Most office-based companies already use some sort of employee monitoring software, but when the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to create a remote work plan, the use of employee monitoring software skyrocketed. In a recent study by ExpressVPN, 78% of employers surveyed admitted to using employee monitoring software.
Whether they implemented a monitoring system simply to block employees from visiting malicious websites or to track employee productivity, monitoring systems are here to stay and completely legal. However, just because it's legal to monitor your employees doesn't mean you won't be met with opposition. Learn why it's important to strategically implement employee monitoring software and what steps are necessary for effective implementation.
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Why you should strategically implement employee monitoring software
Employee monitoring systems serve several business purposes, so it's essential that your employees understand your specific reasons. Maybe you want to use it to monitor how employees behave toward clients, or maybe your goal is to prevent data leaks and cybersecurity risks. These situations make employee monitoring solutions justified in companies that work with clients or those dealing with essential data that cannot be shared with third parties. However, your employees might not see it that way if you don't articulate your purpose.
Employees can see monitoring software systems as personal privacy invaders or tools that hurt their well-being during work hours. If workers know they are being watched, the company culture, employee morale, and relationship between employees and managers can suffer. Of course, with the right attitude and a bit of consultation with your workforce, you can change their minds.
Best practices for implementing employee monitoring software
If you've weighed the pros and cons of monitoring software and determined it's the best option for your business, you have several highly rated employee monitoring systems to choose from. Once you have researched which system is best for your business, follow these best practices for a smooth implementation.
1. Consult your workers.
Transparency is critical at any company, especially when the company decides to use technology that affects every employee during every hour of the workday. Installing an employee monitoring system without consulting your staff is wrong and irresponsible. This can lead to all sorts of negative outcomes, so discuss the topic with the whole workforce and organize a meeting where HR representatives explain everything about the system you want to install and use.
Make sure your employees are fully informed about the platform and about employee monitoring in general. Explain how the platform monitors them, which forms of data it collects, how it can be used, its legality and morality, and the scenarios in which data collected by the monitoring system can and can't be used. Let your employees know they can appeal to HR managers in situations they deem unfair or illegal. Be transparent and open regarding installation and usage of an employee monitoring system, and chances are your workforce will accept it in record time.
2. Explain the laws around privacy expectations.
To help your employees accept monitoring software, explain the lawful use of the software and the boundaries of using it. You don't want to know the content of all their conversations, for example; you want to know whether someone is always visiting Facebook or uses unrecognized USB flash memory on a company computer.
Explain that, while at work, your employees cannot have complete privacy and that they have to sacrifice parts of it to allow the company to function at its peak efficiency. To protect the information you collect, use secure servers – like those using advanced encryption – for storing private data collected by the monitoring software.
3. Create a formal, written employee monitoring policy.
Your workforce may be against an employee monitoring system if you don't have written policies on how the system monitors workers and collects data. It's also worthwhile to implement a set of rules on the responsible use of the internet, emails to clients, and web and desktop apps.
Although there is no federal law that requires you to inform employees they are being monitored on company-owned devices, state laws around workplace privacy and employee monitoring vary. Because of this, it is always a good idea to create a formal, written policy.
You can draft up a policy on your own, or create a joint one in cooperation with your workforce. Having everyone sign the agreement is a great way to implement a policy created and accepted by the whole team.
4. Monitor employees during designated hours.
A good rule of thumb is to monitor user activity during work hours only. If you have a policy that lets them browse Instagram during their lunch break or watch Netflix after hours, make sure the system allows them to do so without raising any flags.
Some employee monitoring software allows users to manually clock in and out to dictate when they are and aren't being monitored. Other software can be programmed to track during specific times.
5. Avoid monitoring systems advertised as 'spying software.'
Some software options act more like spyware than standard employee monitoring software. For example, some platforms can run in stealth mode without the worker's knowledge, and some platforms can track employee activity down to every last keystroke.
If you do need features like keystroke logging, be sure your team understands exactly how they will be monitored. Clear communication can help build goodwill, and it can protect you from unintentionally seeing personal employee information like health records or bank account details.
6. Don't install monitoring systems on employee-owned devices.
Make sure to install employee monitoring software solely on company-owned devices. If an employee doesn't own a company phone or a laptop and you want to monitor them, give them a business device and clearly inform them that the computer or mobile phone is equipped with monitoring software.
Skye Schooley contributed to the writing and research in this article.