I did a radio interview about the growth of telecommuting recently. The host had that revved-up style that’s presumably intended to help commuters stay awake on their trek to and from work and he wasn’t buying the whole work from home thing. “It would never work for radio station employees,” he said. “They’d all be getting sloshed and playing golf—especially the sales guys.” I countered with the usual argument of how good companies manage based on performance, not presence. If the sales team is selling just as many ads, what does management care about how and when they do it. He still wasn’t buying it. So I told him that if companies were that worried about being able to monitor their employees, a variety of technologies make it possible to watch their every keystroke.
One company, oDesk, I went on to explain, even makes it possible to see remote employees at work in their home offices.
Well that really got him going. “What, you mean they’d actually be watching me? Now that’s going too far! What about privacy? No one’s going to stand for that!” He went on and on. When I finally got a word in, I asked how is that any different than working in a cubicle farm. Don’t you think you’re being watched there? Don’t you think your internet activity is being monitored?
Our twenty minutes were up so I wasn’t able to to tell him about the American Management Association study that showed that two-thirds of employers monitor their employees’ Internet connections, 28% percent have fired workers for misusing email, and 30% have fired people for misusing the Internet. More than 300 companies participated in the poll. They cited the following reasons for the firings:
Violation of company policy 64%
Inappropriate or offensive language 62%
Excessive personal use 26%
Breach of confidentiality rules 22%
Viewing, downloading or uploading inappropriate/offensive content 84%
Violation of company policy 48%
Excessive personal use 34%
Only Delaware and Connecticut, require employers to notify workers that they are being monitored, but most of the companies surveyed said they did let them know.
If remote monitoring is what it takes to convince employers to allow their people to work from home, I say bring it on. My only beef would be having to actually get dressed in the morning.