Employee monitoring can happen in many forms. It may be a CCTV system. It could be electronic surveillance which monitors internet or email use. One thing is for certain: employers are ever-increasing the use of monitoring to make sure policies and procedures are being followed. If you’re thinking about instituting such a policy, then here are key points to consider when looking at the pros and cons of employee monitoring.
What Are the Pros of Employee Monitoring?
1. It helps to eliminate fraud and waste.
With a world that seems to be more connected every day, employee monitoring can help employers determine who is being productive and who is doing their online banking while on the clock, visiting social gaming sites, or even watching porn. It’s a tool that can weed out the potentially problematic employees on a given team.
2. It limits the potential of creating a hostile work environment.
Imagine there is an employee that is watching videos while at work that show violence toward women. How would this employee’s female co-workers feel about this? If a business doesn’t take action, then it could be deemed to be responsible for the actions of that employee. Employee monitoring limits this rather effectively.
3. It can protect records against possible litigation.
Lawsuits are a serious issue for businesses today. Emails are a written record that can be submitted as evidence. Employee monitoring can help to make sure the quality of these emails are where they need to be so that security breaches, accidental misuse, and other potentially costly legal issues are limited.
4. It can protect the quality of the work.
When employees are monitored, what is ultimately being looked at is their performance and the quality of the work that is being produced. If mistakes or errors can be seen, then they can be caught immediately so that the employee can be trained in the moment instead of days or weeks later.
5. It can eventually generate trust in an employee.
Some employees might seem like they aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing. They might spend 6 hours per day online. Through the monitoring process, you can verify what that employee is doing and what their productivity happens to be.
What Are the Cons of Employee Monitoring?
1. It can injure employee trust.
Any employee monitoring policy is going to injure the employer/employee relationship. Depending upon the culture of the workplace, this could be an injury that goes beyond repair. This is especially true if the monitoring is implemented some time after an employee has been hired or employees have built a reputation for doing the right thing.
2. It can reduce motivation and commitment.
Let’s face it – people don’t like to be watched. If an employer is watching every action an employee takes, then there isn’t much motivation to do anything but look for a new job in their spare time. For today’s committed employees, the lines between work and personal life are blurred. Employers like it when employees answer emails at 9pm – shouldn’t there also be some crossover then for personal business at work?
3. There may be privacy issues involved.
There are certain laws in place, dating back as far as 1986, that prohibit the interception of communication or accessing stored communications in an authorized way. Phone calls and emails are exempt, but other monitoring requires employee consent and that consent is often assumed instead of asked for by employers today.
4. There is a certain cost involved.
To implement employee monitoring, there must be an investment in the technology that makes it happen. There are also staffing costs involved because someone has to look at the data which is being collected.
5. Who will watch the watchers?
This is where the debate about employee monitoring often goes. You’ve got people who are watching the data being collected. Who is watching the people who are monitoring employees? Eventually there is someone or a team that is above the implemented standards of monitoring and the power of that position can lead to abuses.
The pros and cons of employee monitoring are designed to help maintain productivity and reduce factors that could be the cause of litigation. Unfortunately it is also an action that can lead to mistrust or different forms of litigation. The decision is up to each employer. Every business environment is different. Some teams may accept monitoring without question. Others may just quit. That’s why this subject must be carefully evaluated at the local level.
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