HR problems – to trust or to monitor?

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HR Problems: To Trust or To Monitor, that is the Question 

Autonomy is cited in several sources as one of the motivating factors when it comes to the workplace, whether in the office or onsite. It only makes sense because employees want to feel like they are trusted with responsibilities and respected for their competence to manage tasks without being monitored or given strict direction. 

With this in mind, it might appear counterproductive to invest in monitoring tools that track progress and monitor metrics, like time taken to complete tasks and other related data. However, if you have worked in a Human Resource department, you will find that just because employees rank how much they value autonomy, it doesn’t equate to them not requiring supervision. In actual fact, you might have even gathered that employees when left unmonitored tend to proceed with side-jobs. It is only in cases often involving creativity that autonomy tends to produce positive results, and even at that, parameters are still required for the safety of the business.  

The understanding from this rather conflicting relationship between monitoring and autonomy as regards to productivity is what prompts the question:

To monitor or to trust? 


To understand what is safer, it is worth taking a psychological approach by observing how being watched affects human beings in general. To kick off this investigation, there is the work of the great French writer, Jean-Paul Sartre, often credited with the establishment of existential philosophy and popular for being the first person to reject a Nobel prize. 

In his magnum opus, Being and Nothingness – 1943, he asserted that the human internal environment is automatically changed the moment we become aware that someone is watching. To explain this, he used a rather interesting analogy where he asked his readers to imagine changing their clothes and realizing someone was watching, then imagine being the watcher and realizing that yet, someone else was watching you watch. 

In both instances, there is a change in behaviour due to the psychological awareness that one is being monitored, it is irrelevant, if you are innocently changing your clothes or maliciously spying on someone. 

A few decades later, another French writer, Michel Foucault, would write a book titled Discipline and Punish – 1975. In this book, he would investigate the relationship between human behaviour when governed by punishment compared to when governed by monitoring. In an interesting analysis, he would explain that monitoring affected criminal behaviour far more than punishment, keeping them in line with accepted social behaviour. 

Today, this has been corroborated by many studies showing that the threat of longer prison sentences does nothing to reduce crime rates. The argument is that this occurrence has a lot to do with how humans evolved to process danger. As mammals, that once shared an ecosystem with dangerous predators, our sense of danger is programmed to respond better towards what is immediate. Punishment is only felt after the act, and only if one is caught. Monitoring, on the other hand, is real-time and hence ensures that any misbehaviour will be caught and recorded. Some argue that this inability to modify behaviour when punishment rests in the future is why even existential threats like nuclear war and global warming do not appear to unnerve us as they should.


Foucault concluded, like George Orwell after him in popular novel 1984, that the state committed a sort of violation monitoring citizens as it was a form of control by subconscious behaviour modification. But then again, the state doesn’t pay one a salary for their time, the employer does. Taking it to the workplace, especially when workers are on-site, hoping to use punishment on staff, using office-time to conduct private affairs while actively skipping duty can often be counterproductive. To start with, if you are not monitoring your on-site staff, how do you generate the data showing that they were actually at the bar drinking, when they were supposed to be on the field servicing a piece of equipment? You are left with sending emails back and forth while they argue that it was raining, or a raccoon ate the spanner or whatever fancy excuse they can invent for not completing their tasks.

“Taking it to the workplace, especially when workers are on-site, hoping to use punishment on staff using office-time to conduct private affairs while actively skipping duty can often be counterproductive.”

It is in consideration of all these variables that Outwork was designed to become your eyes and ears on the field. This simple to use but detailed mobile application allows you to manage your entire on-site staff from the comfort of your office. With an exhaustive list of data points the Outwork application offers, it will be possible not only to monitor employees on-site but to also compare their performances to see who is efficient and who spends more time chatting away. 

And oh, what about when the site is located in a remote village with no telecommunication mast close by? Relax, Outwork works perfectly offline and will sync all information back to your dashboard the moment they are back on the grid.

“Do you want to be notified when they are present on-site via GPS monitoring, how long they spend on the site, and even an audio recording of onsite activities? These are just a few of the functions the Outwork solution offers employers to better manage their field staff and relax with some peace of mind”.

So there you have it… Are you having problems monitoring staff activity on-site? You can start with a free trial and we take it from there. 

If you have any questions, you can chat with us on

To Trust or to Monitor? – We say, Monitor, for the sake of your business.

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