What Are Some of the Downsides to Electronic Monitoring of Employees?
Today, it is common practice for employers to monitor their employees through the use of employee monitoring software. These programs prove to be a valuable resource, helping managers make more informed decisions. But they do not come without their downsides.
Some of the downsides of electronically monitoring employees include diminished employee trust, reduced motivation and commitment, legal and privacy concerns, data handling concerns, and more.
Continue reading to learn more about the downsides of employee monitoring.
What is Employee Monitoring Software?
Employee monitoring software is a software program that automatically monitors employee activity. The software helps enhance job productivity by providing insight into the tasks that employees are working on while simultaneously tracking their progress in real time.
This monitoring technology is helpful for companies that wish to evaluate the productivity of their employees, as well as the applications they use and their attendance.
There are a number of reasons why the majority of businesses use employee monitoring, including:
- To identify or avoid harmful data breaches.
- To increase company employee engagement.
- To streamline inefficient operations.
- To maximize the efficiency of the workforce.
- To conduct a thorough workforce analysis.
Downsides to Electronic Monitoring of Employees
Following are some of the downsides to electronically monitoring employees:
1. Diminished Trust
Any policy that monitors employees is bound to have unintended consequences for some members of the team and could potentially strain relationships between employers and employees. Depending on the company culture, this could result in permanent damage.
This is particularly the case if the monitoring begins after the employee has already begun working for the company or has established a good reputation for ethical behavior.
2. Reduced Motivation and Commitment
It is uncomfortable for employees to be monitored. An employee may feel uneasy about being monitored by their employer and may even decide to hunt for new employment in their leisure time if they are not happy with the level of surveillance they are under.
There will also inevitably be pushback from employees in the form of decreased motivation and/or staff retention rates, which can spell disaster for any company.
3. Legal and Privacy Concerns
Are you confident you have the legal right to monitor your employees? If not, it is advised to take precautions lest an employee of yours takes legal action against you, claiming privacy invasion, etc. Interception of communications or unauthorized access to stored communications is prohibited by laws that date back to 1986.
Although many types of communications, like phone calls and emails, are exempt from these laws, other types of monitoring do require employee consent, which is often assumed rather than explicitly requested by employers.
Employee monitoring requires an investment in the right tools and technology. It is also necessary to have someone examine the data that is being collected, which results in additional expenditures.
5. Data Handling Concerns
This is the standard ground for debate on employee monitoring. It’s great that data is being monitored, but who’s keeping tabs on the individuals monitoring the employees and the data?
Ultimately, there will be a need for a person or a team that is responsible for overseeing the implementation of standards while being aware of the power that comes with their position and how it might lead to abuses.
6. Decreased Workplace Performance
Your employee monitoring practices may lead to anxiety, higher absences from work, or even a mass resignation of employees. Naturally, when that occurs, the performance of your company’s workplace can suffer significantly.
Pay close attention to your workers and their potential reactions as you consider employee monitoring. Before implementing monitoring, consider how they will react initially and whether they will eventually adjust to it.
7. Damage to Company Reputation
No employer enjoys being the subject of unfavorable press when it comes to their company and their services. However, implementing employee monitoring will likely put you in a bad light.
People in your field, including employers and employees, may start to view you and your company negatively. This could have a significant impact on your organization, particularly if the bad perception becomes public knowledge.
Your employee monitoring practices could impede your ability to achieve your goals if you’re an entrepreneur in need of assistance from other business owners in your field or have open positions that need to be filled.
Guidelines to Curb Employee Monitoring Disadvantages
The perceived intrusiveness, legalities, and possible consequences of employee monitoring can vary greatly depending on the type of data that is gathered, how it is utilized, and the context of the worker’s job.
When making a decision about what to monitor, an employer should think of employee monitoring from both a legal and ethical perspective. Although not every state will have privacy laws restricting an employer’s authority to monitor, it is still recommended to follow these general guidelines.
- Companies should only gather information that is directly tied to a legitimate business need. At no point should the legitimate business need take precedence over the employee’s right to privacy.
- If there is a less intrusive method of monitoring that can adequately fulfill the employer’s objective, then the employer should apply that alternative instead.
- Data should only be kept for as long as it is useful to the company. Regular data deletion is necessary to limit the amount of information an employer has on hand, especially when that information is no longer relevant.
- The data should only be used for the purposes that have been declared by the employers. Consent should be obtained for any kind of use that extends beyond the scope of the original agreement.
- Companies should be upfront about their monitoring practices and provide workers a chance to give consent after being informed.
- Employers ought to avoid depending on consent as the sole rationale for monitoring, as the imbalance of power that exists within the context of an employer-employee relationship may impact the decision that the employee makes.
Implementing employee monitoring can be risky for a company due to the various downsides involved. It is important to be aware of these risks and how to mitigate them as you consider implementing employee monitoring.