Why Do Companies Monitor Employees?
Employee monitoring is a way for companies to discover highly prominent employee productivity markers that could be used to enhance workspace productivity, efficiency, and engagement.
The employee monitoring software is installed on work devices to collect data on employees’ workplace activity. The software monitors employees’ usage of company applications, the time employees spend on unproductive tasks, and the time of day when they are most productive.
Managers or HR specialists later analyze this data to recognize patterns, trends, and general correlations among employee teams, groups, or even entire departments and find ways to improve business processes and boost team and company productivity.
However, employee monitoring can be perceived as employee surveillance. Although monitoring is legal when it’s in compliance with both state and federal laws, not all companies adopt it as a practice as some don’t believe in the necessity of a controlled work environment.
The implementation of monitoring methods can also lead to backlash as employees might feel like their employers are distrustful of them during work hours. It needs to be adopted carefully so that employees don’t feel that their privacy has been compromised.
Employee Monitoring Methods
The advancements in technology have allowed for the use of a wide range of employee monitoring methods, including time tracking software and designated employee tracker apps for computers, tablets, and smartphones.
Until a decade ago, employee monitoring was done locally by office managers or overseers, but today, most modern companies use software.
Here are some of the types of employee monitoring software:
Internet Activity Monitoring
This type of software is usually installed as an add-on to the Internet browser used in the office, and companies mostly use it to prevent employees from being idle at work by monitoring their internet access and restricting access to malicious or company-inappropriate websites.
The software can also improve internet bandwidth efficiency by identifying unnecessary website clutter from bandwidth-demanding websites.
Employee Computer Monitoring
This type of monitoring software is installed on company computers as a standalone application that works in the background during work hours. The software tracks local application use by monitoring employees’ USB and work application activity, website access, screenshots, emails, and login activity.
Managers have administrative rights over the software and can access the data from each day, week, or month, depending on the need. Employees who work remotely also have to install the software on their own devices or use a company device with the software installed.
Managers or HR specialists use computer monitoring software to determine whether work-related applications and other software are used as per company instructions. The software can also detect risky file transfers on USBs, external HDDs, or other types of external media devices.
GPS tracking and other types of employee location monitoring aren’t used as much as designated employee monitoring software and fall under a “niche” tracking category.
Location tracking is mostly used by construction companies or other types of companies whose employees perform field duties. Managers monitor whether the employees are on location during work hours and sometimes use geofencing features to prevent them from leaving their designated work area during work hours.
GPS monitoring is also used to monitor company vehicles and the employees that use them. Some examples would be UPS, Amazon, pizza delivery, and other services with travel job descriptions. Moreover, the GPS monitoring software allows managers to track company-issued devices in case they get lost and/or stolen.
Managers (of truck, mail, or delivery companies, for example) can improve the productivity and efficiency of their drivers by viewing which routes they take and calculating the total mileage. When managers get the route data, they can decide if the driver’s choice of route can be improved and select new routes for them. This can also be mediated with a dispatcher.
As a result, the company can save money on gas, reduce the total mileage of the vehicles, and use them for a longer period. This also lowers the frequency of maintenance checks and means lower mileage for the same amount of work, lower gas top-ups, and more.
Pros and Cons of Employee Monitoring
- Effective management
- Team engagement and productivity
- Data transparency
- Data loss elimination
- Business processes analysis
- Security and safety
- Lack of employee privacy
- Broken employee trust
- Increased stress levels
- Legal issues if regulations are not followed closely.
Is Employee Monitoring Legal?
The short answer to this is yes, employee monitoring is legal in the US. United States workplace laws state that employees can be digitally monitored in the workplace during work hours.
An exception to this is monitoring phone calls. Employers cannot monitor personal employee phone calls without consent but can monitor on-the-clock phone calls. The employer can also track employee phone calls without consent if the employee uses a company-issued device.
Different states have different employee workplace laws in place, so employers should check to see if they comply with their state-specific labor laws. For example, the state of Delaware requires that employers issue a consent notice to their employees before they can start monitoring them during work hours.