Work hard, rest harder: should employers monitor rest time quality?
8th June 2018
As someone who works in an office, you’re probably well aware of how easy it is to work an eight hour day only to clock off feeling like you’ve achieved very little. In the UK we have some of Europe’s longest working hours – but we’re falling way behind countries such as Germany and France when it comes to our productivity levels.
Now with Brexit on the horizon, it’s becoming painfully obvious that we need to close our productivity gap before it starts taking its toll. And that’s where the HR department comes in as the need to implement ways to get more from your employees becomes ever more pressing.
The problem stems from the fact that many of us are too intent on the “wrong” sort of productivity and the need to cram as much as possible into each day can manifest itself through meetings, phone calls and never-ending emails – the result of which can be negligible.
Smartphones and social media have a part to play too with employees often being distracted while at work and failing to switch off in their free time. This can have a knock-on effect on creativity too: tired brains are less likely to think innovatively and people are more prone to switching off and doing the bare minimum to get through the working week.
It stands to reason, therefore, that an HR department would want to boost creative thinking and productivity through limiting employees’ use of technology and social media during their downtime – after all studies have shown that putting the phone down and spending some quality time with friends or family, or taking some exercise – even if it’s just going for a walk – is a way to increase energy and creative thinking.
But how do you know what your employees are doing in their free time? Some professionals have suggested that employers could, with the employee’s permission, monitor the quality of staff downtime through wearable technology and apps. Traditionally the working day is measured by the clock – but this focuses on quantity, not quality. Apps, on the other hand, can collect data about how much we’re moving and measure the quality of our sleep.
But isn’t this all a bit ‘Big Brother’? Detractors could argue that not only is it invasive but it could also increase stress levels as you’re giving people even more technology to deal with – and not to mention ‘watching’ them. Surely it’s counterintuitive to tell someone to go out and take a walk while monitoring them to see how relaxed they are?
An alternative could be to instead see what employees are spending their time on in the workplace – for example, if you have certain teams or managers who love holding meetings, ask them if there is a better way to communicate needs so that the focus is on productivity and not on procrastination. What do you think? Would you propose monitoring your colleagues’ free time if it meant booting company output?