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The Pros and Cons of Employee Monitoring in a Remote Work Environment 09 December, 2021   

How productive are your employees? With remote work becoming the new default for many companies, employers must find the best ways to support their people. Since you can’t walk over to their desks to check on what they are doing, you’ll need a logical solution.

For most organizations, employee monitoring enables them to overcome the challenges of remote working. A surveillance system allows managers to oversee their staff’s productive and non-productive hours, as well as their overall performance.

Employee monitoring is nothing new, but it has been on a steady rise since the onset of COVID-19. Statistics by Opinium show that 32 percent of UK workers are now being monitored, up from 24 percent in April 2021.

However, employee monitoring presents a fair share of concerns for your remote workers, particularly privacy issues. In some cases, it may even constitute legal actions against an organization. 

That said, what are the advantages and disadvantages of monitoring in a business? Keep reading to find out. We also share employee monitoring best practices for your business.

The Pros of Employee Monitoring

Improves Productivity

Employee monitoring helps you keep track of your team’s productivity, making it easier to detect any changes that may occur. But, does employee monitoring increase productivity? Science tends to agree, with this study showing that an individual’s performance improved when working in the presence of others. This proves that employees work better when being observed.

Most companies implement keyloggers to monitor and record every keystroke on an employee’s computer. These tools can effectively help companies deter a hacking attempt, data leaks, or information theft. It also allows managers to observe a worker’s performance.

There are plenty of keylogging programs in the market. But, if you're unsure how it works or if it's ideal for your business, you can download a free keylogger for Mac or Windows and give it a try.

Remember, most keyloggers don’t have limitations on what they can record. This means they can record employee passwords, usernames, and other sensitive data. A better way to monitor your staff is to use a tool that promotes ethical monitoring.

Increases Employee Engagement and Retention

According to a Gallup estimate, employees who aren’t engaged cost their employers the equivalent of 18 percent of their annual salary. Engaged workers are happier, more productive, and creative. These qualities make them more likely to develop healthy work relationships that help teams thrive.

One of the top benefits of employee monitoring is detecting early signs of disengagement among employees, such as excessive unproductive web and app usage. This visibility into decreased productive time gives you a better understanding of the factors driving disengagement.

You can then approach the concerned individuals to get things back on track.

Boosts Workplace Efficiency

Managing a team of remote workers is not easy. How do you tell if they are actually working or cyberloafing on company time? That’s where employee monitoring software comes in.

An excellent monitoring tool gives you the productivity insights of your workers' overtime, enabling you to pinpoint risks of burnout. You can also see unproductive workflows and identify struggling team members. What's more, monitoring lets you see exactly how employees spent company hours and identify any time wasters.

You can use such data to support your staff by organizing one-on-one meetings to get to the root of the problem. Without monitoring, you wouldn’t get such useful insights. 

Most time tracking tools have employee monitoring features, making it possible to:

  • Check when the team members clocked in and out

  • Know what they are working on and their progress

  • Collect reports on how much time they spent on a specific project

  • See all the applications and websites used for a particular project

According to research by IDC, 30 to 40 percent of the Internet time used by employees is on non-work-related activities. Similarly, around 60 percent of online purchases are done during office work hours.

Employee monitoring encourages transparency and eliminates the need for people to explain themselves on how they spent company time.

Moreover, monitoring makes it easier to identify errors that may occur at the workplace. For example, if certain work practices aren’t effective, the practice will bring such information to light.

Enforces Company Policy

When some of your staff members don’t follow the company policies, your business will suffer. They may even become bad influences on their colleagues. To avoid this, use an employee monitoring system to identify workers breaking the rules.

You can then take the necessary steps to stem such bad behaviors before they spread. This ensures respect and professionalism in the workplace are maintained.

Promotes Accurate Record Keeping

A time tracking tool with employee monitoring features collects important data like employee clock in and clock out time and activity levels. These details are automatically recorded using the software, and you can access them at any time.

With the ability to track productive hours for a specific project, you can measure your employees’ performance based on their productivity levels. This helps eliminate payroll errors and conflicts when it comes to payment processing.

Measuring productive time also gives you a performance metric to evaluate your workers with ease. Plus, you can use the data to plan similar projects in the future.

Enhances Cybersecurity

Findings show that 90 percent of organizations feel vulnerable to insider attacks. Out of those, 37 percent feel excessive access privilege is the key risk factor. Monitoring your employees makes you aware if they are using company systems safely and if they’re handling sensitive information accordingly.

This includes using Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools that audit file transfers to portable storage devices and internet usage monitoring. Some companies deploy log management, SIEM, and Intrusion Detection and Prevention (IDS) platforms.

Employers who feel susceptible to security breaches will feel more secure monitoring internet usage and content. Furthermore, when employees are aware that a robust surveillance system exists, they may not attempt any data theft in the first place. 

The Cons of Employee Monitoring

Privacy Concerns

One of the topmost concerns regarding employee monitoring is that it breaches a worker’s right to privacy. Employees may feel like you don’t respect or trust them and it may affect employee morale.

Disengaged workers are less productive and more likely to leave your organization. The last thing you want in your company is a high turnover rate, which is not only costly but also damaging to your reputation.

That’s why you should attempt to implement ethical employee monitoring. Let your employees know that you plan to monitor them. Explain how the surveillance system works, what information is collected, and how you intend to use the data. More importantly, allow your workers to agree to your monitoring policy to have a record of their consent in case of legal repercussions.

Legal Implications

While it's perfectly legal to monitor employees in the United States, it's wise to learn the legal risks of employee monitoring. Working with remote teams makes it even more important to be aware of global privacy laws when it comes to employee monitoring.

You don’t want to overly monitor your staff to an extent you access sensitive personal information, like financial, medical, and private communication records. If you don’t tread carefully, your monitoring techniques could result in a lawsuit. Generally, observe your employee’s right to privacy and avoid intrusive or deceitful monitoring activities.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind. Although there are no federal laws that require an employer to notify employees that they are being monitored, some state laws make it mandatory. For instance, state laws in Connecticut and Delaware require employers to send notices to their staff before implementing any type of electronic monitoring.

Potential Impact on Employee Morale

Some forms of employee monitoring can result in reduced morale among workers. For example, if you decide to punish your employees for any minor errors detected with the help of your monitoring system, they will feel unfairly treated. This can easily lead to increased resentment and stress that may affect work performance. Ultimately, productivity will suffer. 

That’s why transparency is crucial when deploying an employee monitoring system. Employers must communicate clearly their intended use of employee data and involve employees in the planning process. This way, you can address any concerns and reach a reasonable agreement regarding monitoring policies.

Some of the ways employee monitoring affects employee morale:

  • Distrust. Employees may feel like you don’t trust them to act professionally and efficiently manage their own schedules.

  • Evaluations. Employee monitoring entails collecting different types of data, usually about a person’s computer usage during work hours. Failure to properly evaluate a team member’s computer activity may result in the worker detesting your monitoring techniques and even quitting.

  • Lost autonomy. Employee independence is essential to maintaining morale. If they feel unfairly micromanaged, they will lose the motivation to work in your company.

Employee Monitoring Software Benefits

Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of monitoring, here are a few reasons to use this system:

Effective time tracking

Tracking your employee’s work hours gives you a clear picture of how time is spent on each project. The automated productivity tracking features allow you to estimate time effort to accomplish a project deliverable within the set timeframe. This can prove useful when planning and budgeting company resources.

Easy evaluation

As we’ve noted earlier, monitoring employees makes it easy to perform employee evaluations. With a monitoring system in place, you can detect errors in real-time and rectify them before they blow out of proportion.

Simplified attendance management

An employee monitoring tool logs daily records of employee attendance, making it easy to detect absenteeism. You can then get to the root of the problem to try and resolve it.

Real-time reports

A time tracking system with employee monitoring features provides you with real-time reports showing insights on the overall health of your business. You can check the performance of specific individuals or teams and compare it to the previous week or month for accurate feedback. You can also identify underworked and overworked employees to ensure balanced workload distribution.

Employee Monitoring Best Practices

Before introducing employee monitoring practices to your teams, you must build complete trust and confidence between your workers and the company. This way, they’ll have a better understanding of the why and how.

Here are the best practices for employers seeking to implement workplace monitoring:

  • Establish reasonable grounds for engaging in employee monitoring

  • Disclose monitoring activities and techniques to your employees

  • Formulate a clear monitoring policy

  • Practice ethical monitoring

  • Respect employee privacy

  • Obtain employee consent

Wrapping Up

The bottom line is that employee monitoring is not inherently good or bad. Even when it is legal to monitor employees, it should be done ethically and lawfully. Additionally, be respectful of employee autonomy and privacy and use less invasive practices.

More importantly, practice transparency. Not only will it increase employee buy-in but also help establish trust in the workplace.

pros and cons of employee monitoring

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