Employee monitoring involves the observing and monitoring of employee activity. A company’s management can monitor the activities of its employees through monitoring their activities online, checking their emails, watching them, and even listening to their phone calls.
The reasons behind employee monitoring range from maintaining professionalism within the workplace by ensuring employees do not use company assets for personal use, such as sending personal emails, to preventing confidential files and the company’s sensitive data (including trade secrets) from being leaked. Other reasons are to prevent time wastage by employees idling on the internet and to prevent the illegal downloading of materials. The prevention of viruses affecting company systems and networks is also a reason many companies choose to monitor their employees.
Another reason would be to prevent the hacking of company systems. Through the monitoring of internet usage and erecting firewalls, the danger of an illegal entry into the database of a business can be greatly reduced.
Therefore, it is clear that employee does come with its benefits. It is actually a practice that is permitted by law across many jurisdictions. The issue, however, is where should the limits be set when it comes to employee monitoring? At what point should companies draw the line and differentiate between legitimate, harmless monitoring of employees and micromanagement? Employees do not want to feel as though someone is always watching them over their shoulders, and intruding into their right of personal privacy.
Advancements in technology have also changed the way employee monitoring is conduction. Today, there are various ways through which employees can be monitored. Employers can listen to and even record their employees’ telephone calls. They can issue smartphones or tablets to employees and monitor the calls received and text messages sent through the phone. They can use video equipment to monitor the activities of employees. Employers can now use softwares specifically tailored for employee monitoring. These softwares will enable the employer to monitor the employee’s activities on their computer. They will enable the employer to see what is on the screen of the employee’s computer, or even know what is stored in their computer terminals or hard disks.
There are ways through which employers can monitor their employees without making the latter feel they are being micromanaged.
1. Monitoring Location
Advancements in technology have enabled companies to track the movements of their employees. There are wearable devices that employees can be given to wear and these devices relay information about the employee’s whereabouts to his or her employer. This is particularly ideal for companies dealing in the transportation and delivery of goods. The company may want to monitor the employee’s movements in order to track the goods being moved from one place to another.
However, this idea is not good for employees operating from the physical location of a business. These employees are not bound to leave the premises and will spend the day moving from desk to desk, and will only move out of the premises during coffee and lunch breaks. The idea of an employer monitoring the movements of an employee as they even take a washroom break can seem intrusive to many employees.
2. Monitoring Personal Calls
Calls made and received by employees can be monitored by the management. However, this calls should be limited to those made in the course of business and not include personal calls made by employees. One way to go about it is to have employees have a separate phone for work purposes and allow them to use their personal phones to make personal calls. The phone meant for work purposes can be monitored and even recorded by the management. However, employers should refrain from listening to personal calls made by employees to their families and friends.
3. Monitoring Every Detail of Work
Employers may want to monitor and keep track on the performance of projects within the company. However, this should not involve monitoring every single detail involving the progress of the work. That would be like the employer doing the work himself, rather than allowing the employee to do it. Employers should instead set and communicate clear goals to their employees and delegate decisions on how the work should be done to them. The employers can then, once in a while, check up on the progress of the work and advise the employees accordingly.
4. Tracking Time Taken
Wearables have also enabled employees to track the time taken by employees in engaging in activities at the workplace. There are also softwares that monitor the time taken by employees. This can be beneficial to the company as it will allow the employers to monitor employees who waste time at the workplace. However, this idea can also be counterproductive when employees feel their time is being tracked in every single activity they undertake, including taking washroom breaks. The employees can also end up feeling they are under pressure to work at faster rates than they can.
Therefore, while employee monitoring is a good idea that can even have financial benefits in the long run and prevent the leakage of sensitive corporate data, there should be limits when it comes to the monitoring. Employees do not want to be in an environment where they feel that their right to personal privacy is being infringed upon, and that every step they take is being monitored and assessed. Micromanagement would only result in the breeding of resentment against the employer by the employee and the will serve to demotivate the latter.