Organizations have developed various methods to check the activities of their employees during working hours. This surveillance of workers’ activity keeps track of their performance, prevents legal issues, conserves trade secrets, and addresses other security concerns. So we can say that employee monitoring is a healthy activity that brings productive outcomes unless the employer starts irritating his workers by using imbalanced or invasive workplace supervision. Any kind of unwanted means will surely agitate the employees and create a negative impact on them. Such continuous supervision in which employees get nervous doing a task or dread the idea of losing their jobs if anything goes wrong is a breach of personal privacy.
In the US there is no overarching law that regulates privacy in employment relationships. There are federal laws that relate only to specific aspects and many local laws that vary from state to state. This is in great contrast with the system in Europe, where employee privacy is covered by the general protection rules.
The relationship between employer and employee in the US is based on contract law. In the private sector, employees have little privacy in the workplace. Collective bargaining agreements can limit employer ability to monitor the workplace. Some states require establishing formal policies on workplace monitoring, together with accompanying documents such as acceptable use policies for IT equipment. Monitoring is not permitted without these policies.
Types Of Employee Monitoring
Now that we have entered into a time where the aftermath of the pandemic has shifted many employees towards online working. Employers have created some new ways to have a proper check and balance on their workforce that are operating from their homes. You must be aware of some of the common types of employee monitoring methods like software monitoring, telephone tapping, video surveillance, email monitoring, and location monitoring. Let’s have a quick scan of the famous software monitoring technique:
Software monitoring is a type of surveillance strategy in which companies use a special kind of employee monitoring software. This software tracks and updates what kind of activity is happening by the employees on the computers during work timings.
Is Employee Monitoring Common?
According to research, about 60 percent of employers who have mostly remote employees like to use monitoring software to keep an eye on them. Whereas another 17% of the company owners are thinking about using the software. The primary reason why employers impose monitoring software upon their employees is to have total control over them and better understand how they are consuming their time.
Electronic Monitoring and Surveillance in the Workplace report
The recent report of the European Commission’s Joint Research Council (JRC) has also highlighted the same concerns. The extensive Electronic Monitoring and Surveillance in the Workplace report compiled by Kirstie Ball stated that increased use of surveillance tools threatens to undermine trust and commitment to work relations. However, things can get better if employers try to give more freedom at the workplace to their workers. You might have heard of some employers relying on some fast and dirty monitoring apps. These surveillance techniques were especially given preference in the pandemic-time remote working. Ball also believes these apps to be quite concerning, specifically those apps that are much more invasive and that can easily sneak up on people working from their own homes.
Too Much Reliance On Data
The JRC report also expressed deep concerns about how workplace surveillance has become more prevalent because of the ‘datafication’ of work. Just as giants like Amazon, Deliveroo, and Uber have made all their gig economy algorithmic based. Therefore, gig workers heavily rely on these algorithms whether it is to analyze their performance or get rewards. This complete reliance on technology and lack of freedom and managerial assistance has threatened the mental health of gig workers.
Monitoring Technologies And Their Effects On People
The use of monitoring technologies has seen a huge surge in remote working conditions these days, some of which include email monitoring, biometrics, wearables, and webcam and screen recording. All of these surveillance methods send an extremely strong feeling of privacy invasiveness amongst the workers.
According to Ball,
“When people start to perceive surveillance as authoritarian intrusiveness… it can sometimes be because the purpose is not clear, or it’s suspected that the purpose has been exceeded, or not properly communicated.”
Now the question that comes into our minds is, how these organizations can change employees’ behavior toward this constant supervision. One thing that the owners must do is to start looking to empower their employees rather than questioning their ability to do their job or their moral integrity.
Proper Ways To Monitor Employees
We have already discussed how harmful the latest employee monitoring techniques are to the employees. However, a healthy surveillance environment in a workplace can bring a positive change in the company’s outcomes. Let’s discuss how:
- Owners must set some clear deadlines and goals for remote workers. In this way, the team will be vigilant in their work and will know exactly how and when the work is expected from them.
- As an employer, providing regular feedback to your employees is another important way to convey all your thoughts and expectations.
- Owners can also track attendance and absences regularly by using employee monitoring tools.
Employee Monitoring has undoubtedly been quite beneficial for the company managers but excessive surveillance is causing a serious negative impact on the workforce. Therefore, employers need to avoid using unwanted apps and software that is too intrusive to their employer’s privacy and personal space.
Interested in US or EU Workplace Privacy Law? Learn all about it in our courses about US private sector privacy law (CIPP/US) or the GDPR (CIPP/E). Or you can have a look at this article to know further about employee monitoring and its rules.