In todays business world, access to information is critical for the daily operations of any organization. In this regard, organizations are investing a lot of capital and resources in various information technology infrastructure and systems. However, with the increasing trend in the evolution of technology, it is becoming easier and less costly to install and operate monitoring systems in the workplace. Thus, the majority of businesses have installed employee monitoring systems that are aimed at protecting the business against lost productivity and efficiency as well as illegal actions. Such monitoring systems have become more of a necessity because, with the advancement of the internet and its related technologies, there has been an increase of employees who use the internet for purposes that are not beneficial or related to their work.
Employee monitoring is defined as the process of collecting information regarding employees in an organization on their activities and location. Employee monitoring is carried out by utilizing various hardware and software techniques. Such techniques include computer monitoring by using various keystroke software that measures the accuracy and speed of an employee; video monitoring, which detects theft, procrastination and safety of the employees; spying, which involves detective techniques that are utilized in case of suspicions illegal activities within the workplace; phone tapping and eavesdropping, which tracks employees outgoing and incoming calls as well as the frequency of employees phone calls; and the use of the active badge system, which helps determine and track an employees location in the workplace (Yerby, 2013). Other software based employee monitoring techniques monitor employee internet use, outgoing and incoming emails and chats, software installations and provide the employer periodic desktop screenshots that help the websites an employee interact with.
Although a major goal of employee monitoring is to improve productivity and protect the corporate resources by preventing and identifying unacceptable behavior and dealing with such behavior before it adversely affects the operations of the business, due to its nature, employee monitoring has been viewed by many as unethical and violates the right to privacy of employees. Thus, when employing an employee monitoring system, there are ethical and legal issues that have to be considered. Currently, there is no legislation that establishes the privacy of an employee in the workplace, however, there are certain guidelines that every employer should consider while implementing employee monitoring. According to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, an organization can only monitor employees use of the organizations devices if the reason is for the betterment of the business (Sanford-Brown, 2014).
Thus, the employer is only liable to monitor employee activities and location only if they are on the business premises and are making use of the organization's devices. However, in monitoring the sanctioned devices, the employer can monitor both personal and business related interactions and communications in these devices. Furthermore, employee monitoring is only appropriate if activities and interactions being monitored are business related. As such, areas such as break rooms and restrooms should be off limits to monitoring technologies (Sanford-Brown, 2014). Such an action will also go a long way in maintain employee trust. Although employee privacy in the workplace is a major issue in regards to employee monitoring, the employer also has several ethical and legal considerations that support employee monitoring such as to avoid violation of the business policies, avoid leaking of sensitive information, to limit the legal liability of the company and to recover lost important communications.
Although employee monitoring is a controversial topic in the business world, it does have some positive impact on the organization. However, it is also important to note that it also has some negative effects as well. A primary positive effect of employee monitoring is that it results in improved productivity of the employees. Through employee surveillance, an employer can be effective in managing the organization, can use the objective feedback obtained for promotions and bonuses and can ensure quality services to the customers. The productivity of the worker is increased as the number of mistakes are reduced thus allowing for greater efficient use of ones time. Also by cutting down on the mistakes of the employees, the workplace is also made safer (Root III, 2017).
Monitoring further increases workforce safety and productivity as observing employees during their daily activities may reveal attitudes that the employer may need to address and change in order to ensure the employees are efficient and safe. For instance, through employee monitoring, an employer can discover if a worker is receiving too many personal calls or is displaying risky behavior while at work (Vessella, 2015). In such a situation, employee monitoring will enable an employer to quickly take action to rectify the situation thus ensuring the productivity and well-being of the workforce. Thus, employee monitoring can help identify any serious distractions to the employees that prevent them from performing their daily activities because an employee that is distracted can negatively influence the rest of the workforce resulting in holdups in the workflow and frustrating other employees.
Another positive effect of employee monitoring is that it is objective and provides an unbiased mechanism that can be employed by the employer to evaluate the performance of the employees and while preventing and eliminating the feelings of the employer during such employee reviews (Root III, 2017). Electronically produced information from employee monitoring provide accurate and uniform feedback on employees past performance. Thus, employee evaluations will be exclusively based on the quality and quality of the employees; work as opposed to the employers opinions.
Furthermore, employee monitoring enables the efficient provision of feedback to the employees. As opposed to an employee listening to the employee as he or she lists the ways in which the employee can improve on doing their job, the employee can review a recording or tape to see exactly what is impeding performance. Thus, employee monitoring enables employees to identify their strong and weak point, work habits, and the areas that need to be changed in order to improve efficiency. Furthermore, employees can make use of information gathered from employee monitoring to compare their performance to that of their workmates (Vessella, 2015).
However, there are also some negative impacts associated with employee monitoring. Although productivity can be increased through employee surveillance, the extent to which monitoring is done can also have a negative effect on the overall productivity and efficiency of the workforce. Depending on the monitoring techniques employed in an organization, monitoring can become too intrusive. In such a case, the constant fear of being monitored and the possibility of being reprimanded for work not well done or behavior may lead to stressed employees which eventually lead to adverse working conditions in the workplace (Sanford-Brown, 2014).
Furthermore, employee monitoring can also hinder the promotion of teamwork in an organization. monitoring discourages employees from working in teams and helping their fellow employees in achieving the companys goals and objectives. As employees are monitored on an individual basis and evaluated on individual goals, the use of employee monitoring to encourage employees to achieve their individual goals destroys the spirit of team work among employees in an organization (Yerby, 2013). Rather, employee monitoring encourages unnecessary competition among workers as opposed to promoting team effort aimed at achieving common organizational goals.
Root III, G. N. (2017). The Effects of Employee Monitoring. Retrieved from Chron: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/effects-employee-monitoring-17431.html
Sanford-Brown. (2014, January 20). Workplace Monitoring: Is It Ethical and Legal? Retrieved from Sanford-Brown: http://www.sanfordbrown.edu/Student-Life/blog/January-2014/Workplace-Monitoring-Is-It-Ethical-And-Legal
Vessella, V. (2015, October 12). 6 Benefits of Employee Monitoring. Retrieved from Business 2 Community: http://www.business2community.com/human-resources/6-benefits-of-employee-monitoring-01347304#taag83UTW9DLts0w.97
Yerby, J. (2013). Legal and Ethical Issues of Employee Monitoring. Journal of Applied Knowledge Management, 44-55.
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