The Pros and Cons of Employee Monitoring

By Gaurav Belani

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As the pandemic pushed forward the new era of remote work, business owners and managers need new and better ways to track employee productivity. Working remotely does, after all, make your employees more likely to get distracted, slack off, or worse, moonlight you with another job. Even in-office employees can pretend to be working instead of actually being productive — considering that on average, nearly 33% of employees are merely appearing to be busy but aren’t actually busy.

To combat this, more and more companies are adopting employee monitoring software that enables them to keep track of what their employees are doing on any given day.

However, while the ability to track employee activities offers numerous benefits, it also raises important considerations, especially regarding privacy and trust.

In this post, let’s explore the pros and cons of employee monitoring, helping you as a business owner make an informed decision and strike the right balance between productivity and ethical concerns.

The Pros of Employee Monitoring

Let’s start by looking at the key advantages of employee monitoring.

1. Improved Productivity

One of the foremost advantages of employee monitoring is its potential to boost productivity within your small business. When employees are aware that their work is being monitored, it often leads to a more focused and accountable work environment. Knowing that their activities are tracked encourages employees to stay on task, reduce distractions, and minimize time spent on non-work-related activities.

In a survey of 400 U.S. employees, 13% of respondents said the use of employee monitoring apps would increase their productivity. For you as a business owner, this directly translates into more efficient operations, increased output, and a greater return on investment on your human capital.

2. Enhanced Data Security

Data security is paramount in today’s digital age. As a brand, you handle sensitive information, including customer data, financial records, and other proprietary company data. It’s easy for an unruly, disgruntled, or lax employee to compromise this information for personal gain. Employee monitoring can play a critical role in safeguarding this information and staying on top of such activities.

Monitoring tools help you prevent data breaches by detecting and alerting administrators to unusual or unauthorized access to sensitive data. By tracking employee activity, you can ensure that your business's confidential information remains secure, reducing the risk of data leaks and breaches that can have severe financial and reputational consequences.

3. Compliance and Legal Protection

Navigating the complex landscape of labor laws, industry regulations, and data privacy requirements can be challenging for business owners. Employee monitoring can provide a layer of protection by assisting you in your brand’s compliance efforts.

By tracking and recording employee activities, you can demonstrate adherence to legal and industry-specific regulations. This can be invaluable in the event of audits, legal disputes, or compliance investigations. As such, it’s a good idea to stay informed about relevant laws, such as HIPAA, GDPR, or industry-specific regulations, and ensure that your monitoring practices align with legal requirements.

4. Identifying and Rewarding High Performers

Employee monitoring isn't solely about identifying areas for improvement; it can also help you recognize and reward high-performing employees. By tracking productivity metrics, you can pinpoint those team members who consistently exceed expectations, work hard, and contribute significantly to your organization’s success.

Acknowledging and rewarding these top performers can boost morale, motivation, and job satisfaction. It can also serve as a retention strategy, helping you retain your most valuable employees and foster a culture of excellence within your organization.

5. Prevention of Workplace Harassment and Misconduct

Creating a safe and respectful workplace is a priority for you as a business owner. Employee monitoring can serve as a deterrent to inappropriate behavior, including harassment and misconduct. Knowing that their actions are being monitored, employees are less likely to engage in behaviors that violate workplace policies or create a hostile environment.

By proactively preventing workplace misconduct, you can protect your employees, maintain a positive workplace culture, and avoid costly legal issues and reputational damage.

The Cons of Employee Monitoring

As established, employee monitoring offers several benefits, but it also comes with its fair share of drawbacks that you need to consider.

1. Employee Privacy Concerns

The first major and rather obvious drawback of monitoring is considerations regarding employee privacy. It’s safe to say that nobody appreciates constant surveillance, and that your employees may think of it as infringing their privacy rights. At first, they are likely to feel uncomfortable with the idea that their every move during working hours is being watched. So, when adopting an employee monitoring system, it is essential to approach the introduction of new policies and processes with care and tactfulness in order to get buy-in from your teams.

Plus, depending on your location and industry, excessive monitoring may even have legal implications or violate privacy laws. So, due diligence is crucial to strike a balance between monitoring for security (and productivity) and respecting employees' privacy rights.

2. Potential for Employee Distrust

Excessive monitoring can signal to employees that their employer doesn't trust them. This perceived lack of trust can lead to decreased job satisfaction and thus, retention.

Employees may feel like they're constantly under a microscope, potentially leading to stress. This fear of micromanagement can also stifle innovation. They may even become hesitant to take initiative or make decisions, fearing potential repercussions for any mistakes.

3. Potential Negative Impact on Morale

Knowing they are under constant surveillance, employees might feel like their autonomy is limited.

An atmosphere of continuous monitoring can hinder creative thinking. Employees may be less likely to propose new ideas or think outside the box if they fear their actions are closely scrutinized.

Striking the Right Balance

While the above cons should be taken into account, remember that employee monitoring isn't inherently negative. The key lies in finding the right balance and approach that aligns with your business's goals, respects employee rights, and fosters a healthy work environment. Keep these tips in mind to do just that:

  • Regularly Communicate: Host company-wide or leadership meetings and provide written materials explaining the purpose of monitoring and how it aligns with the company's goals.
  • Invite Feedback: Encourage employees to share their thoughts and concerns about monitoring practices. Addressing their feedback demonstrates a commitment to fairness.
  • Customize Solutions: Seek a monitoring tool that you can tailor to match the needs of your business.
  • Focus on Productivity: Direct monitoring efforts toward areas that directly impact productivity, data security, and compliance.
  • Stay Informed: Regularly review and stay up-to-date with local, state, and federal laws that pertain to employee monitoring. If uncertain about compliance, seek legal counsel to ensure your monitoring practices adhere to all legal requirements.

Striking the right balance in employee monitoring is not only feasible but also essential for fostering a positive work environment. When done thoughtfully and transparently, monitoring can enhance productivity, protect data, and contribute to a more efficient business.

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