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Monitor employees: Legal and ethical concerns

Monitor employees: Legal and ethical concerns. Practices for using employee monitor software 

It is no doubt that owners of the business would like to monitor employee productivity. Digitalization has spurred the occurrence of various employee monitor software. While managers are eager to monitor employee performance, the legal and ethical aspects of employee monitoring should draw their attention. 

In fact, Covid-19 has boosted the employee monitor software market. Due to WFH, the market size of employee monitor software in each region is projected to experience continuous growth significantly, which has indicated an employee monitor software trend in the future.

montor employee at workplace

However, monitoring employee activity may be disliked by employees

Even though using employee monitor software increases work efficiency, employees seem not to favor the idea of being monitored. 

They don’t feel trusted while employers use employee monitor software to track employee productivity. While this negative emotion has spread across the firm, it’s likely to demotivate employees, further affecting employee productivity. Secondly, they are likely to feel stressed. If they don’t perform well, they have a fear of being fired. 

Monitoring Software does improve employee productivity somehow

Firms aren’t NGOs. They make profits. Thus keeping employees is to maintain firm operation. Even though the cons of monitoring employees seem to contradict to pros, monitoring employee does work. 

Firstly, monitoring employees helps increase employee concentration on work. Employees aren’t likely to be laid-back once they know they are monitored. It decreases their likelihood of being distracted by other stuff such as browsing the websites or checking social media accounts. 

Secondly, monitoring helps to track employee work performance. When multiple members work on the same project, it’s hard to point out who has more achievement than others. Introducing employee monitoring helps firms to recognize employees’ efforts. Furthermore, to reward those who are productive. 

Thirdly, employee monitoring allows firms to optimize their operation. Through employee monitoring software, firms can know how much costs and times they spend on certain things, and thus they can optimize these processes to improve productivity. In the end, it renders lower costs while higher profitability to firm operation. 

Pros and cons of monitoring employees
Pros and cons of monitoring employees

Since some of the employees dislike being monitored, is it still legal to monitor employees?

Business must go on! According to workplace monitoring laws across nations, employers are allowed to monitor employees within a legal range.

workplace monitoring laws

Developed countries have implemented relatively mature workplace monitoring laws. In the United States, ECPA, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, has permitted employers to do so. In the business context, employees may monitor employees as long as employees have approved. Moreover, ECPA remains silent about storing employees’ information in employers’ devices. In other words, it doesn’t restrict many forms of monitoring. 

Likewise, European countries have similar workplace monitoring laws. Even though it’s stricter, it still varies from country to country. For example, Finnish employers can only conduct monitoring employee activity when it’s directly related to employment. On the other hand, Spain is on the way to the beginning of imposing restrictions on some forms of monitoring, which related to devices. 

It’s ok to monitor employees. However, you need a couple of practices before you do so. Make it ethical

Even though it’s legal to monitor employees, it’s essential to make it more ethical to foster a friendly work environment. The purpose of using employee monitor software is to increase employee productivity, maximize employee buy-in, while resecting privacy is the precondition. 

Practices for using employee monitor software
Practices for using employee monitor software

How to monitor employees I: Promote transparency 

“If organizations wish to monitor their employees, they should be clear about its purpose and that it brings real benefits. Organizations also need to make employees aware of the nature, extent and reasons for any monitoring”  Said Spokesperson from the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office. Thus it indicates that firms need to clarify the purpose and reasons of employee monitoring. Meanwhile, employees should know what is being monitored. 

There are a couple of suggestions to improve transparency:

  • Employees should engage in the planning process of monitoring employee programs. They should be able to express their opinions about the monitoring content. Employee monitoring should be based on a mutual agreement. 
  • Once it’s done, disclose the details of employee monitoring programs. Issue brochures and incorporate them in employee handbooks or company policy. 
  • Be transparent about how the firm’s data is being processed, say how the firm store or dispose of data. 

How to monitor employees II: Avoid unnecessary monitoring 

“Employers must not use tech to control and micromanage their staff. Monitoring toilet breaks, tracking, and snooping on staff outside working hours creates fear and distrust. And it undermines morale.” Said the spoken person from General Secretary of the British Trades Union Congress (TUC). Therefore, firms should set the range of what is being monitored. 

For example, your purpose is to track Internet usage. You shouldn’t incorporate extra monitoring content such as keystroke logging and webcam monitoring. Don’t go too far. Incorporating unnecessary monitoring is likely to increase employees’ anxiety and distrust towards firms, further affecting their performances. 

How to monitor employees III: Select a trustworthy app 

Various employee management apps with different features are available. However, not all of them are maturely developed. Defects, including software bugs and the lack of privacy, are prevalent among apps. Thus it is crucial to select a trustworthy app.

What kind of encryption does the app use? If it isn’t end-to-end encryption, the server can likely access the data. Does it have a history of leaking users’ data? Does the app developer elaborate on privacy terms and conditions? Check reviews and news about the app before using it. Firms need to take these into considerations before selection. 

Conclusion: Firms should know the bottom line of monitoring employees 

It is completely legal to monitor your employees. Even though employees don’t favor employee monitor software in the workplace, firms shouldn’t forgo such a monitoring mechanism. Maintaining employees at the firm is to create financial benefits, and thus employee productivity matters. However, firms should know the bottom line of monitoring employees and monitoring activities should be related to work.

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