Today's office workers are under threat from increasing control, monitoring, scrutiny and 'micro-management', according to a newly published study by the London School of Economics.
Sponsored by Microsoft, the report found that offices are fast turning into factories. The problem centres on the use of supply chain technology, developed for monitoring goods but now being applied to individuals, and the creation of knowledge instead of products.
The report is part of Tomorrow's Work, a long-term study initiated by Microsoft in October 2003.
According to the research, outdated command and control management culture is causing managers to misuse technology and over scrutinise worker performance.
This means that employees are reacting to communication from employers rather than performing core customer-facing functions.
Dr Carsten Sorensen, the report's author, said at the launch that UK businesses need to find new ways of managing people in the face of the changing technological world of work.
"Workers need a new deal. We cannot assume that, as white collar workers, we have complete freedom. However, bosses cannot manage as they have before by command and control. There is simply too much information in a modern technology driven service economy," he said.
"Outdated management practices such as these are causing the continuing productivity gap between the UK and continental Europe. We need to trust people more."
Also speaking at the report's launch, Ian Brinkley, chief economist and head of the economic and social affairs department at the TUC, suggested that workers were becoming unhappy with control.
"Recent research from The Economic and Social Research Council found that job satisfaction has fallen over the past 10 years because employees feel that they have more and more people looking over their shoulder," he said. "We need to rebuild trust, share risk and move to more partnership in the workforce."
Sorensen added: "We are entering a world of work where there is everywhere to go and nowhere to hide. Managers learn to manage by outcome.
"We need to set the workers free to interact with customers and therefore learn to trust. Otherwise, British productivity will continue to suffer."
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