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While Corporate HQs Leave Big Cities, Will They Spy on Employees That Work Remotely?

Sustained remote work trends have some employers leaving metros and looking for ways to “watch” employees. We can do better.

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As the massive shift to working from home due to the COVID-19 crisis is sustained, it’s getting more and more clear that we may never return to offices in the numbers that we once did. Teams are adapting to working remotely and employers are faced with some challenges: offices are sitting empty and without employees sitting at the corporate HQ how best to manage them? We’ve seen estimates range from twenty to thirty percent of the US workforce working remotely post-COVID. That’s up from twelve percent pre-COVID.

Richard Florida of The University of Toronto writes in the Harvard Business Review that his statistical models tracking hundreds of Fortune 500 headquarters over six decades confirm the role of talent as the key factor in the geography of corporate headquarters today. If the talent is at home, do corporations need to carry the cost of real estate in big metropolitan cities where ninety percent of the Fortune 500 are currently located? He reports that while there will be some additional dispersal of corporate headquarters, they won’t be disappearing.

As the massive shift to working from home due to the COVID-19 crisis is sustained, it’s getting more and more clear that we may never return to offices in the numbers that we once did. Teams are adapting to working remotely and employers are faced with some challenges: offices are sitting empty and without employees sitting at the corporate HQ how best to manage them? We’ve seen estimates range from twenty to thirty percent of the US workforce working remotely post-COVID. That’s up from twelve percent pre-COVID.

Richard Florida of The University of Toronto writes in the Harvard Business Review that his statistical models tracking hundreds of Fortune 500 headquarters over six decades confirm the role of talent as the key factor in the geography of corporate headquarters today. If the talent is at home, do corporations need to carry the cost of real estate in big metropolitan cities where ninety percent of the Fortune 500 are currently located? He reports that while there will be some additional dispersal of corporate headquarters, they won’t be disappearing.

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That still leaves the challenge of managing the twenty to thirty percent of the US workforce not getting “face time” at the HQ. In These Times magazine reported on some disturbing increasing trends of employers spying on employees. Sales are reportedly surging of technologies that track workers’ mouse movements and keyboard strokes, passively track employee location, take pictures of employees via webcams at high frequency, or that give employees a “productivity score” based on on-line activity.

Could micro-management actually get worse for some employees that work remotely?

While companies leave the cities and face an increasingly remote workforce, the urge to monitor an employee’s every move should be avoided. While In These Times urges for employee advocacy, at UNLEASH we call on HR leaders to step up during these times and establish a new normal with trust at the center:

  • Leverage modern HR tech in employee engagement and feedback that will help build employer/employee trust and improve communications.
  • Invest in tools that help managers have more effective check-ins.
  • Implement and tools that foster collaboration.
  • Develop an employee wellbeing plan that includes mental health.
  • Provide learning content to help navigate the new stressors associated with remote work during COVID-19.

UNLEASH Article