That’s the short answer. The question, “Why does surveillance change behavior?” is still up for debate, but through studies on the differences between monitored workforces to unmonitored, there were astounding differences in productivity and revenue.
One study, “Cleaning House: The Impact of Information Technology Monitoring on Employee Theft and Productivity,” was conducted in 392 restaurants across 32 states. Researchers recorded levels of employee activity, sales and theft before and after cameras were installed in the casual-dining restaurants.
Researchers discovered that not only did employee theft decrease, but productivity increased driving increased sales. The businesses involved in the study typically saw a seven percent increase in their sales after installing the cameras. Servers often focused their efforts more on pushing customers on another round of drinks or dessert in lieu of insidious behavior.
Across the country, employee theft is averaged at $200 billion annually with restaurants in particular losing roughly one percent of their revenue, while only bringing in 2 to 4 percent without theft. After the surveillance systems were installed, theft savings were only about $108 a month, but revenue increased to nearly $3,000 from the employees’ increased productivity.
The point behind business surveillance is not to catch a culprit, but to encourage people to do the right thing. Based on the results of other surveillance-based studies, the Harvard Business Review declared “…the real upside of surveillance is the potential to spot and reward good work, not to deter bad conduct.”
The publication also warns against overuse of surveillance and its counter-effect.
If employees are monitored too closely, they begin to feel as though they are being critiqued on every action and tend to follow all rules to the letter, which can lead to reduced productivity and creativity. Assembly line workers in a factory who were heavily observed tended to not utilize time saving strategies they developed themselves in fear of being seen not doing what they were instructed.
Productivity reasons aside, it has been discovered that surveillance influences people to be more considerate of others and their surroundings, including a reversal of the bystander effect.
A group of social scientists conducted tests involving groups of people where one person would fake a seizure and researchers monitored who helped and how quickly. When surveillance cameras were introduced to the experiment, it was found that people tended to act more quickly to an emergency response of another than without them.
The cameras in the experiment are used to make the test subjects self-aware thus making them feel more compelled to act in certain situations. This was emphasized through online interactions as well as physical experiments.
In terms of home surveillance, cameras are being developed to help track and monitor people who suffer with dementia as well as deter poor behavior with home health aides or anyone else you invite into your home.
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