The concept of “tracking” is scary. No one likes the feeling of being watched, and people are understandably nervous about sharing information that could leave them vulnerable. But in the workplace, tracking tools are essential for improving employee productivity. Effective team collaboration just can’t work without the smooth exchange of information they enable – especially if you work with remote teams.
So can we ever reconcile these points? Of course; we just need to ask more of our tracking tools.
Many workplace tracking tools carry in-built biases which often work against employees. They take screenshots of employee screens, monitor their keyboard activity and can show managers their browsing activity. It’s disrespectful and invasive, and creates a one-way flow of information that undermines manager-employee trust.
Managers need to be extremely careful when choosing a tracking tool for their team. The wrong tool could cause irreparable damage to company culture. We need to realize that tracking tools are not a substitute for basic trust. The employees using tracking tools every day need to feel confident their needs are being served in a safe and supportive environment.
Tool developers have a huge responsibility here too. When designing an employee tracking tool, they need to make an important human decision: whether to contain or enable users.
At Timely, we believe too many tracking tools are still being designed to support a top-down policing model. We chose to build a company time tracking app that keeps all individually tracked data completely private until employees choose to share it. It promotes agency over intimidation, and aims to provide everyone with a secure space to manage and improve their own performance.
This isn’t about being mindful of power biases; this about actively protecting against them from the drawing board. We need to remember that truly useful tools serve their actual users, not just the person paying for them.