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Microsoft Says Don't Spy on Employees to Ensure They're Working

Microsoft has had to adjust some of its workplace products in response to concerns about employee privacy. In 2020, the company made changes to its Productivity Score feature, which privacy advocates said made it too easy to monitor individual workers.

September 22, 2022
5 minutes
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More than two years after the widespread adoption of remote work and hybrid jobs, there is still a stark divide over how it is going. According to a recent survey, 85% of managers worry they can't tell if employees are getting enough done, while 87% of workers say their productivity is just fine. This divide highlights the challenges that both managers and employees face in the new world of work.

A survey by Microsoft Corp. found that managers' fears about idle workers are creating what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella calls "productivity paranoia." This paranoia is leading to undesirable behaviors like spying on employees.

According to a recent study, leaders and employees often have different perceptions of productivity levels. Leaders tend to think their employees are not productive, while employees often feel that they are being productive. In many cases, employees even feel burnt out. This study highlights the importance of communication and collaboration in the workplace, in order to bridge the productivity gap.

Microsoft has been conducting regular surveys of employees in various industries during the pandemic. The latest data polled 20,000 people in 11 countries. The aim is to track trends and adjust technology to fit the needs of customers.

The data has continually showed a disconnect between managers and the rank and file, and Microsoft has been offering tools like its Viva employee experience software to bridge the gap. Viva now has more than 10 million active monthly users at companies like PayPal Holdings Inc. and Unilever Plc, which use it to help teams align their goals and stay in touch. But even though new communication tools are putting bosses in closer contact with employees, Microsoft wants executives to know that workplace surveillance is not the answer to boosting productivity.

Jared Spataro, a Microsoft vice president, has spoken out against the growing trend of employee surveillance. He believes that employers should not be monitoring employees' keystrokes and mouse clicks, as this does not necessarily reflect their productivity.

Microsoft has had to adjust some of its workplace products in response to concerns about employee privacy. In 2020, the company made changes to its Productivity Score feature, which privacy advocates said made it too easy to monitor individual workers.

Other pandemic-related work trends, like mass quitting, seem to be waning. For the first time in 18 months, what LinkedIn and Microsoft dubbed the "Great Reshuffle" and others called the "Great Resignation" is slowing down. The year-over-year growth in people changing jobs on LinkedIn is now flat, according to Ryan Roslansky, who runs the service. And more job listings are for in-person roles.

Before the pandemic, only 2% of jobs on LinkedIn were listed as remote. However, by March 2022, that number had increased to 20%. Now, it has decreased to 15%.

Many senior corporate leaders are eager to return to the pre-pandemic days of in-person work, but Microsoft still recommends a flexible approach. "People come to work for other people, not because of some policy," Nadella said.

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Adan Harris
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Eric Ng
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John Liu
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Bryan Curtis
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Adan Harris
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