The benefits and disadvantages of employee monitoring

Updated September 2020

Companies are always looking for ways to improve customer service and sales. Some have chosen to monitor employee behavior to understand how workers interact with customers, with their fellow employees, and how much time is spent doing their job. With the turn toward surveillance, however, questions are raised regarding privacy policies. What is the balance between observation and invading someone’s privacy? The line is hard to draw, but if the practice becomes too intrusive, your business could lose valuable employees and revenue.

Observation points out employee strengths
While worker surveillance is controversial, it has advantages that benefit both employers and employees, according to the Houston Chronicle. Monitoring can make a worker more productive on the job by cutting down on the number of mistakes made while also allowing for greater, efficient use of one’s time. In addition, the practice could make the workplace safer.

Employers more easily recognize an employee’s positive abilities through monitoring. Surveillance allows a business to see a person’s leadership abilities and their willingness to go the extra mile for a customer. Companies can draw attention to a worker’s strengths. As a result, employees feel rewarded for their work and more valued by their employer.

Monitoring not only cuts down on a worker’s mistakes on the job, but also points out workplace problems that are fixable. Observation allows a company to quickly adjust an error, so the mistake won’t happen again. Once the slip has been corrected, employees can adjust their behavior moving forward. Businesses also learn about their faults through employee monitoring as well. Whether it’s one step of an assembly line that does not work effectively or two employees that don’t work well together, companies are able to detect a problem and quickly modify it.

Lastly, employee observation increases productivity and workplace safety. Monitoring how employees behave during the workday may indicate attitudes that need to be changed to make people more efficient and safe. If a worker is taking too many personal calls or exhibiting risky conduct on the job, your company will be better able to rectify the situation to ensure the well-being and productivity of all employees.

Monitoring prevents efficiency
While surveillance has its benefits, it also has drawbacks that contribute to employee turnover and anxiety, the Society for Human Resource Management reported. Productivity can be negatively affected if worker observation becomes too intrusive. The constant fear of being watched and reprimanded for their behavior or work can cause employees stress and hinder efficiency as a result. Increased nervousness and mistrust of their employer leads some workers to quit their position and creates a cycle of heightened worker turnover.

Another difficulty for monitoring in the workplace is employees feeling their privacy is being invaded. This point is why it’s important for companies to follow both federal and state privacy policies and enforce a plan of their own.

State monitoring laws vary
As companies enact their own employee surveillance policies, it’s important to know all guidelines regarding the practice. While there are no federal regulations that prohibit worker observation, there are some points to keep in mind:

Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, businesses can monitor an employee’s use of its own devices if the purpose is for the betterment of the company, including bettering customer service and making sure employees are working. Companies can observe employee use of a business-owned system or hardware, including both personal and work-related communication. There are stipulations that come with that, however, mainly depending on the reason an employer wishes to view certain files. Companies have to take both their own and the state’s privacy policies into consideration as well as provide a valid reason for the observation, according to HR Examiner.

State laws regarding employee observation differ by state, according to the SHRM, so it’s important to understand local guidelines for your company.

Next steps for your business
If your company is looking to put an employee monitoring system in place, there are actions you should take. Ask for legal counsel on the subject to avoid overstepping state boundaries. This aid assists in delivering a system that works for your business and reassures employees that their privacy is valued. Communicate to workers the ins and outs of the plan, from their legal rights to what kind of monitoring you will use to your purpose is enacting a surveillance system.

Monitor consistently to dodge discrimination claims and a decrease in employee morale. In addition, make sure monitoring devices are confined to work areas only, which don’t include bathrooms or cafeterias.

It’s vital to develop a monitoring plan and stick to it. Ensure that all employees know the arrangement when they are hired and that notice of the policy is available around the office.

For human resources, employee monitoring can toe a fine line between an invasion of privacy and a way to improve worker performance. Surveillance policies should clearly designate the purpose for observation, so employees feel less apprehension and distrust toward a company. With open communication and transparency on the matter, workplace monitoring can make a business more efficient.

HR Support

Our team of internal HR consultants will work with your organization to create and support a strategy for employee monitoring. Employee monitoring has various complexities and working in tandem with an experienced HR consultant can alleviate the stress associated with staying compliant and ensuring key employee concerns are being addressed. We are here to help you manage and manage and implement key HR processes, so you’re in the best position to make informed workforce management decisions.

To receive more information, please request a free consultation with our in-house specialist. A Triton HR representative will contact you within one business day. If you have an immediate need, please call us at 1-877-OKTRITON.

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