Employee Monitoring: If, When, and How

By June 13, 2019Emerge ITS Blog

You want to believe the best of your employees. You want to think that they’re only doing their work while they’re on the clock. Hopefully, they won’t use their office computers to shop or browse social media… or worse, do something that could compromise the safety of your network. How can you be entirely sure?

The question of whether to monitor your employees’ activities on their company devices is fraught with potential complications. It can affect your company culture, raise legal issues, and create more work for your IT team. Make the choice thoughtfully, and consider all of your options.

 

Should You Monitor Your Employees?

Although about half of companies do choose to monitor employee activity, the choice is individual to your company. Whether you choose to implement surveillance depends on your concerns.

 

Productivity

If you worry that your employees aren’t doing what they’re supposed to, you may want to consider monitoring them. Fortune reported, in 2017, that the average employee spends a full day of their work week “goofing off.” This behavior includes activities like using social media, sending personal emails, shopping, and gaming. Employees do much of this on their personal phones, however. In fact, they frequently use their phone specifically to visit sites that their IT department blocks.

Naturally, lost productivity hurts your bottom line, and you want to avoid that. But, if employees use their phones, monitoring their desktops may offer little recourse. Consider, too, a 2018 report from Harvard Business Review. In it, Lorenzo Bizzi writes, “Social media doesn’t reduce productivity nearly as much as it kills employee retention.” He points to research showing that social media helps employees become more engaged and connected with their coworkers.

Furthermore, feeling constantly watched can damage employee morale. If people don’t feel as if they’re trusted, may even work less.

On the upside, monitoring can give you quantifiable data on productivity. If you’re wondering why Employee A’s work isn’t the same as Employee B’s, you can look to see what the two do during the day. If Employee A spends most of their time watching puppy videos instead of working, you can make the necessary changes.

 

Security

Productivity aside, the security of your network is paramount. Even with firewalls and other precautions in place, you need to ensure that employees don’t take security risks with your machines. You might find that monitoring is necessary in this capacity.

Theft is one of the worst things that can happen to your business. It’s almost worse when it comes at the hands of your employees, whether it’s intentional or not. Having a monitoring system on your workplace devices can cut down on accidental leaking of information and other important files.

 

Legal Issues

Another concern some employers raise is web content that could lead to a hostile work environment. For example, if a staff members access sites or forward jokes and memes that disrespect certain groups of people, you could find yourself with a lawsuit.

On the flipside, you risk violating employee privacy. That can lead to legal problems as well. Work with your legal team to fully understand what you can and cannot monitor or track. Ensure that you follow all legal procedures with regard to disclosing any surveillance. Finally, establish a plan for how to handle any sensitive information that you unwittingly uncover about your employees.

 

How to Implement Employee Monitoring

Before you put a monitoring system in place, inform your workforce. It’s the right thing to do, and you have certain legal obligations in this regard. Put the information in your employee handbook and keep it updated.

Different monitoring systems can track various things. Here are some of the more common things employers monitor in the workplace:

  • Internet usage
  • Email usage
  • Phone usage
  • Voicemail
  • Location services

How you monitor employees depends on what you’re looking for. If you want something to monitor their computer usage, you’re going to want the right software for that. We’re here to help you pick the best software and IT solutions for your business.