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Electronic Monitoring and Surveillance in the Workplace

Kirstie Ball

No JRC125716, JRC Research Reports from Joint Research Centre

Abstract: This report re-evaluates the literature about surveillance/monitoring in the standard workplace, in home working during the COVID 19 pandemic and in respect of digital platform work. It utilised a systematic review methodology (see Appendix I). A total of 398 articles were identified, evaluated and synthesised. The report finds that worker surveillance practices have extended to cover many different features of the employees as they work. Surveillance in the workplace targets thoughts, feelings and physiology, location and movement, task performance and professional profile and reputation. In the standard workplace, more aspects of employees’ lives are made visible to managers through data. Employees’ work/non-work boundaries are contested terrain. The surveillance of employees working remotely during the pandemic has intensified, with the accelerated deployment of keystroke, webcam, desktop and email monitoring in Europe, the UK and the USA. Whilst remote monitoring is known to create work-family conflict, and skilled supervisory support is essential, there is a shortage of research which examines these recent phenomena. Digital platform work features end-to-end worker surveillance. Data are captured on performance, behaviours and location, and are combined with customer feedback to determine algorithmically what work and reward are offered to the platform worker in the future. There is no managerial support and patchy colleague support in a hyper-competitive and gamified freelance labour market. Once again there is a shortage of research which specifically addresses the effects of monitoring on those who work on digital platforms. Excessive monitoring has negative psycho-social consequences including increased resistance, decreased job satisfaction, increased stress, decreased organisational commitment and increased turnover propensity. The design and application of monitoring, as well as the managerial practices, processes and policies which surround it influence the incidence of these psycho-social risks. Policy recommendations target at mitigating the psycho-social risks of monitoring and draw upon privacy, data justice and organisational justice principles. Numerous recommendations are derived both for practice and for higher level policy development.

Keywords: digital platform work; COVID-19; monitoring; surveillance (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021-09
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-hrm
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