Virtual Big Brother: Monitoring Employees
Data is everywhere. We’re being tracked in the car, in the grocery store, even when we’re walking the dog. As I write this, I’m being monitored as well, through employee monitoring administered by my firm’s I.T. department. This may help to prevent cyber-crime, as well as assisting with productive, employee locating and resources usage. Reportedly, effective employee monitoring systems can help productivity and therefore benefit the bottom line. However, it can also create problems with the employment environment. This is an important balance for all employers: to effectively monitor employee activity in a trusting and comfortable manner.
There are some guidelines on how best to monitor employees. First, ensure there are no surprises. Carefully document the systems that are in place and ensure that all employees have access to that information. The goal is not to create a paranoid environment, but consistency and understanding. Transparency is key. Include the monitoring systems in any employment handbook and consider obtaining acknowledgement from each employee that they read the policy. The policy should address each instance in which the employee is monitored and how.
As is the case with many aspects of the law, expectations are important. When utilizing company equipment, employees should have little expectation of privacy. However, if employees use devices for personal reasons, there is an expectation of privacy but still that information may fall in the hands of the employer. This can be problematic when it comes to private health information or other confidential information.
Employee monitoring provides valuable information but it must be handled carefully to avoid a culture of mistrust. Respect and transparency are paramount. An effective employee handbook or standalone brochure available to employees must clearly document the policy and ensure that all employees are aware of the monitoring protocol and know where to raise questions, if any.