Employee Monitoring & Employee Privacy
Employee monitoring is now becoming a trend.
If done right, it can be very beneficial to your company. If done wrong, it will have adverse effects.
In this post, we will talk about the advantages and disadvantages of employee monitoring. I will also be giving some tips on how not to cross the thin line between employee monitoring and employee privacy.
Ready? Read on!
Advantages of Employee Monitoring
If done right, employee monitoring can bring a lot advantages to your company. Let’s talk about each one in this section.
1. Increases Productivity
Monitoring how your employees spend their time at work will help you determine how to increase productivity in your company. Employees who use company hours as their “personal time” cause great losses to the firm.
For instance, if your employee monitoring software shows that Employee A is spending most of his time online, you can confront him and ask him to focus on his work.
2. Minimizes Policy Violations
Believe it or not, there are employees who believe that the company’s rules don’t apply to them.
These dishonest workers usually end up breaking rules when the bosses are not around. Employee tracking systems can help you catch those who willingly violate company policies.
3. Reduces Mistakes
Employee tracking programs allow you to monitor the mistakes and errors committed by your employees every day. You can use this information to create training programs that address these issues.
Employee monitoring systems also allow you to prevent or minimize further mistakes by confronting the employee and helping him improve.
A word of caution: be careful with how you react to your employees’ mistakes. Jumping on an employee will create fear and conflict, decreasing productivity in the process.
The opposite is also true. Handling mistakes properly creates a culture of trust which leads to increased productivity and motivation.
4. Reinforces Strengths
Aside from mistakes and policy violations, employee tracking systems also allow you to monitor your employees’ strengths. They also give detailed snapshots on how your workers go beyond their call of duty.
Using this information, you can reinforce your employees’ strengths by acknowledging their efforts.
If your employees know that you are monitoring them not just to expose their weaknesses but also to highlight their strengths, they’ll be more likely to accept the fact that their movements are being monitored constantly.
5. Increases Customer Satisfaction
Employees who are aware that their work is being monitored constantly are more likely to focus on their customers’ needs. For instance, in call center industries, agent calls are closely tracked.
And since they don’t know which calls are being monitored by the system, they usually adhere to the company’s standards, procedures and policies on each call.
Employee monitoring also encourages the agents to make sure that they resolve the clients’ issues to satisfaction.
Disadvantages of Employee Monitoring
Employee monitoring also has its own share of disadvantages. Let’s talk about some below.
1. Increases Stress
Reports show that monitored employees have higher stress levels compared to those who were not. Employees who are aware that someone’s watching or listening to them in secret become more conscious of their behaviour. As a result, the idea of committing small mistakes stresses them because they want to do their best at work. Aside from pressure, employees also tend to feel that numbers (meeting key indicators) are more important than quality work.
2. Breeds Mistrust
Employee monitoring programs also cause employees to feel that their employers don’t trust them. Others feel that they are treated as children instead of adults.
These feelings make employees believe that they don’t have direct control over their jobs. As a result, many are dissatisfied —- causing them to perform poorly or leave the company.
Where Employee Monitoring Clashes with Employee Privacy
Who wants to get their privacy intruded upon? No one. Many employees believe that monitoring systems invade their privacy. A fine example of which is Arias’ case which I will relate below.
Arias is from California. She claimed to have been fired from her job after she uninstalled an app from her company-issued smartphone. The app is designed to monitor her movements every day — even to the point where her boss knows how fast she drives.
Woman fired after she uninstalled an app from her company-issued smartphone
According to Arias, she had no problem with the phone’s employee monitoring software as long as it was used during work hours. But since it was monitoring her 24/7, she felt that the app was like a prisoner’s ankle bracelet.
Arias is now suing Intermex, the company she worked for, for violating her privacy and for terminating her wrongfully.
Aria’s case received mixed reactions from the public especially because she was being paid higher by the company. Many critics also believed that Arias was aware of the phone’s employee monitoring software before accepting it.
How not to Cross the Line between Employee Monitoring and Employee Privacy
There are now laws that allow employers to monitor their employees. But unfortunately, much of the specific details still lag behind the technology.
To minimize your risks of dealing with cases like Arias’, here are some tips:
1. Educate Your Employees
Obviously, you are not obliged to tell your employees how exactly are you monitoring their movements and performance. But, neither is educating your employees just about creating a memo that says, “Big Brother is watching.”
It’s all about letting your employees know why. Gather your employees, tell them that you are monitoring them, show them its advantages and explain to them why you are doing it.
2. Develop Specific and Explicit Policies
After a few weeks, your employees will most likely forget about that meeting you held in tip #1. The next step is to create specific and explicit policies on employee monitoring — email, GPS tracking and cell phone use — lay down every detail.
These policies should serve as a reminder to your employees. You should also make it clear in these policies that your company reserves the right to track its employees.
3. Have Your Employees Sign a Consent Form
To protect your company against any legal issues, it is best to have your employees sign a consent form indicating that they allow the company to monitor their actions and performance.
4. Train, Remind and Train Again
According to Manny Avramidis, AMA’s senior vice president of global human resources,
“Most employees receive policies regarding use of office business tools and privacy issues on the first day of employment, but too often they don’t read them. Employers need to do more than hand over a written policy….They should educate employees on company expectations and offer training on an annual basis.”