pros and cons of employee monitoring

The Pros and Cons of Employee Monitoring

If you’ve noticed your team’s productivity is slipping, it’s time to start considering the pros and cons of employee monitoring. But let’s be frank: monitoring employees has a stigma around it.

Monitoring employees can create a culture of distrust if handled poorly — but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Many organizations monitor employee activity to watch for signs of progress and identify areas for growth. They even use employee monitoring software to manage and reward teamwork and boost employee morale.

This article covers different monitoring tools, how they can help employees and companies, what situations employers will want to avoid, and the best way to get a positive employee monitoring plan up and running.

But first, let’s be clear about what is and isn’t employee monitoring.

What is employee monitoring?

Employee monitoring is any action that tracks and collects data about employees’ activities during work hours. Employee monitoring can have many reasons and can include a variety of different data points, but the collection of data as someone works is what’s important.

While many people will focus on remote work monitoring tools, data collected can cover in-office teams and people on the road. Workforce productivity increases linked to these software programs are applicable to more than just the remote workforce.

Common reasons that companies monitor employees include:

  • Wanting to keep everyone on task

  • Safeguarding against theft, cybercrime, or data breaches

  • Ensuring people follow safety protocols

  • Assess employees for performance, promotion, or discipline

  • Determine the total cost of goods or projects based on labor costs

  • Create a snapshot of company health, including productivity and process efficiency

There are also many ways for companies to collect this information. Employee monitoring can look like:

  • Employee-friendly software that tracks input, activity, and time worked

  • Less-friendly tools that log keystrokes, read emails, or monitor webcams (things Hubstaff never does)

  • Having managers walk behind team members on their shifts

  • Requiring keycards to access locations or punch in and out

  • Security cameras that monitor property

  • Geolocation and fleet tracking systems that track location and time data

  • Project management solutions that track tasks and hours

Modern tools like Hubstaff offer automated employee monitoring software options so that your team can handle their tasks without needing to check in or interrupt their flow to provide you with information.

Older methods of employee monitoring typically were more involved. These included managers walking floors during shifts to keep people on task or asking security guards to monitor cameras 24/7 to watch for shrinkage, theft, and unsafe practices. So, the goals may be the same, but modern options tend to collect more data and use more automation.

Different jobs may also have different types of employee monitoring. Let’s look a little deeper to understand more about these types of employee monitoring.

Types of employee monitoring

Employee monitoring is a form of surveillance in the workplace where employers gather various performance and productivity metrics. This review might include device activity, URL and app usage, and location.

In most cases, employee monitoring software reinforces internet usage policies. It also adds a layer of security and allows managers to ensure employees complete their work.

There are many types of employee monitoring that organizations can utilize to keep watch over their workforce. Check out a few examples below.

GPS tracking software

When employees travel during work hours, it is hard to ensure they complete their jobs safely and promptly.

With GPS tracking software, managers can track employee activity for field teams. They can view a team’s location, track routes and mileage, and verify their work hours from one central location.

For employees who travel or work in hazardous conditions, GPS tracking helps supplement safety protocols. It’s also helpful for identifying lost, damaged, or stolen equipment.

Monitoring internet usage

Employee monitoring software allows employers to determine how their employees use the internet. Standard monitoring capabilities include logging visits to social media sites, recording browser history, and taking screenshots of employee monitors at set intervals.

Some employee monitoring apps can also gauge the internet bandwidth to ensure employees aren’t using applications or visiting websites they’re not supposed to.

Email monitoring

Many employers set up email monitoring to protect their businesses from malware or viruses. The same monitoring software ensures that employers respect clients and one another. Systems must be careful to review employee data and remove any private or protected information, such as union activities.

Overall, email monitoring helps ensure the quality of sent messages, including unsafe file sharing and inappropriate or offensive language. Many employee monitoring software suites will include email and chat monitoring.

Recording phone conversations

Quite frequently, companies record phone conversations to assess employees and protect operations. For example, you’ve likely called a support line and heard a message saying the call would be recorded for quality and training purposes. Employers record calls to review performance and see where an employee can improve.

In some cases, like when selling financial products, companies record calls and monitor employees to maintain compliance with laws and regulations.

While this type of monitoring is quite popular in call centers, it can also be effective in other industries. A phone recording policy helps prevent employees from using business phones for personal calls. It’s also useful for archiving conference calls for anyone who can’t attend.

Monitoring software and app usage

When employers monitor software and app usage, they gain a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of their employees. They can see which tools are helpful, distracting, or just unnecessary.

With this data, employers can make better software purchases that save money and help their teams be more productive.

Employers can also flag tools as unproductive or not allowed and then use advanced systems to block access to these on company devices. Employee monitoring software that creates these restrictions should be treated as an employee productivity tool and not a way to harm employee morale.

Tracking employee time

Employee time is easy to track. With the right employee time tracking software, you can see late, missed, or abandoned shifts with the right employee time tracking software. You’ll also be able to spot burnout, see time spent on specific tasks, and generate timesheets to pay your team.

Keylogging solutions

Keylogging is a type of monitoring that records the keystrokes made on a device. Employers can then use this data to gauge how productive their employees are. While keystroke monitoring can be incredibly insightful, it can also log sensitive information like passwords, credit cards, and banking credentials.

Keyloggers can create substantial risk for both the company and its employees because of the chance to capture sensitive or personal information. This action is one core aspect of employee monitoring technology that can severely harm employee morale.

If you’re simply looking for a gauge of productivity, a tool that tracks keyboard activity might be a better (and safer) fit.

Video surveillance solutions

Video surveillance is common in workplaces and is usually used for security purposes. In most cases, the risk management team utilizes footage to ensure no theft, sabotage, or violence occurs.

While video surveillance is widespread, read up on the laws in your area to check what is allowed. For instance, numerous US states require proper signage for legal video surveillance.

Pros of employee monitoring

Employee monitoring can benefit both employees and employers. Managers can use employee monitoring software to:

  • Upgrade workflows

  • Improve productivity

  • Increase their bottom line

Good monitoring practices help instill teamwork, motivate employees to perform at their best, and help point out employees primed for advancement. Now, let’s dive a little deeper.

Monitoring benefits for employees

Monitoring employees can directly benefit workplace culture. When everyone is on the same page, you’ll see benefits like:

General clarity of expectations

Providing clear expectations goes a long way. When your employees know what you expect from them, they have the blueprint for success. This helps employees feel empowered to do better work.

Reinforced reliance on co-workers

Teams function seamlessly when all co-workers are held responsible. Projects become easier, relationships grow stronger, and everyone benefits. Transparency helps teams empathize and understand their role in the process.

A work from home employee explore monitoring benefits

Team and employee recognition

Employees excelling in their positions shouldn’t go unnoticed. Monitoring employees can help managers highlight outstanding employee performance that might generally happen behind the scenes.

A clear path to promotion

Increased employee recognition clears the way for new career opportunities and internal advancement. Monitoring can put performance data in the hands of top employees who regularly complete tasks efficiently and effectively. They can use this data to make a case for promotions, raises, and other opportunities.

Heightened employee retention

These combined factors can create a positive work environment that encourages teams to work hard, rely on one another, and succeed. Those feelings of personal and professional growth will often lead to increased employee retention. To achieve this, companies must use monitoring and time tracking as a positive way to encourage employees instead of a punitive measure.

Monitoring benefits for the company

Monitoring employees leads to significant benefits for the company. For managers or business owners, employee monitoring can:

Create engaged employees

All the employee-specific benefits of monitoring mentioned earlier work together to help build a more engaged workforce. Increased engagement can lead to increased productivity, better outputs, and profits.

Improve workflow and productivity

Monitoring employee processes is more than just watching what employees are doing wrong. With proof of work and time tracking tools, managers can see how much time employees spend on each activity, locate bottlenecks, and improve processes.

Taking a candid glimpse at the way the business functions helps improve processes. This is especially helpful when managing a large team of remote employees.

Informed decision-making

Most monitoring software will present real-time employee performance data via impactful reports. Others provide real-time updates on a dashboard. These features allow management to see and assess trends in employee productivity. That way, managers can make informed decisions for the good of the company.

Two employees discuss trends in employee productivity

Improve data security

Monitoring employees can also offset future cybersecurity issues. Some tools help you gauge URL and app usage to identify data breaches. With the correct data, managers can determine if the breach occurred due to glitches in security, risky behavior, or employee negligence.

Increase revenue

When processes are efficient, employees are engaged, and decisions are informed, companies often reduce overhead and increase output. This adjusted spending, paired with efficiency gains, can increase revenue and profitability.

Disadvantages of employee monitoring

Workplace monitoring has some cons — but they all center around negative perceptions, cultures of fear, and improper implementation of excessive monitoring policies. You can address them by choosing an employee monitoring system designed to put privacy, security, and trust first.

Now, let’s look at some typical cons of employee monitoring.

The stigma around employee monitoring

The stigma with employee monitoring is that it negatively impacts employee morale. Employees may fear that monitoring processes would weaponize the work environment. As the manager, you must be transparent with employees and let them know they are not being penalized. Create a policy that shows them the positives, helps them buy-in, and gives them ample notice of the changes.

Feelings of distrust

Some employees feel like their employers don’t trust them. Managers can combat these feelings by explaining how effective employee monitoring programs help improve productivity, balance workloads, and prevent burnout and distractions.

Managers should also show how monitoring data becomes an undisputable gauge of employee performance used to negotiate promotions and wage increases.

You can improve trust and adoption of tools by showing employees where they have control over data or information, such as blurring screenshots or removing tracked data.

Employee privacy concerns

Privacy concerns are another valid complaint. Employees should feel comfortable logging into their bank account or entering their social security number on a form.

These concerns often stem from misinformation. Explaining how keyboard and mouse activity tracking is not keystroke logging is essential. Again, tools that blur personal data also ease these concerns.

Legal issues in monitoring

Companies can easily fall into legal trouble when they unethically use tracking and monitoring toola to uncover employee data.

Employee monitoring laws allow companies to monitor their employees during the workday legally. Laws like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 protect employees’ rights.

Employers can address many of these concerns by clearly articulating their reasons for using employee monitoring software. Once employees realize that the ethical use of monitoring software is a primary goal, monitoring processes can be understood and accepted.

Is it legal to monitor your employees?

The legality of tracking employees in the workplace varies from country to country and is subject to specific regulations and monitoring laws. Employers can monitor certain aspects of their employees' activities in many jurisdictions. Still, this right is not absolute, and you must balance it with employees' rights to privacy and dignity. 

The critical considerations for legality often revolve around the nature and extent of monitoring, its purpose, and the consent or notice you give to employees.

For example, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) allows employers to monitor employees' work-related communications with some limitations in the United States. Generally, employers can monitor company-owned devices and systems and conduct surveillance in public areas of the workplace. 

However, they often need to inform employees of these practices, and some states have additional protections for employee privacy. On the other hand, monitoring personal communications or private spaces like restrooms is typically illegal.

In the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has stringent requirements regarding employee monitoring. Employers must have a lawful basis for processing personal data. Companies must balance their legitimate interests in monitoring with employees' privacy rights. 

Employee consent is one possible legal basis, but it must be freely given and revocable. In practice, many European countries have labor laws that specify the conditions under which employee monitoring is legal.

It's essential for employers to understand and comply with the relevant laws and regulations in their jurisdiction and to adopt transparent and fair monitoring practices. Striking a balance between the employer's legitimate interests and employees' privacy rights is crucial to ensure legal compliance and a healthy work environment, fostering trust and employee productivity.

Utilizing employee monitoring software

hubstaff insights

Putting a transparent monitoring policy in place is a great way to address concerns. That said, the right employee monitoring tools make a difference, too.

Hubstaff employee monitoring software provides proof of work with time tracking, keyboard, and mouse activity monitoring, URL and app usage metrics, and optional screenshots. Managers and employees can view these real-time updates from the dashboard for better decision-making.

Are you considering implementing an employee monitoring program to improve your process workflows, productivity rates, and workplace culture? Our employee monitoring software can help.

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