To monitor or not to monitor — that is the question. Employee monitoring is a touchy subject. If you’ve ever considered it, then you may ask yourself if it's a good idea to check on staff’s online activities. Below are the pros and cons of employee monitoring, and some helpful tips should you push through with it.
The case for monitoring
Here are several reasons why employee monitoring on company devices is a good idea. It can help you:
- Protect your organization from data theft or harm – because careless or disgruntled employees may leak or steal your data.
- Ensure you have a harassment-free workplace – because cyber harassment (sexual or otherwise) happens among employees.
- Ensure members of your staff comply with policies – such as not downloading illegal programs or spending time on websites with illegal or hostile content.
- Provide evidence in case of a lawsuit – should an employee participate in illegal activities using your business’s computers (heaven forbid!), monitoring their device can provide evidence of their involvement.
Sadly, business owners who monitor often discover that their staff member's focus isn't solely on company success.
Arguments against employee monitoring
Of course, you should also be aware of the potential downsides to monitoring. These include:
- Productivity loss – monitoring can put a damper on employee morale, and you may see the distrust leading to productivity losses.
- Lost privacy and lawsuits – you’ll likely learn personal details about your employees that you would’ve never known about had you not monitored them. You may discover their political or religious views, sexual orientation, or medical problems. This subjects your business to potential privacy or discrimination issues if you or your management team acts negatively based on any of this information.
employee monitoring guidelines to follow
If you decide to monitor your employees, here are a few tips you should follow.
1. Create written policies
When you monitor your employees, ask yourself: “Am I doing this for security purposes? Is it to ensure my employees aren’t wasting time on games or social media?” If your monitoring policies are too strict, you could create an atmosphere of distrust.
Set guidelines for acceptable use of email and social media, web browsing, instant messaging, and downloading software and apps. Also, make sure to include how monitoring will be carried out and how data will be in use.
2. Tell your employees
It’s important to inform your employees about the scope of your monitoring policies. If they find out you’re doing it secretly, you could face legal issues. By being transparent, you may actually see a boost in productivity by deterring employees from wasting time on the web.
When telling your employees, explain why the risks your business faces from misuse of digital assets. Reassure them you’re not doing it to spy on their personal life, but to create a compliant and law-abiding workplace. Because their activities will now be less private, encourage your staff to use their smartphones for personal matters. Also, provide your employees a copy of your written policy for them to read and sign.
3. Get the right technology tools
You don’t need to know every employee activity, so look for apps and software that alert you of relevant problems.