Turns Out, Monitoring Really Does Improve Productivity

Monitoring and surveillance have been in the news a lot recently, particularly in relation to the National Security Agency’s call-tracking program. But there are many other forms of monitoring, some of which are actually good for business and productivity.

For instance, I recently came across this interesting study: Cleaning House: The Impact of Information Technology Monitoring on Employee Theft and Productivity, published by three academic researchers.*

waiter collecting tips

The paper reports on the result of a study the researchers performed involving the use of surveillance software at nearly 400 “casual dining” restaurants all across the country. In this case, the software was intended to monitor for possible employee theft. For instance, a bartender might serve customers drinks without ringing them up. He can then pocket the money from the customers as a “tip.”

The researchers reported that after installing the software, theft was reduced at each restaurant by a modest average of a little over $100 per week. But — and here’s the really interesting part — revenue at the monitored restaurants increased by an average of nearly $3,000 a week!

It seems that once the workers knew they were being monitored, not only did it discourage those who might be inclined to thievery, it also encouraged all the employees to do a better job of promoting the restuarants’ food (and earning themselves a bigger tip based on the larger check total).

“What can I bring you for an appetizer?” “Would you like to have the salad bar along with that entree?” “Care for some dessert to top off your meal?”

So what, you may be asking, does this have to do with time and attendance?

Glad you asked! Turns out, something similar can happen when a business steps up their game in tracking employee work time. When you’re using time sheets employees fill in on their own, workers are inclined to simply enter their standard eight hours every day… even on those days when they might have been a little late arriving, taken a few extra minutes to run errands at lunch or cut out a bit early to pick up their kid after soccer practice.

The only time some of them will record anything other than “the usual” is when they worked some overtime. Then you can guarantee they’ll record their exact time worked, down to the split second, starting from the moment they pull in to your parking lot.

“So what?” you might think. “It’s just a few minutes, right? What kind of difference can that possibly make?”

A lot more than you think! Those “few minutes” can add up fast. An average of only 10 minutes a day adds up to 25 hours over the course of a year. That’s like giving your employees three extra vacation days every year! (If you really want to scare yourself with how much even a little bit of “time theft” could be costing you, check out our Savings Calculator!)

When you install a modern timekeeping system at your workplace, you may well experince results similar to those of the restaurants in the study. Not only will it dissuade many employees who may have been abusing the system — and make it easier for you to identify the recalcitrant few who continue to take advantage — you may also find even your better employees are making more productive use of their time.

People do tend to put their best foot forward when they know there’s somebody watching.

So, if you’re interested in improving workplace productivity, take a look at the workforce management solutions we have to offer. We empower you to track employee work time effectively and accurately, regardless of how many employees or locations you have; whether your workforce is local, distributed or mobile; no matter what your work environment, from factory to professional office.

* Lamar Pierce, Associate Professor, Washington University; Daniel Snow, Associate Professor, Brigham Young University; Andrew McAfee, Research Scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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