Nobody enjoys the idea of being in a working environment where their managers are constantly keeping a watchful eye on what they do. This is something employees find creepy and managers too are unlikely to have worked as hard as they did to the only spy on what the workers do all day long.
A lot of monitoring and surveillance now however does take place electronically which allows managers and bosses to be free from the task while the monitoring app in place does the job. Hence, while managers may have had to monitor employees in the past, monitoring software is doing so now which is why it is unlikely that office monitoring is going away anytime soon.
A study was published which suggests that electronic surveillance in the workplace is actually very effective. The study examined data that was provided by the NCR which makes software that examines the point of sale systems activity of restaurants for any suspect patterns. The data analysis revealed that workplace surveillance led to lower levels of theft. According to NCR, workers also tend to become more productive when they are under surveillance.
The idea of people acting differently when they are under the assumption that they are being observed goes as far back as the 18th century when Jeremy Bentham, a British philosopher came up with the idea known as Panopticon; he envisioned a prison which had a tall tower encircled by cells which caused the prisoners to believe they could be watched at any time. Even though this prison was never actually built, the idea did become a metaphor for forms of social control.
This new study which was conducted looked into 392 locations of 5 restaurant chains. Those restaurants which were under surveillance by the NCR experienced a 22% decrease in their levels of theft while revenue increased by around 7%. The performance of workers also increased which could be linked to the decrease in theft as well. The study however does not look into the impact which the surveillance system has on those employees who never actually wanted to steal anything in the first place.
Employees are broken down into 2 categories as part of the study; known thieves who have had a history of being dishonest and unknown people who haven’t been caught yet stealing. Other studies have shown that surveillance systems tend to weigh more on the unknowns. One survey for example found that employees who were being monitored found their working environment to be more stressful and even reported having higher levels of tension, anxiety, anger, depression, fatigue, and health complaints. Whether or not the surveillance would matter to those employees who already enjoy high profits is something which isn’t very clear.
The question which is then raised is about what happens when it isn’t only employees in a restaurant who are being monitored but an entire society. If the concept of monitoring were to spread to every inch of society, how would this affect people, and what would be the outcome?
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