In this article, we discuss employee monitoring inside and outside the workplace. We’ll look at current capabilities and challenges faced by these solutions today and the possible improvements that future solutions will be able to provide. The aim of this article is to attempt to make projections of the future with regard to employee monitoring, as well as discuss the associated legal and privacy concerns that employers are likely to face today.
An overview of current employee monitoring
Employee monitoring enables organizations to track the activities that employees engage in so that they can measure their productivity and determine the amount of work done. For instance, organizations can use monitoring solutions to determine employee attendance, number of hours worked and even ensure security of sensitive information.
This information is important when it comes to decision-making within the organization. But while employers are able to collect quite a lot of information today, this comes without some advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of current employee monitoring
The following are some of the advantages that have encouraged employers to deploy employee-monitoring solutions within the workplace:
- Less wasted time: Monitoring solutions allow employers to log and track the amount of work done over a specific period of time. This is especially useful where employees are paid per number of hours worked. As an employer, getting this right translates to cash savings for your organization
- Efficiency at work: Monitoring groups of workers on a project can greatly improve the efficiency of the team by ensuring that teams are prioritizing the right amount of work and not wasting time. The transparency of work done is also guaranteed
- Informed decisions: As an employer, the ability to make informed decisions concerning, for instance, delegation of duties is greatly improved when your organization has some form of monitoring solution deployed. Delegation can be done based on the different strengths of your employees
Challenges faced by current employee monitoring
The following are some of the challenges that should be kept in mind when using employee monitoring solutions:
- Negative impact on morale: As an employer, you are most likely to notice a negative impact on the morale of your employees. What was previously a trusting relationship between employer and employee has been damaged, especially on the side of the employer
- Stress increase: Employees will most likely put in more work, knowing that they are being monitored. This extra energy will come from anxiety and the fear of losing their jobs as opposed to genuine passion or commitment. The latter are always better for employers
- Legal issues: It is important for you to realize that as an employer, you are tasked with the protection of employee data and information. In the event that the collected employee information is leaked to the public, you could be facing serious reputational damage and fines. Before you deploy employee-monitoring software, it is important that you consult your lawyer and understand what the law says concerning data privacy. Also ensure that your policies regarding data privacy are in check and that employees have given proper consent
Trends in the future of employee monitoring
The workplace of the future will be a very interesting place. With the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning, the workplace of the future will employ intelligent employee monitoring that will be capable of performing the following:
- Behavioral analysis: Employee monitoring solutions of the future will have the ability to track changes in employees’ behavior in multiple ways. This will greatly assist in assessing behavioral anomalies in real time. In situations where disgruntled employees are likely to pose a threat such as a security-related one, future solutions will help prevent these
- Advanced management: Future monitoring solutions will include devices such as accelerometers to monitor when employees move and special trackers that collect data on how frequently employees talk or listen. This will be very useful in determining which groups are receiving more attention from management and which ones are getting neglected
- Turnover prediction: Monitoring solutions of the future will have the ability to predict which employees are unhappy and thus most likely to slack off or resign. This functionality is similar to Hitachi’s Happiness Meter, which measures employee happiness. It is costly, time-consuming and hectic to constantly replace employees and these solutions will greatly help reduce this
- Intelligent suggestions: Some jobs are so intellectually challenging and demanding that employees may get completely lost in the job. Future employee monitoring solutions will have the ability to intelligently detect certain activities which could pose potential health risks. For instance, employees spending too much time on their computers will be able to get a warning, telling them that they should take a break
- Identification: This is where things tend to cross the line for some. In future, employee monitoring solutions will have the ability to perform facial recognition. This will be important for employers to monitor access to their premises, and the location of various equipment in environments where employees work with sensitive equipment
Today, some companies are employing these and more methods to monitor its employees. If anything, the future will involve more use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve on existing solutions. Some of the pioneer companies with this futuristic monitoring include Humanyze, which employs and also offers its people analytics solutions to various Fortune 500 companies. We are also seeing some companies already microchipping their employees for convenience.
Applications of employee monitoring systems
Today’s employee monitoring solutions are able to monitor a wide array of areas. The following are some of the most common:
- Internet usage: Monitoring Internet usage allows employers to ensure that employees are not spending much of their time on websites that take up much more time than is required. This in turn improves their productivity and reduces wastage on the employer’s part
- Mobile phone usage: Monitoring phone calls (and voicemail) allows employers to assess employee interactions, especially with clients. Some employers might also want to monitor call logs to determine whether misuse of company phones occurred on the employee’s part
- Location: Some employers require employees to check in within different geographical locations, as with sales type jobs. Monitoring reported employee locations in this case enables employers to determine that required work was actually done
- Surveillance: Some companies employ the use of activity trackers to collect certain data from employees. Take companies like Buffer, which issues its employees with a Jawbone UP wristband. This device tracks sleep, exercise and dietary choices, providing the company with various amounts of information on its employees. The importance of such information will greatly vary between companies
- Computer usage: Employers will also often deploy solutions to monitor computer usage by say performing screen and keystroke recording, to ensure that employees work for, say, a certain required number of hours or time intervals. This is important to employers in that it ensures less wasted time at the workplace
Legal issues associated with employee monitoring
The majority of the laws in the world today seem to favor the employer when it comes to privacy rights at the workplace. However, it is important to note that it is easy to overstep on monitoring your employees and this might place you on the wrong side of the law, especially when you are collecting information not consented to by employees.
The following are areas of consideration when it comes to employee monitoring now and in the future:
- Ensuring employee consent: Most laws allow for the monitoring of employees at the workplace. However, it’s important to communicate the extent of surveillance being performed in order to ensure that employees have consented to be monitored
- Monitoring computer activity: Even though different countries may have different laws when it comes to monitoring employee computer activity, this NOLO post suggests that as long as employees are within your network and transmitting data, you have the right to monitor all data transactions. However, you should be careful to ensure you get consent in situations where employees bring their own devices to the workplace
- Monitoring phone calls: Within certain regions, monitoring phone conversations of your employees requires that you play a notification beep to inform your employee that monitoring of the call has commenced. It should also be noted that this monitoring should be done for quality purposes, and in the event that the employer realizes that the conversation is not work-related, the recording should be stopped
- Monitoring location: It is important to note that when monitoring employee location, you need to explicitly specify the amount of information that you will be collecting
Choosing effective employee monitoring tools
Before you settle on your employee monitoring solution, you should consider the following:
- Risks and goals: You should identify your risks and goals before implementing your monitoring solution. This ensures you monitor the right areas of importance
- Teams and levels: You should determine whether you would want to monitor small teams or large ones as well, and define the scope
Since environments are generic, there may be other factors that will determine how you settle on your monitoring solution.
In this article, we’ve discussed the importance of employee monitoring to the employer and what the future of monitoring looks like. This is a huge topic, but this article will point you in the right direction if you are interested in learning more.
- What is Employee Monitoring?, Hubstaff
- The US Military Is Creating the Future of Employee Monitoring, Defense One
- There will be little privacy in the workplace of the future, The Economist
- Supreme Court rules employees have right to privacy on work computers, The Globe and Mail
- The 2019 Clear and Complete Guide to Employee Monitoring, Time Doctor
- The Office of the Future: Microchipped Employees, Business World