It’s About Control
Employers Monitoring Employees: As an employees, would it bother you? Some design agencies are excessively concerned with knowing exactly what their employees are doing at all times. They often have remote access to your desktop so, from their desk, they can see what’s on your monitor at all times. They might also have time tracking software installed on your computer. This means that the instant you start a project, you’re timed on exactly how long it takes you to do a task. Because, for whatever reason, they think that’s how creatives work. It’s not.
In fact, all it does is stress out the designers and keep them from creating good work. You should avoid working where there are employers monitoring employees because it shows a lack of trust and a lack of respect for you and the creative process. Here’s a bit more about what I mean.
Have you ever worked somewhere where you were given exactly 60 minutes to do a creative task that wound up taking 90 minutes? Afterwards, the project manager has to have a talk with you as to why it took so long. Maybe you couldn’t get the type to work, or the colours to look good, or the logo file was the wrong format. Why do these things take time? Because we’re creatives. There are no right or wrong answer to the problems we solve; they require creative thought. Creative thought takes time.
As someone who’s been working as a designer for almost twenty years, you can never absolutely guarantee how much time a creative project will take. You can say “It’ll be done by the end of the day,” or “It will be done by Thursday.” That should be good enough for any project manager. Then you prioritize your tasks based on their deadlines.
Obviously, when you get into more production based tasks, tracking time makes a bit more sense. For example, if you’re going through a list of names and creating a business card for each employee at a company with an already templated design, you should be able to say “this will take an hour.” Why? Because it’s not a creative task; it’s strictly production, void of creative thought or decision making. I think time tracking software is still excessive, even in this case, but tracking that it took you about an hour is a good thing to note.
I’ve only worked one job where I was made aware my boss could see what was on my monitor remotely. It didn’t bother me that much, but it did make me feel like I wasn’t trusted to do my job. Sadly, that creates a disconnect between an employee and the company. A company that hires me to do a job but doesn’t trust me to actually do it leaves me feeling unappreciated and desiring to leave.
It’s like when the design manager walks over to your computer, says nothing, and silently watches you as you design. You don’t say anything, because you know they just want to see how you work, but it’s stressful.
Due to the current pandemic, many people are now working from home. Apparently, this terrifies companies because many of them are asking for their employees to have webcams. Normally, this would be fine. Company sends you a webcam for your daily check-in meeting. Sure. When the meeting is done, the camera goes off. Now, some companies are asking employees to keep their cameras on the entire time. So they can monitor you, in your home, all day. This feels like a privacy violation, but it’s all still so new that there likely aren’t any labour laws preventing it. But it doesn’t feel right does it?
Again, there’s the issue of trust. If a company hires you to do a job, then asks you to submit to constant monitoring, do you actually think they trust you? No, and you probably lose trust in them too.
Essentially, companies that are overly concerned about your output don’t really care about quality or the c until effects their revenue. If it never does, they will to continue treating their employees as tools rather than people. Tools that need to be monitored and micromanaged to provide the highest quantity of output humanly possible.
What should really matter, to any agency, is the work that is being produced. The quality of the content and the ideas driving it. Project managers should make sure that designers are on task, meeting deadlines, and producing good work. They shouldn’t need constantly monitor to make sure that designers are spending only the allotted time on a project, or that they aren’t deviating from their task for five minutes by going on Facebook. Let the quality of work they produce be enough.
Excessive monitoring of designers is one of the reasons so many of us end up becoming freelancers. When corporate culture fails us, going at it on our own is a better alternative. Fortunately, not all agencies obsessively monitor their employees. Some of them actually care about their employees, the quality of work, embracing the creative process, and that people love working there. It takes a bit of time to find the good ones, but they’re out there.
Employers Monitoring Employees: Discussion
What other ways do you see employers monitoring employees? Do they check up on your social accounts to make sure you’re not posting in the middle of a work day? Let me know in the comments below!