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Unisys: Kiwis working from home balk at employer monitoring

Unisys: Kiwis working from home balk at employer monitoring

The Unisys Security Index, now in its fifteenth year, burrows into the new COVID-19 workspace.

Leon Sayers (Unisys)

Leon Sayers (Unisys)

Credit: Supplied

New Zealanders working from home draw a line when employers use technology to monitor their activities, a new report shows.

Findings from the Unisys Security Index, now in its fifteenth year, broadly rated the security concerns of New Zealanders at 140 out of 300, up four points from 2020 and the highest seen since 2017. It was also the fourth-lowest score in the 11 countries studied.

However, the vast majority of New Zealanders do not support monitoring measures regardless of whether it is for productivity, security or support purposes. Indeed, 59 per cent of respondents even opposed monitoring of log-in and log-out times.

That result also indicated a need for new, outcome-based approaches to performance management to match the new employment environment.

Unisys, which is moving out of the local datacentre market in favour of services and security, found the level of comfort with log in/log out time monitoring decreased with age, from 46 per cent comfortable among 18 to 24 year-olds down to 40 per cent of 55 to 64 year-olds. 

However, those aged 18-24 are the least comfortable with employers monitoring across a range of areas, from their browser history on company or personally owned devices, whether they were using their work computer, their keyboard activity and their software response times. 

Privacy was a top concern and people are protective of their home space, said Leon Sayers, director of advisory at Unisys in Asia Pacific,  

"While for many people working from home offers benefits of less commuting time and work-life balance, for others it is an imposition necessitated by the COVID-19 response," he said. "Being mandated to work from home is not the same as volunteering for it."

Credit: Unisys

Employers had to gain trust and permission to introduce monitoring technologies into that space. 

"A two-way discussion is critical to successful organisational change management. And just because the technology allows you to do something doesn’t mean it is always appropriate.”

Sayers said it was time to re-think how managers monitored performance and productivity, starting with the type of role. Employers had to decide what was more critical, the input – time spent on a task, or the output – the deliverable. 

"For example, using technology to monitor how quickly call centre staff working from home answer a call and resolve a customer’s problem is a key metric of the role and service delivered to the customer," Sayers said.

For other "knowledge" jobs it would be more relevant to measure if they delivered something of the agreed quality by the required deadline. 

"You don’t need to know when they logged in or how long it took them,” he said.

While some monitoring offered positive benefits to employees, such as monitoring software response times or using facial recognition to log in without a password, adding new function and purpose to an existing tool required a fresh conversation. Webcams, for instance, are accepted at home to aid collaboration, but not security. 

Willingness to use a technology was, after all, critical to its successful roll out and broader digital transformation,

"Employers need to lead open discussions about the intended purpose and benefit of such measures if they are to be accepted in the home workplace," Sayers said. 

The top three security concerns for New Zealanders were data/privacy related: identity theft (52 per cent) of New Zealanders were concerned), hacking and viruses (51 per cent) and bankcard fraud (49 per cent). 

“Consumers’ concerns are driven by their personal experiences," said Andrew Whelan, vice president client management, Unisys in Asia Pacific.

"Last year’s fears of the unknown around COVID-19 have been replaced by the data loss and privacy threats that many Kiwis have personally experienced over the last year."

CERT NZ reported phishing and credential harvesting remained the most reported type of cyber incident and ransomware was the fastest-growing category.


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