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Thursday, May 26, 2022

The eye of the “Big Brother” in teleworking. What is hidden behind?

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Once the laptop starts, the first chat window opens. The manager wishes good morning and a few minutes later asks about the status of the project. Many calls and emails follow until the lunch break, often with questions only.

Since officials are no longer in office due to the coronavirus crisis there is great uncertainty among some seniors. Does the employee really work at home or tidy up the dishwasher? But the more the boss tries to maintain control through messages, the more likely employees are to feel that they are losing control.

“Of course, when I feel like someone is watching me, I am afraid of mistakes, I feel ashamed and afraid of punishment, maybe even stigmatization,” explains Tim Hagemann, who works as a professor at the Bielefeld School of Worship in matters of work, organization and mental health.

Incentives that are not incentives

In such a case, the body releases stress hormones. “There’s always stress when I feel like I can’t control a situation,” says Tim Hageman. Workers are more vulnerable to bacterial and viral diseases. They have sleep disorders, and may suffer from long-term problems in the stomach or cardiovascular system.

And it is not only that. When employees feel monitored they may lose interest in the company. “One example is the election of the employee of the month who aims to motivate,” said Ivo Sandlinsky of the University of Bayreuth. An experiment with 170 students in collaboration with Justus Liebig University in Giessen shows that anyone who is monitored by a camera thinks that such comparisons for better performance are nothing but control.

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Of course, managers can not install cameras in their employees’ homes but technically there are ways to monitor performance. For example, moving the mouse, tapping on the keyboard or in case of inactivity for five minutes, a setting is displayed that indicates absence.

From a legal point of view there are limits to the supervision of work at home. Confidential checks are only allowed if superiors “suspect employee misconduct,” said Peter Wende, a professor of labor law in Frankfurt.

The good and the bad side

Especially in the first weeks of spring exit restrictions, many employers suspected that employees were more concerned with shopping or gardening than with work. But control may have positive consequences as well. For example to show the performance of the employees who work harder and they in turn want to be rewarded and ask for a promotion.

Mistakes can also be avoided or corrected. Many times there can be an insecurity mainly in younger employees due to inexperience and not due to control. They do not have the opinion of colleagues or bosses because of isolation.

The messages of the above can therefore help. And anyone who is in the office talking about other issues, more personally, can do so when working from home during a business phone call. If an employee was in the office he would have to wash a cup to drink coffee. So the dishwasher can be emptied when he works at home, the German lawyer believes.

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