Workplace returnees fear Big Brother


Hot on the heels of research earlier this week suggesting that seven per cent of staff have sent company-confidential information to recipients outside their organisation and a third they have been sent sexually explicit or racist messages by colleagues, a separate survey has revealed that having phone calls, emails, and web usage monitored has become the greatest fear for the thousands of people returning to work in the UK this year after a period of time away from the workplace.

That's the somewhat surprising finding from Pitman Training's annual 'Return to Work' survey, highlighting just how far fear of the 'big brother effect' has wormed its way into the collective consciousness of the workplace.

According to Pitman, this is partly due to the ID card debate that is raging on in Britain, pushing issues of individual privacy to the top of the agenda above even worries about how to juggle parenthood with employment.

The survey shows that more than two thirds of respondents (68 per cent), ranging in age from 20-50, fear potential new bosses will be breathing down their necks over private phone calls, personal emails and the nature of websites they visit – up 30 per cent on last year.

Other findings reveal that a third of the men and women who took part in the survey claimed to be going back to work because of the need to earn money.

However almost a quarter admitted their return to the office has been spurred by the scope and range of training incentives on offer, further career prospects and boosted earning potential.

But deciding to go back to work, and gearing up the confidence to get through that all-important first day are two different matters.

While just a third of those questioned said they were worried about how to use computers, phone systems and email, two-thirds admitted they were terrified of making the right impression and fitting in with new colleagues.

Michael Graham, managing director of Pitman Training said: "Year after year, we're seeing that people's confidence in their ability to do the job is increasing. They're preparing themselves well, understanding the importance of training, and making the effort to learn new skills which look good on their CV.

"Indeed, this year, 80 per cent of our survey respondents admit the reason for undertaking a training course is to give them more confidence in today's competitive job market."

But the good news is that the majority of people returning to work this year will find they needn't have worried about nightmare bosses and rigid working policies.

Despite the fact that half of those questioned are concerned about making private phone calls during office time (up more than 20 per cent on 2004), and nearly two thirds fear that asking for time off due to child related emergencies will jeopardise their positions, most employers are sympathetic to their employees circumstances.

"Bosses are human too. They realise that some phone calls have to be made between the hours of nine and five," Michael Graham added.

"They're also aware that the odd family emergency can crop up from time to time which will result in their staff turning up late, or in some circumstances not make it in to the office at all.

"But at the same time they know that hard working, properly skilled employees are a precious commodity and are therefore likely to be as understanding as they possibly can."