Workplace surveillance isn’t the best option for every employer. There are a litany of factors to consider, including liabilities, before you decide to begin monitoring your employees. Some of the most common forms of surveillance include:
- Tapping and/or recording phone calls: If your employees make and receive phone calls as part of the job, you may use devices to listen in or obtain recordings of their conversations.
- Installing software that tracks usage of computers: There are many different software programs that can discreetly record data regarding an employee’s use of company computers and internet.
- Video monitoring: Many employers install video cameras in the workplace and record video of the activities taking place.
- Location tracking: This is applicable to companies that employ associates who travel or otherwise work without a set location, and it is most commonly used to track employees who make deliveries, transport freight or drive on the job. Each of these will produce different results for an employer and have a different effect on employees. In some cases, you may use a combination of all or some of these methods to monitor employees and their actions.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Workplace Surveillance
Employee monitoring was conceived as a way to ensure employees work constantly. Personnel who are being watched are, one would suppose, far more productive than ones who are not. Monitoring would also, hopefully, decrease detrimental actions such as stealing or acting inappropriately.
This is still the primary justification for monitoring, though as it has become a more widespread practice, it has garnered more criticism. It might encourage accountability among employees, but it can also violate their privacy and freedom. Any form of surveillance may capture a worker’s personal and private information in addition to work-related data.
Such a situation is a liability that might land an employer in trouble. In addition to this risk, employees who know they are being monitored may grow hostile towards their employer. Surveillance can create an environment that prioritizes productivity over an associate’s well-being and ease of mind, especially among workers who are regularly productive and upstanding employees.
Though there are regulations in some areas which prohibit forms of employee monitoring, it is entirely legal in most situations. The Electronics Communications Privacy Act, which was passed in 1986, regulates the extent to which individual citizens can record activities. Exemptions are granted for providers of the services that a communication is shared through. Since an employer typically furnishes the technology and other resources that an employee uses at work, employers are usually exempt from the regulations set forth in the bill.
As for video monitoring, most of the regulations exist at the state level, and they tend to protect employees from blatant exploitation rather than general surveillance. It is illegal in most jurisdictions to film employees who are in the restroom, changing room or any other situation in which they may be unclothed.
Choosing Whether Monitoring Is Right for Your Workplace
All of this information still may not make it easy to choose whether or not you want to implement monitoring in your workplace. It can both cause and prevent liabilities, and it can be an effective preventative measure, but you must also consider the environment it will create for your personnel.
If you choose to monitor your employees’ activities, you should also consider whether you will be upfront with them about said monitoring. Informing them of the measures you use to record data can encourage accountability without making workers feel like their every move is being watched. This can also prevent your surveillance from accidentally capturing personal information, since associates will be aware that monitoring is taking place.
As with any major decision you make, you should carefully weigh your options before jumping into anything. Doing so will help you make the choice that benefits both your business and your employees.
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