As we have spoken about before here on HRStop, technology is making it easier than ever for employers to keep track of what their employees are doing and where they are doing it. Although this has made tracking employee attendance as simple as a push of a button, technology has progressed past that point. In this article, we will be taking a look at whether employers are going too far in using technology to monitor their employees and what this means for the modern workforce.
In an article by Law Technology Today exploring the same question, they explain that under Federal Law, employers have a right to monitor their employees while at work. However, it is the location in which the monitoring occurs that matters – a voice recorder at a work desk is okay, placing one in the cafeteria where employees may talk about personal issues is not. Different organizations all have their own reasons for monitoring employees, with the main priority being ensuring time is used productively. One way that some employers already do this is through the use of software tracking metrics like keystrokes typed per hour, internet use, emails sent, etc. However, some employers even go as far as tracking calls and text messages sent during work hours.
While these processes have changed the workforce, CSO Online details that there are a wide range of benefits that come with employee monitoring. Proponents of monitoring cite that it makes legal compliance easier, with employers being able to easily watch out for things like sexual harassment or financial fraud. This is because current laws dictate that employers must defend themselves in court using concrete data and evidence – something they cannot do without monitoring. Thus, many employers see monitoring as a integral part of their operations.
The rise of wearable tech has also added fuel to the fire. The Conversation claims that companies are using wearable tech to keep track of their employees through wellness programs. This is a trend that looks to only increase in the years to come, as numerous U.S. companies have already given their staff fitness trackers to encourage healthier lifestyles. Similar projects are under consideration in the UK as well and it is projected that more than 13 million of these devices are already in use for worker wellness programs. Although the reasoning is that these are preventative measures to combat burnout, this raises the question of whether this violates privacy, as employers will be able to evaluate an employee’s personal health and make decisions based on it.
All of these issues have resulted in calls for regulations on employee monitoring. Governments outside of the US have taken steps in this regard, as European courts have ruled that companies must make employees aware of practices such as email monitoring. The ruling is set to create a clear divide between employee privacy and ensuring that a business can set out boundaries on what can be discussed in emails. Stephanie Raets at Belgian law firm Claeys & Engels Antwerp said: “although an employer may restrict the employees’ privacy in the workplace, it may not reduce it to zero.”
When used properly, employee monitoring can protect employees and encourage better working practices. Verizon Connect’s analysis of GPS trackers in UK fleet vehicles note how companies are able to monitor instances such as harsh braking and excessive speeding. These are then analyzed to identify individual driving habits and initiate solutions to improve them. This ensures that the drivers are not breaking the law in order to complete jobs and helps the company point out bad habits that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.
As with any technology, the benefits of monitoring employees largely depends on how companies use it. As cited in the examples above, improper monitoring methods can result in disgruntled and disillusioned employees just as much as it can result in safer, happier and productive workplaces.