Beyond Surveillance: Prioritising Purpose for a Productive Workplace

What does the word productivity conjure up for you? Manual labour, physical output or efficiency? Pre-pandemic, it was easier to measure productivity (inaccurately) based on the time an employee spent at their desk.

With most office-based employees working at least some time at home, many workplaces struggle with ‘productivity paranoia.’ This is despite numerous surveys showing hybrid workers sleep and exercise longer, dedicate more time to establish healthy eating habits, and report spending more time on their health and well-being¹

One solution workplaces are leveraging is the use of surveillance tools and software. While more common in the US – with a reported 96% of fully remote companies using it², Australia is not exempt.  Recently, CBA was scrutinised for harvesting information such as physical attendance and computer data. It used this to force workers to apply for leave if their activity suggests they aren’t productive enough³.

Some shocking statistics from the US survey found monitoring methods used by employers including:

  • Monitoring web browsing and app use (62%)
  • Blocking content and apps (48%)
  • Tracking attention via biometrics (45%)
  • Capturing random screenshots (43%)
  • Logging keystrokes (37%)

But are these forms of micro-management and acute observation really optimising employees’ work time and improving their productivity? Is understanding how busy someone appears to be helpful? Or are organisations better off focusing on the goals and objectives being met (or not)? 

I recently interviewed author, entrepreneur and thought leader Seth Godin; this was one of the topics we touched on. He believes organisations focusing on individual growth and impact instead of taking attendance, long Zoom calls, and having cameras over desks are more successful in leading distributed workforces. “Obedience isn’t the point when we talk about our passion. Obedience is the mindset of school, a test of compliance. But that’s not what employers are paying people for. You are paying them to make a change happen.”

This change Seth refers to provides employees with significance – or purpose, in their jobs. It’s the feeling of achievement, of impact, and it doesn’t have to be large-scale. Just making a difference to your team or a few customers is enough. 

This is backed up by other studies, like this one from Gartner, that suggests that employees want a shared purpose and are looking for their employers to deliver concrete action on purpose, not just through corporate statements.

Organisations need to do more than talk. They must deliver on their mission and vision and think carefully and strategically about the employee experience. The need to view your workforce as individuals, as people you care about, can be the difference between developing a company that thrives or survives.

Fostering a workplace environment that focuses on individual purpose, growth, and impact towards shared goals drives productivity in itself. Organisations that do this will be ahead of the curve, reduce workplace conflict and attract and retain the best talent in the market.

Contact me today if you need help establishing a culture that’s fit for purpose. Call 02 8036 5558 or email:



²HCA Mag