Career Woman

Identifying the fine line between monitoring employees and breaching privacy


Monitoring employees and even background reviewing of job candidates has become much more thorough in the digital age.

Nowadays, employers have begun to go through social profiles of job candidates for a background check. So, many things are going on in the name of employee monitoring. As far as the legal aspect of monitoring is concerned, all employers have the right to monitor their employees.

Large companies are more likely to keep track of their employees. The American Management Association reports that 80% of large organizations monitor their employees’ email, internet use, and phone. Businesses belonging to the financial sector tend to be more sharp and vigilant. More employers are adopting monitoring measures due to the current wave of data leaks.

To control the risk of losing valuable information, and loss of customer trust, employee monitoring, and strict data protection practices have become the norm. 38% of employers say that those are the main reason for monitoring employees. At the same time, 25.4% want the option to monitor their employees in general after an incident takes place.

Monitoring employees: The need for employee tracking

At the workplace, there is a thin line between an employee’s professional and personal life. Over time, employees are becoming comfortable with the idea of workplace monitoring if the manager is transparent about it.

But some employees fail to take this line into account and waste precious work hours engaging in personal activities, wasting time on the internet, and misusing company resources. To protect business intellectual property, employers have to take steps to break these habits of employees misusing company-owned computers and phones.

Sometimes, the disgruntled employees try to tamper with sensitive data of the business. There are many things angry employees could end up doing at the cost of business security. Also, employers could even catch a suspicious employee before he becomes a security threat to the business. Businesses, both big and small, are working through smart devices and machines that are connected to cyberspace. At the end of the day, employers have no option but to be using monitoring tools to keep monitoring employees.

How are companies monitoring employees?

Third-party tools have become quite a trend nowadays. Employers are installing monitoring apps to monitor screens and record keystrokes of company phones, check emails and web browsing history and so on. Many companies offer employees with phones, which are company property, and employers can check the activities during working hours.

Employers have to install the app on the phones before handing them over to the employees. Also, they should make it clear that they would monitor the correspondence that takes place through that phone.

Such technologies have made it easier to monitor employees and provide a cost-effective means to monitor employee communications. Also, 30% of employers monitor their staff to ensure productivity, while 25% do so to ascertain whether employees are compliant with internal communication policies.

Is it a privacy threat?

All this raises a question from the employees’ perspective. How do they take it? How does it impact employees? The continuous monitoring of employees and data collection of their activities might help the employer and prove advantageous to them, but if the employer is not careful and crosses boundaries, it could be an invasion of privacy.

CEB conducted a study that found that most of the employees consider it unacceptable or have mixed views if their employer reads their text messages, chats, and access their multimedia. Employers have to respect employee privacy, and no matter how important monitoring is for business safety, they should act by the law. Employers can get the employees to sign an agreement stating that they would not use company-owned tablets and cell phones for personal activities.

Where to draw the line?

When it comes to monitoring employees communications, businesses need to identify a boundary they should not cross. They should maintain a balance between what the law allows and what falls under privacy intrusion.

You need to ensure complete transparency with your employees that you are going to monitor them at work. This is crucial as it doesn’t make the employees feel that someone is watching them secretly. When things are out in the open from the beginning, it makes adjusting easier for them. You can prevent any legal actions by mentioning it clearly in the employment contract.

Establishing boundaries for yourself and the employees would allow both to understand what is acceptable and what isn’t. To prevent misuse of company resources and time, companies could block certain sites that distract the employees. Using employee monitoring software help with that too.

So, here are a few things employers should take care of these things to make sure that they don’t cross the line between monitoring employees and breaching privacy:

  •       Get consent of employees

Get consent or be transparent about your motives behind monitoring. This way, employees would act responsibly. They might more become efficient when they are under surveillance throughout their working hours.

Also, they would not act irresponsibly while using company-owned phones or devices knowing that an app to monitor employees is installed on it.

  •       Unethical monitoring practices could get you in trouble with the law

Employers should invest in legal tools and techniques for monitoring employees. They need to practice and get accustomed to using cell phone and computer monitoring tools that allow them to keep an eye on employee activities at the workplace.

Gain the knowledge and restrict your monitoring practices within the workplace premises. Spying on someone’s activities without their knowledge is a crime. Also, do not monitor for the sake of finding something. Just stay atop their activities and ensure that they are loyal to the business.

  •       Stay within boundaries

Employers don’t have to go too far. They should be monitoring employees within the working hours, not beyond that. What they do outside of the office premises is not and should not be any of their concern unless it impacts their business in a clear manner. Keycards and CCTV are good options, but nowadays, employee monitoring eliminates the need for these things. They cover all aspects of monitoring, making it easy for the employer to watch the employees remotely.

Final words

Computer and phone monitoring apps for employees could make all the difference in strengthening security and boosting employee productivity. Take consent into account as, without it, you are just intruding on their privacy. Stay within the legal boundaries and employee monitoring will carry out smoothly.

About Andrew Carroll

Andrew Carroll is an expert in cybersecurity. He helps businesses both small and medium-sized, in implementing and adopting the best security methods for their organization and network. He gives great advice regarding and assists people in boosting the security measures for their website and business.

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