WFH | Staff at THIS firm subjected to 'Big Brother-style surveillance'

Staff at THIS firm subjected to 'Big Brother-style surveillance'

The CEO at online banking firm Axos Financial Inc. has come under fire for subjecting staff to 'Big Brother-style surveillance’.

The level of staff monitoring, which online site Corporate Rebels dubbed a “Big Brother surveillance scheme”, was outlined in an internal memo which was previously shared by Bloomberg.

The memo, which was reportedly from the firm’s CEO, Gregory Garrabrants, read: "'We have seen individuals taking unfair advantage of flexible work arrangements' by essentially taking vacations [...]. If daily tasks aren’t completed, workers 'will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination"'.

From our magazine

In response to Bloomberg’s request for comment, Axos Spokesman, Gregory Frost, said in a statement: “The enhanced monitoring of at-home employees we implemented will ensure that those members of our workforce who work from home will continue to meet quality and productivity standards that are expected from all workers.”

Most would assume that all members of the organisation, regardless of their seniority or position in the business, would be subject to the same treatment.

Yet, Corporate Rebels said that when the spokesman was asked if the high-earning CEO was subject to the same “Big Brother surveillance scheme”, he declined to comment.

The use of digital surveillance at work

While digital surveillance has been used in the office for years – to keep staff, the premises and corporate data safe – there has been a spike in the number of organisations deploying spy software to monitor employees who are working at home.

Various software makers that provide this type of monitoring technology have noticed a hefty increase in inbound requests over the last few weeks, according to the Insurance Journal.

Whether this is technology that provides insights on a worker’s online activity, a breakdown of how they are spending their working hours, keystroke monitoring data or sifting through private colleague messages, there are many different methods employers are using to keep tabs on employees.

But, even before this stint of remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, other organisations have come under fire for the staff monitoring systems that they have implemented in the past.

Barclays axed ‘Big Brother-style’ staff tracking system

Earlier this year, banking giant Barclays piloted a computer monitoring system to log the “effectiveness” of employees when at their desks.

Just over a week later, the firm pulled the plug on the tracking system in response to negative “colleague feedback”.

The software, which was developed by Sapience, was claimed to create “unprecedented transparency” within organisations yet this was met with criticism.

From our magazine

Philip Richardson, Partner and Head of Employment Law at Stephensons Solicitors LLP, told HR Grapevine that “the use of this technology to track the whereabouts of staff members does seem excessive”.

Richardson added: “The pursuit of transparency in an organisation can also undermine trust and it’s important that employees feel like they can be left to get on with their jobs without constant monitoring.”

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Comments (1)

  • Jackie Casey
    Jackie Casey
    Thu, 16 Apr 2020 1:26pm BST
    How outrageous and counterproductive! The psychological impact of being monitored in this way will likely, in the end, cause less productivity. It certainly won't encourage employee engagement only resentment! It's true that maybe an employee may take a longer coffee break than when at the office but most will put in long hours and feel more in control of their working day. Many people report that working at home is less interrupted and therefore one could argue, more productive! Employees and staff who are lazy, are just as likely to be lazy at the office. Another problem iit could also create is that employees will only do just enough to be get past the 'productivity threshold' particularly when they don't feel trusted or encouraged to do more. Whatever happened to a leader/management responsibility to motivate and encourage their reports?

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