Sydney, Australia , 09/27/2021 / Traqq /
Just two years ago, many disliked the idea of employee monitoring software. The reason was simple: they were considered too intrusive. What’s more, they brought up controversial privacy concerns. Is it legal and ethical to use employee computer monitoring software? How do we draw the line between performance tracking and spying?
These questions are becoming more crucial today than they’ve ever been. When companies were to adapt to a new work culture, employee monitoring tools have become essential. To show just how widespread it has become, an American Management Association conducted a survey with astonishing results. It revealed that almost 80% of major companies monitor their employees’ use of phones, emails, and the Internet.
While monitoring solutions have made it easier to transition to remote work, it’s still important to protect people’s trust. While employee surveillance is completely legal, it can only be ethical depending on your approach to the subject. Let’s take a look into what can be considered morally acceptable and unacceptable in this practice.
MONITORING EMPLOYEES WITHOUT THEIR KNOWLEDGE
What’s frowned upon the most is monitoring employees in secret!
Monitoring employees without their consent or knowledge is an invasion of privacy that can get employers into legal trouble. Unless there’s a suspicion that a worker is involved in some form of malpractice and the manager intends to catch them in the act, unconsented monitoring is illegal.
To avoid finding yourself in this scenario, ensure staff is informed about employee monitoring software. It is recommended that you create a policy with a consent form attached, explaining what you intend to monitor and the data you’ll be collecting. How you plan to store this information should also be detailed in the policy. This will allow workers to voice their concerns on whatever they disagree with and will enable employers to ensure they’re not unintentionally overstepping their boundaries.
It’s crucial to keep track of your time
with the right tools. Good monitoring apps have the necessary features to cover all ethical bases and make it easier to stay within acceptable lines.
MONITORING EMPLOYEES OUTSIDE OF ESTABLISHED WORKING HOURS
Monitoring people outside of work hours is becoming a significant issue in the remote workspace. It’s quite common for employees to use their office laptops to check their personal emails while on break or once their shift is over. If the monitoring software isn’t deactivated during these hours, employers can potentially record sensitive or implicating information that can get them in legal trouble.
To show just how risky ignoring this little key point can be, consider a study involving 840 US-based companies. The results showed that as many as one-fifth of these organizations have had their employees’ instant messages and emails subpoenaed during the course of a regulatory investigation or lawsuit.
To avoid getting caught up in such webs, employers can prohibit the use of company laptops for personal use. Another option is to allow workers to turn off their time trackers when on personal time, such as during breaks or after hours. This has the added advantage of making your employees trust the process as it gives them control over the software and when or where they’re monitored.
COLLECTING EMPLOYEE PERSONAL DATA THROUGH MONITORING SOFTWARE
It is crucial to clarify what information you intend to collect with employee monitoring apps from the start. This makes it easier to know what practices can easily tilt into unethical monitoring.
For example, many employee monitoring tools come preinstalled with a screenshot feature. Some even give managers the intrusive option to record screens and keystrokes on employees’ computers. Screenshots are great for ensuring a person is using work hours efficiently. However, when taken at the wrong moment, personal data can be collected.
Consider for a moment that the monitoring tool records the screen while an employee is accessing their email, bank account, or social media. This is personal data that you don’t want on company files. Not only does it breach ethical practice, but it can also implicate the organization in a legal tangle.
The best way to avoid this potential problem is to use monitoring tools that reduce the quality of the pictures or videos being recorded. This keeps the screenshot blurred, allowing managers to know what employees are up to without revealing specific or personal details of what’s on the page. Another option is to use tracking apps that limit screenshots to work-related apps or websites only. This way, no visual records are kept when the employee is not working.
NOT USING THE COLLECTED INFORMATION FOR COMPANY IMPROVEMENT
Ethical use of employee monitoring tools goes beyond collecting data. How you use this information also matters. If you use these apps just to feel in control or to find dirt that can harm a person, you’re wasting your time.
To get the best out of these useful apps, you need to have a plan. Get your employees on board, discuss why it’s necessary to monitor their work activities and then set a goal. For example, you can track their time for the purpose of calculating the most productive hours for each person. Some monitoring tools already do this automatically. Armed with this information, you can figure out what causes productivity to go down and ways to make improvements.
Are your team members more productive in the early hours of the day? You might need to cut down on those morning meetings to reduce distraction.
Whether employee monitoring is ethical all depends on the individuals involved. Using tools to observe people in the workplace is completely legal. However, it does not mean that it is always ethical.
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