Does your organization conduct any type of employee monitoring? Most businesses do. After all, security and safety may depend on it. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons employers conduct employee monitoring, and then some of the most common types of employee monitoring conducted by businesses today.
Why Conduct Employee Monitoring?
First, let’s look at why employers routinely conduct employee monitoring. Several good reasons include:
- Ensuring sensitive or confidential data does not get disseminated;
- Ensuring adherence to policies, such as allowable use of internet and e-mail;
- Maintaining a safe work environment to ensure no harassment occurs via company electronic communications;
- Investigating complaints by reviewing employee e-mails, phone calls, and documents;
- Ensuring high levels of customer service, such as with call monitoring;
- Conducting training or quality assurance by monitoring employee communications with clients;
- Increasing productivity by monitoring nonwork internet use and other nonwork activities conducted on business hours;
- Reducing theft through video surveillance;
- Reducing the chance of violence at the work site;
- Reducing the chance of tampering with employer property; and
- Recovering stolen property through means such as global positioning system (GPS) monitoring of vehicles or radio frequency identification tags on other valuable items.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons employers opt to monitor employees. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways today’s employers conduct this monitoring.
Common Types of Employee Monitoring
Here are some of the most common types of employee monitoring conducted by businesses today:
- GPS tracking on company vehicles, which can access a vehicle’s location at any time. This same technology is also sometimes deployed on smartphones, which then tracks the location of the phone.
- Video and/or audio surveillance of the company premises.
- Access to all communications sent via the company-provided phone, including text messages and communications through third-party apps.
- Monitoring of any other instant messages sent on the company system or device.
- Access to other data related to phone use, such as time spent on the phone, numbers dialed, and even recording calls and, in some cases, monitoring voicemail.
- Access to all company e-mail communications, including messages that were deleted.
- Access to all files stored on company devices and company networks.
- Monitoring the use of company computers, including time spent at the computer and time spent on the internet.
- Monitoring of use of internet on company-provided devices or company connection, including specific websites visited and how long spent on each site.
- Tracking of locations where the employee access badge was used.
- Access to any other activity on a company device, and even in some cases personal e-mail access. (Note: this is more of a gray area because there is a question around an employee’s expectation of privacy with a personal account. If the employer can access this, it should be clearly noted so that the employee understands this policy.)
- Reviewing of copy and fax machine memory. While this is not always an explicit type of monitoring for most organizations, employees should know that items which are photocopied or faxed are not confidential; most photocopiers and fax machines have an internal memory that stores the images. These may be viewed later if retrieved.
- Monitoring what is said about the company online, completely separate from the work site. This type of monitoring actually goes beyond employee monitoring because comments about the company online may or may not have been written by an employee.
- Keystroke logging on company devices, especially in data-intensive jobs.
- Utilizing screen recording software, especially for hourly jobs that the employer monitors to ensure the employee is working on the project during times he or she is clocked in.
- Observing employees in person, often without direct employee knowledge. The person who observes would then report back on employee activity. This could be a person within the organization or someone who was hired to do an investigation.
- Monitoring mail delivered by the post office to the work site. This mail could also be opened and reviewed in some cases, since it was delivered to their premises. (This is legal in most cases.)
- Monitoring what is said on employee social media accounts.
It’s important to note that there are legal limits on several of these items, based on state and local laws. To protect the company while still ensuring appropriate employee privacy levels, be sure to get legal counsel before implementing employee monitoring programs.
This article does not constitute legal advice. Always consult legal counsel with specific questions.
About Bridget Miller:
Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.