More than half of UK employees under IT surveillance

More than half of British employees are monitored by computerised surveillance systems, adding to stress in the workplace, says research from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

More than half of British employees are monitored by computerised surveillance systems, adding to stress in the workplace, says research from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The research says 52% of all British employees report being monitored by a computerised system that keeps a log or record of their work.

The picture is confirmed by employers, says the ESRC, with managements of one in five workplaces reporting that all employees are now covered by computer-based monitoring systems.

The ESRC says the spread of ICT surveillance has led to a sharp increase in work strain, reflected by feelings of exhaustion, anxiety and work-related worry.

There is an overall 7.5% rise in strain among employees whose work is checked by ICT systems compared with those in similar jobs who are controlled by more traditional methods.

Evidence of work strain is particularly strong among administrative and white-collar staff in places such as call centres, where it rises by 10% among employees whose work is continually checked by ICT systems.

"Computers and IT systems are bringing surveillance to most workplaces," said Michael White, who co-directed the research study. "Now, for the first time, we can see how this development is damaging employees' well-being."

The research, funded as part of the ESRC's Future of Work research programme, covers the period 1984-2004, and shows significant changes in the prospects and job conditions of British employees.

The results are published in Market, Class, and Employment, a recently published book co-authored by Patrick McGovern, Stephen Hill, Colin Mills and Michael White.




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