

The top four security concerns are data/privacy related: ID theft (59% of Australians concerned about this issue), hacking and viruses (57%), bankcard fraud (55%) and online shopping (49%). Whereas natural disasters, including pandemics, had been the top concern in 2020.

Time for new approach to Employee Performance Management
“Privacy is a top concern and people are protective of their home space. While for many people, working from home offers benefits of less commuting time and more work-life balance, for others it is an imposition necessitated by the COVID response. Being mandated to work from home is not the same as volunteering for it. Employers must gain trust and permission to introduce monitoring technologies into that space,” explains Unisys director of advisory in Asia Pacific Leon Sayers.

“A two-way discussion is critical to successful organizational change management. And just because the technology allows you to do something doesn’t mean it is always appropriate,” Sayers says.

Sayers stresses it is time to re-think how managers monitor performance and productivity. “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),” Sayers says.

“For example, 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 and service delivered to the customer. Whereas for other ‘knowledge’ jobs it would be more relevant to measure if they delivered something of the agreed quality by the required deadline, you don’t need to know when they logged in or how long it took them,” he says.

Not all monitoring is ‘Big Brother’
Some monitoring measures offer positive benefits to employees, such as monitoring software response time so that the IT team can proactively fix impending issues before it makes an impact. This refers to intelligent IT support, or using facial recognition technology to quickly confirm that it is you sitting at your laptop, without the need to re-enter password.

“But adding a new function and purpose to an existing tool requires a fresh conversation: We accepted webcams at home to aid collaboration – not security. 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,” Sayers explains.

People aged 18-24 years are the least comfortable with having their log in/out times monitored (27% comfortable compared to 35% and higher for older age groups).

However, younger people are more comfortable with proactive monitoring of software response times than older people, perhaps signalling the way the future digital workforce expects to be able to access the IT tools they need to do their job, the study concludes.

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Kenn Anthony Mendoza is the newest member of the iTWire team. Kenn is also a contributing writer for South China Morning Post Style, and has written stories on Korean entertainment, Asian and European royalty, Millionaires and Billionaires, and LGBTQIA+ issues. He has been published in Philippine newspapers, magazines, and online sites: Tatler PhilippinesManila BulletinCNN Philippines LifePhilippine StarManila Times, and The Daily Tribune. Kenn now covers all aspects of technology news for

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