Is Employee Monitoring Ethical or Unethical?
Scores of employees now favor remote work because of the flexibility it affords them. As a result, you may consider adopting employee monitoring systems to gauge their productivity. But is it ethical to monitor employees?
Employee monitoring is ethical if it incorporates transparency. Employers should clearly inform their employees that they are being monitored. Doing so will boost employees‘ morale, increasing their productivity. In some regions, employee monitoring transparency is a legal requirement.
This article will arm you with all the information you need to track your employees ethically when they’re on the clock. We’ll also explore the different perspectives from which we can view the ethics of employee monitoring.
When Is Employee Monitoring Ethical?
Employees have increasingly spoken up against conventional surveillance systems in late 2022. While they don’t really expect complete privacy as they perform job-related duties, monitoring them can feel like unwarranted spying that can reduce their drive to work for you.
When your employees step into company premises, they leave their expectations of absolute privacy at the door. Many of them likely accept the necessity of video surveillance and GPS tracking of company cars as they’re vital in maintaining a business’s security.
However, it’s a different animal when it appears that you’re tracking their every digital move. To them, an employer that monitors every keystroke and mouse swipe, every website visited, and every app opened is intrusive.
Beyond obvious privacy concerns, employees may become more preoccupied with appearing to look productive than actually doing their jobs. They may, for example, set up their browser windows such that the work screen appears to be active, when in fact they are actually preoccupied with something else.
At the same time, you may wish to measure your employees‘ output regularly and assess how much of their paid working hours they actually spend working.
So where is the line between ethical and unethical when it comes to employee monitoring?
Employee monitoring is ethical when it is done with transparency and by following all appropriate laws. Monitoring your employees is ethical when it is done for legitimate business, security, and productivity purposes.
Let me elaborate on that in more detail below.
Transparency Is Key
When you think about monitoring employees, you probably think of software installed onto their computers. But one company almost went a step further.
The CEO of Three Square Market, a vending machine company, offered employees the option of having microchips implanted into them. Those who consented could ditch their ID cards when they entered the company’s building and as they bought lunch. And that’s not even the most bizarre part.
Would you believe that 50 of Three Square Market’s then-80 employees were clamoring to get microchipped?
Transparency was crucial for eliciting this reaction that would seem surprising or even counterintuitive to an outside observer. What exactly did Three Square Market do to have over half of its workforce agree to such a thing?
The answer is simple: The CEO informed the employees what the chips did and what lines they couldn’t cross.
People are generally more open to submitting to such measures if you’re upfront about your intentions and the technology’s limitations.
Let your employees in on the following:
- What do you hope to achieve by using these tracking techniques?
- Why have you chosen this specific software or system?
- How long will you be tracking your employees?
- Are there any metrics you want to see them achieve during your monitoring?
Laying all your cards on the table makes employees feel like they’re part of the team and essential to the company’s vision. It also validates their concerns, boosts their morale and drives up their productivity.
A survey carried out by DTEX, an agency specializing in user behavior intelligence, seems to support this. The poll found that 77% of working Americans would greenlight being monitored if they knew about it. Their consent encompassed work and personal devices, as long as the tracking targeted work-related activities.
If possible, go the extra mile and welcome your employees‘ views on making the monitoring approach work for everyone.
You're Responsible for the Data You Collect
It would be best to use monitoring software that prioritizes your employees‘ privacy and security in the face of hacks. As the steward of the data you’re collecting from them, it is imperative that you keep it safe.
For example, mismanaging employee data could result in you breaking laws like HIPAA in the United States. The legal hot water this could land you in will pale compared to the loss of credibility you would suffer.
Wolfeye Remote Screen is an excellent tool for meeting this critical goal. No expense has been spared to confirm that this software retains the confidentiality of collected private data.
The Legality of Employee Monitoring Systems
Depending on where your business is located, tracking your employees may or may not be legal.
In the United States, for example, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 empowers employers to monitor their employees within reason. Individual states regulate the enforcement of this freedom, so make sure you check with your local government authorities regarding specifics.
It’s acceptable and perfectly legal to keep an eye on what your employees are doing using your property. This surveillance can take on forms such as:
- GPS systems set up on company vehicles
- CCTV cameras placed strategically on company grounds
- Inspection of written, telephone, and electronic communications made by employees using company resources
- Monitoring software installed onto employees‘ work devices
These methods are great ways to ensure that your workers are actually earning their wages and contributing to the success of your enterprise. They also help keep them in line by ensuring they aren’t engaging in anything shady using company-owned property.
Again, it’s important that you consult with legal counsel regarding the employee privacy laws applicable in your area.
Employee monitoring presents fundamental ethical questions employers must address to help them get the best of both worlds. By being honest with your employees and installing secure monitoring software, you’re well on your way to ethically tracking your employees‘ work-related activity.
- OnBlick: Monitoring Remote Employees – Is It Ethical?
- Business News Daily: Spying on Your Employees? Better Understand the Law First
- DTEX Systems: Harris Poll Finds That Americans Support Employee Digital Monitoring Programs Built On Transparency, Trust And Privacy
- The Society of Corporate Compliance & Ethics: Ethical considerations in monitoring employee Internet usage
- New York Times: The Rise of the Worker Productivity Score
- CNBC: Why most of Three Square Market’s employees jumped at the chance to wear a microchip