Employers need to draw some lines in using videoconferencing apps to keep tracking employee involvement. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

When the virus reached the UAE, many businesses had to adopt remote work, whether they were ready for it or not. Thanks to the efforts of the government, virtual meeting apps — both global names and local — were made available to users. Even now, as businesses slowly return to operations with limited staff, they continue to rely on the tools they adopted during lockdown.

Remote work in some form will continue for many companies after this crisis has abated. Business owners are seeing firsthand the benefits of remote-work software, though the current environment has contributed to employee anxiety and some level of morale drain among the workforce.

If employers fuel that anxiety by micro-managing or implementing policies that show a lack of trust, chances are that once the situation normalises, these employees may start moving over to companies that are more trusting of their workers.

Business owners must use the opportunity provided by the new work culture to instill confidence by showing them the trust and appreciation they deserve.

Privacy concerns

Our adapting culture increasingly reliant on new tools demands more avenues for team collaboration. There are concerns about the seamless collaboration opportunities that happen at the cost of users’ privacy. This brings us back to two of the main pillars of this work-from-home paradigm.

The tools are helpful, yes, but using the tracking features in these apps can ultimately be problematic. Yet, there are non-invasive ways to track productivity keep employee trust.

Just how interfering can these apps be? A quick browse through the privacy policy of the most popular apps becomes instantly alarming. One of the apps has an “attendee attention tracking” feature, where hosts can see an indicator during a meeting or webinar if an attendee doesn’t have the desktop or mobile app in focus for more than 30 seconds while someone is sharing a screen.

So, if an email comes through that an employee needs to respond to immediately, the virtual missive will let the meeting host know that they are not paying attention.

In some appns, employers can read all messages sent through the platform, even “private” messages. This doesn’t mean that employers actually do read their employees’ messages... but the possibility exists. As is the case with emails, it is important for employees to know that anything they send can be read and potentially used against them.

A rethink is needed

With the reactivation of the market, it is important to have employee-centric policies for companies to win their support and boosting morale. Business owners should only be concerned with the results. Employees must be reassured that they shouldn’t be worried about their privacy.

If employees feel that they are being watched and that business owners don’t trust them, there is a good chance they’ll find an employer who values and respects their space. Employees must consider that personal lives have been impacted while working from home in today’s environment.

Business owners and managers need to take more actions to instill trust and confidence in their workforce, which is needed for optimal productivity and success over the long haul.

- Ali Shabdar is Regional Director at Zoho Corp..