A Quick Guide to Employee Monitoring

Andrew Carroll

Andrew CarrollCybersecurity expert

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Monitoring employee behavior is a great way to ensure data is secure, preventing data leaks that can be costly to the business. It can also help to foster a more positive company culture and keep employees more focused.

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People have a divided opinion on whether employers should monitor employee emails or not. But there may be good reasons for doing so. According to the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, which we also know as the Stored Communication Act, interception of electronic communications under most circumstances is not allowed.

You’d never know that a mole in your office could be leaking valuable information to the rivals, violating company policies, using the workplace email ID to harass someone or downloading inappropriate material.

There are multiple reasons why an employer would want to keep a close eye on his employees’ correspondence. 60% of employees use social media at work, and more than half of them waste work hours in shopping online. These habits have negative impacts on the overall performance and productivity.

What does the law say?

Companies can monitor employee emails on company-owned servers and phones if they have written policies stating just that. Employees who use the company phones and computers have to comply with the company policies and guidelines. At the same time, companies should also notify employees about the type of acceptable usage along with the consequences in the event of misuse.

Often, companies formulate employee surveillance policies and employees should have a clear knowledge of all the guidelines and the rules. Although there aren’t any federal regulations that keep owners from monitoring their employees, you need to keep a few points in mind.

Businesses can monitor the employees’ usage of a company-owned device if it has to do with the growth and betterment of the company under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. This can also be done to improve customer services and ensure that employees are not wasting precious working hours. Companies could observe the employee usage of business-owned hardware or systems that includes personal and work-related communication. However, there are certain limitations that depend on the reason an employer wishes to view certain files.

The privacy policies established by the state and the company’s privacy policies are of substantial importance, and the company has to pay attention to both. It’s important that you bring employees into the loop and give them a valid reason for monitoring their activities. You should also be aware that laws regarding employee observation differ by state.

Company Phones

Almost everyone has heard the disclaimer that your call is being recorded or monitored for training purposes when they call a customer services number. You should know that company-owned phones are for company purposes only. If there is an investigation going on, a company can use the cell phone records of text messages and calls as evidence.

Employee email and texting

The number of companies who are monitoring employees’ internet activities and usage is on the rise because of growing information leaks, and privacy breaches. With everything becoming mobile nowadays, companies are likely to give smartphones to workers for work purposes. And there have been cases where monitoring tools such as Xnspy for business have helped prevent data breaches. These types of monitoring apps let businesses remotely check the incoming and outgoing emails and text messages, and enable them to monitor their whereabouts, too. Of course, only during working hours.

Emails, along with other correspondence such as contracts, invoices, and other forms of electronic communications are legal documents whether they are between the company and the customer or other people doing business with the company.  One can even present them as evidence in lawsuits or any other disputes. As a result, employees need to understand the limitations of personal and corporate use. Using the company email for personal matters leads to various problems such as threats, discrimination, and claims for sexual harassment.

As there are some ethical aspects of employee monitoring, it’s essential that you draft a document and describe your motive and reason behind monitoring your employees. This way, your employees will know what to expect. Make the guidelines and rules explicitly clear to them. Employers can monitor their employees’ email within an organization legally, but some employees still end up suing companies for monitoring unethically.

5 benefits of employee monitoring

There are a number of benefits to monitoring employees, including:

1. Minimizing time wastage

According to a survey by salary.com, 4% of employees admit to wasting about 4 to 5 of their work hours on non-work related activities such as scrolling up and down their Facebook feeds, surfing the internet, or taking long breaks. 31% of employees reported wasting an hour a day. It’s common practice in offices and even more prevalent where the manager is seated away or works remotely.

Employees tend to waste a lot of time taking unnecessary or long breaks, browsing entertainment websites, and carrying on personal activities during working hours while using business resources. Wasted time is also a financial loss for the company, and this is why more companies are implementing employee monitoring tools.

2. Automating payroll and routine HR tasks

With the help of employee monitoring, you can greatly lessen the routine tasks of human resources such as payroll and attendance tracking of employees. There are tools available that let you monitor your employees’ screen time, along with other activities. Utilizing such tools is not only cost-effective but efficient as well.

4. Reducing micromanagement

Did you know using employee monitoring tools and techniques could help you reduce supervision? These programs can help managers to minimize the time they spend on supervising their employees. Instead, they can monitor workers remotely and instead spend time doing something more productive such as planning strategies, coaching people, or coming up with new employee training methods.

It’s better for employees, too. This lets them do their tasks without their manager looking over their shoulder. As long as people maintain quality work standards, fulfill commitments, and meet deadlines, there’s no need for the manager to constantly check reports to see if people are spending their time on social media.

5. Increasing productivity

When employees know that whatever they do during the work hours and while using the company-provided phones and computer is going to be monitored, they take up a more responsible and careful attitude. They’ll also be less likely to waste time on non-work related tasks. With increased productivity, employees can perform better, meet their targets and meet their deadlines.

Should you monitor your employees?

As long as you avoid being too intrusive, monitoring employees could be a step in the right direction. Just make sure you’re doing it the right way!

Comments

Join the conversation...

17/09/2019 Stephen Mike
No doubt, internal/insider threats are far more dangerous than external hackers. More and more companies are coming to the realization that it is much better to use employee monitoring tools than to wait for the malicious attack. I have been using Xnspy for more than a year, which is affordable and offers a bundle of features. Drafting a clear employee monitoring policy is the most important step to maintain a positive atmosphere while also reducing risk.
18/09/2019 Julia Kingsman
Any form of monitoring is intrusive in some way, and this has to be balanced against your employees' right to keep their personal lives private. The Data Protection Act must be taken into account if you monitor your employees’ personal devices. If used properly, employee monitoring tools can play a vital role in combating theft and data breaches.
19/09/2019 Jack Bred
Good Article. You have covered almost all aspects of employee monitoring. I agree with the verdict that it is only worthy if you are monitoring your employees the right way. Monitoring laws vary depending on the state, but generally, it is always a good practice to outline all the policies before time.

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