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Employee Monitoring
With workplace accountability, employees are held to a certain standard. One way to hold employees accountable is through employee monitoring. This article will discuss employee monitoring and the role it plays in the workplace.

What Is Employee Monitoring?

Employee monitoring is the surveillance of an employee's work activity. Employee monitoring can come through many forms, such as video surveillance or tracking employees’ computer usage.

Should Companies Monitor Employees?

Whether employees should or should not be monitored by their employer has led to many disagreements between employers and employees. There are different levels of employee monitoring to consider in this discussion. Whether a company monitors its employees or not is something that should be taken seriously. Here are some pros and cons to companies monitoring their employees.

Pros of Employee Monitoring

  • Observations. The direct result of employee monitoring is increased observation, allowing a company to be more aware of an employee’s actions. More observation can lead to better productivity and help managers understand what kind of work is being done by their employees. This includes positive and negative observations. More observations allows for more documentation of employee performance and behavior.
  • Safety. Safety generally improves with employee monitoring. Companies know more quickly if certain rules and regulations aren’t being followed. This allows companies to address safety concerns to keep employees and the employer safe.
  • Awareness of mistakes. Employee monitoring allows employers to be aware of mistakes that are occurring. This could be a process being performed incorrectly, or someone not following company policy. Instead of correcting them in the heat of the moment, employee monitoring allows for a manager to have a conversation with the employee afterward to discuss the mistake and how to improve. For bigger mistakes that impact clients directly, catching them early can save the company a lot of time and money.

Cons of Employee Monitoring

  • Time-consuming. While employee monitoring can be very helpful, it can also be quite time-consuming. Employee monitoring means extra time is needed to monitor employees. This could be in the form of checking employee computer usage, reviewing video surveillance of employees in the workplace or in company vehicles, or reviewing where employees go while on the clock. While this data is useful to understand employee productivity, it can cut into the productivity of whoever is monitoring employees.
  • Damaged employee trust. One of the bigger issues caused by employee monitoring is how it makes employees feel. Employees may feel their employer doesn’t trust them if their every move is being watched. The idea of employee monitoring is to prevent mistakes and misbehavior. However, one study shows that monitoring employees makes them more likely to break rules. This can possibly be attributed to feeling a lack of trust from their employer.
  • Legal ramifications. There are laws in place that allow employers to monitor their employees’ work; however, there can still be legal ramifications on employers if they are not careful. Most states allow businesses to investigate anything that happens on company devices or company property. However, this can lead to discrimination claims or other forms of unfair labor practices. Things can get a little sticky with remote work, as an employee is not on company property. Laws to be aware of are the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and common invasion of privacy laws.

Types of Employee Monitoring

There are various ways an employer can monitor their employees’ work. Some depend on the type of industry you are in. Others might depend on your workforce, whether they are remote or in office. Here are some of the more common types of employee monitoring.

Computer and Internet Use

Remote work has become more common, which has led to more companies using employee monitoring software. In fact, 60% of companies with remote workers use some form of employee monitoring software. These softwares allow employers to track employee computer and internet usage. Employers can record employees’ screens when they are alerted of certain behavior. Some of the popular softwares are ActivTrak, Veriato Workforce Behavior Analytics, CurrentWare, Insightful, and WE Controlio.

Video Surveillance

Video surveillance is more commonly found in places with valuable equipment or safety concerns. You will often find cameras in warehouses or in company vehicles. In company vehicles, some systems—such as LYTX—are triggered to notify managers when an employee breaks a company rule or a company violation occurs.

Keylogging

Keylogging is the ability to record what a person types on a device. It is not commonly found in businesses, as laws regarding its use aren’t set in stone. In most cases, keylogging is used for malicious and illegal purposes. Keylogging can be classified as a break of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). It can also be very evasive to employees without much payoff for employers.

Screen Recording

Some of the employee monitoring softwares mentioned earlier have the ability to screen record. This could mean an employer can monitor an employee’s screen at any time or be alerted if the monitor is used in ways that are flagged, or if an employer takes over access of an employee’s screen to record what they are doing. If an employer chooses to do this, they should communicate it to their employees. Most companies will put something in their company handbook which states that they can monitor company property at any time. However, screen recording should be explicitly stated, as issues can occur if an employee is looking at personal information and is unaware that it is being recorded without their consent.

GPS Tracking

GPS Tracking is most commonly used for company vehicles. This allows a company to know where employees go during the workday and make sure it isn’t being used outside of business hours. Most companies explicitly state that company vehicles are only to be used for work purposes and not personal use. GPS tracking allows an employer to track this and ensure it is being followed.

How to Implement Employee Monitoring

Implementing an employee monitoring system will depend on the kind of system you are implementing. It might evolve over time. However, here are some steps to consider when implementing one for the first time.

Step 1: Conduct Research

Before implementing employee monitoring, you'll want to do research on what kind of monitoring is best for your company. You’ll need to consider your workforce and why you need employee monitoring. As part of this process, you’ll want to look at different employee monitoring software to determine which best fits your company’s needs.

Step 2: Decide What Company Metrics/Violations to Measure

The next step is to determine what you as a company will be measuring with employee monitoring. You need to determine if there are certain violations that will instantly be flagged and notify managers. This is where you will be able to track the success of employee monitoring. This will also take the most time once implemented, as time will be spent reviewing the metrics/violations and making changes as needed.

Step 3: Communicate Monitoring Policy to Employees

The next step is to communicate the new employee monitoring policy to employees. It should be put in the company handbook and communicated to employees as soon as possible. This could come through a well-written email/memo, a company-wide meeting, or shared by each manager to employees in team meetings. Whatever is decided, it should be communicated transparently, and then employees should sign something to acknowledge that they are aware of the policy. Employees who refuse to sign the acknowledgement can be subject to termination due to failing to agree to company policy.

Step 4: Schedule a Review/Follow-up

After employee monitoring has been put in place, there should be a review/follow-up to determine how things are going. The employer should get feedback from managers and employees. Has productivity improved? Has there been an increase or decrease in company violations? How are employees feeling about employee monitoring? This follow-up should happen at 90 days, but also at 6 months and 1 year. This is where any needed changes will occur. Changes might be in how the policy is being implemented or tracked.

Best Practices for Employee Monitoring

If you decide to implement employee monitoring into the workplace, be sure it is handled correctly. Failure to do so can lead to a negative response by employees. Here are some best practices to consider when implementing employee monitoring.

Communicate With Employees

Whatever employee monitoring you put in place, make sure you communicate with your employees. Employees should be aware of how they are being monitored. They should never be surprised when they are told they used their computer inappropriately. In addition to communicating what employee monitoring software or programs you are using, be sure to tell employees why it is being used. Failure to communicate the why can cause employees to feel like they aren’t trusted or they are being micromanaged. Be as transparent as possible.

Have a Formal Written Policy

Any employee monitoring policy you put in place should be written and added to the company handbook. In some cases, depending on the type of employee monitoring, you might need to have a separate document for employees to sign, acknowledging that they are aware.

Monitor During Working Hours

Some systems can flag when an employee is on a website that is non-work-related. If that is the case, make sure you are only monitoring during work hours. While they are using company property, employees should not feel like they are being watched outside of working hours. Consider only monitoring employees during normal working hours.
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Tanner Pierce, PHR

Tanner Pierce, PHR

Tanner has over 4 years of HR professional experience in various fields of HR. He has experience in hiring, recruiting, employment law, unemployment, onboarding, outboarding, and training to name a few. Most of his experience comes from working in the Professional Employer and Staffing Industries. He has a passion for putting people in the best position to succeed and really tries to understand the different backgrounds people come from.
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