Employers need a clear picture of their team’s tasks, activities and progress, but tracking productivity can be a challenge. Some businesses use employee monitoring software to better understand employee activity and boost productivity. However, this software can adversely impact employees’ attitudes and morale.
We’ll examine the pros and cons of employee monitoring to help business owners and managers decide if this level of oversight would be beneficial or detrimental to their organizations.
Employee monitoring is a process employers use to track employee activity data to optimize individual productivity. Tracking employees’ work progress can help motivate employee engagement, minimize pinch points and increase profits.
Implementing employee monitoring software and technology is the most efficient way to monitor your team. These tools can automatically analyze and provide real-time monitoring and reporting to identify patterns of inefficiency and help employers improve business processes.
Editor’s note: Need employee monitoring software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.
Businesses use various types of employee monitoring technology, including those listed below.
Employee monitoring provides businesses with several distinct advantages, including the following:
When misused, employee monitoring practices can damage your company’s culture in the following ways.
No business owner wants to violate their employees’ rights, so understanding the legalities involved with employee monitoring is crucial. Take note of the following information about federal and state regulations on what’s permitted.
According to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA), employers can track activity on any device they give employees. Activity tracking can extend to monitoring files, downloads, internet usage, and social media activity. Guidelines may differ by state; ensure you understand your area’s specific regulations.
Federally, telling your employees they are being monitored is not a legal requirement; however, worker consent regulations vary by state. There are many positive reasons to tell employees you’re monitoring them, including building trust, safeguarding your business in the event of a data breach, and improving team relationships.
Some companies require employees to hand over their login information to their social media accounts if requested. However, in some states, workers can keep their login information private as long as their posts don’t threaten their company’s brand. Other businesses have policies that restrict what workers can post about their company. Check your state regulations to be sure about what’s allowed.
According to the ECPA, listening in or recording any oral or electronic communication is illegal. However, in some instances, you can monitor employees’ cell phone usage if valid business concerns back your motives.
Consent is a critical factor in whether a conversation can be recorded. Federally, you only need the consent of one party. However, each state has requirements for the number of participants who must give permission before a conversation is recorded.
For example, Arizona has a one-party-consent monitoring policy; to wiretap a conversation, you must have one participant’s permission in advance. In contrast, California is a two-party-consent state; employers need both parties’ consent to record a conversation.
Private emails are fair game on a company system. On a federal level, you can legally access and view them. However, laws vary by state. For example, employers in Connecticut and Delaware must tell employees their emails are being monitored. States like Colorado and Tennessee require businesses to have an email monitoring policy.
Video monitoring is legal on a federal level. However, like every employee monitoring method, there must be a legitimate business reason behind the surveillance, and it must be done within reason. For example, surveillance in the restroom and private areas isn’t allowed.
However, if the company’s property is under surveillance, you don’t have to tell your employees or have their consent. To be safe legally, it’s best to put up signage informing your workforce that security cameras are on the grounds.
Keystroke logging tracks and records what your employees type on their company devices; it’s legal on a federal level. Some software alerts you of specific language or phrases you may find harmful to your company.
The ethical issues surrounding employee monitoring aren’t cut and dried. To foster an ethical business culture, lead with transparency in your workforce when using employee monitoring technology. This helps avoid legal trouble and creates a healthier work environment. As digital tools like AI become available for workplace monitoring, safety protocols are critical. Employers should always be aware of the data they collect and how it can take a mental toll on their employees.
Although helpful, tracking software poses thorny privacy issues. For example, reading employee’s personal emails for no reason or sharing their private info can land you in significant legal trouble. It’s best to inform your team you’re monitoring them and create acceptable use policies so everyone understands proper usage of work devices and the internet while they’re on the clock. When employee monitoring is known to be a standard workplace policy, employees understand they’re not being singled out.
Below are some best practices for monitoring employees fairly:
The best employee monitoring software can help you find the right tracking and monitoring solutions to protect your business without alienating your team or violating privacy regulations. Consider the following excellent tools:
Julie Thompson contributed to this article.