British employers are using more and more electronic systems to keep a watch over their employees, and thus making the workers feel more exhausted and anxious, according to a survey.
More than half of the employees surveyed reported that their managers used surveillance systems to keep track of how hard they were working.
Managers in a fifth of workplaces also admitted during the survey, conducted for the Economic and Social Research Council, that they monitored their employees using computer-based systems.
"Computers and IT systems are bringing surveillance to most workplaces. Now for the first time we can see how this development is damaging employees' well-being," the Telegraph quoted Dr. Michael White, who co-directed the study with Dr. Patrick McGovern of the London School of Economics, as saying.
Dr McGovern said that bosses usually evaluate the performances of their employees on the basis of details of sales, deliveries, conversations with customers, phone calls and the time taken to complete tasks, which are routinely logged on computer systems.
Though the surveillance was more in call centres where conversations with customers are recorded "for training purposes", Dr. McGovern says that the trend was rapidly expanding to other workplaces also.
During the survey, 2,132 employees and 2,000 employers across all industry sectors were questioned. It was found that work-related strain rose by 7.5 per cent in workplaces checked by computer.
Among administrative and white-collar staff in offices like call centres, stress rose by 10 per cent if they were monitored constantly.
People engaged in lower-ranking office jobs tended to suffer the worst effects of monitoring, showed the survey.
Dr McGovern said that many employees felt as if they had simply become "an appendage of a machine".
"People are having to register every piece of work they do. Where your work is routinely recorded electronically, then there's a sense that you are becoming an appendage of a machine," he said.
"The people who work under this sort of monitoring were more likely to report work strains like feeling exhausted at the end of the day," he added.
The survey also revealed that many employers were checking their employees Internet use so as to ensure that they were not wasting time on social networking sites such as Facebook.
"Monitoring employees' behaviour through computer systems is a growing concern across the workforce. Although employers can have legitimate concerns about staff accessing inappropriate material and excessive time spent social networking, a heavy handed reaction causes unnecessary stress and weakens morale," Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said.
"Employers should instead look to develop agreed guidelines and policies on internet usage and ensure all staff are aware of them," Barber added.
Dr McGovern said the research, covering changes in the British workplace from 1984 to 2004, showed the trend in monitoring had spread very quickly, but he expected it to continue.