HR Management & Compliance

Remote Employee Monitoring while Maintaining Workplace Privacy

Thanks to the massive COVID-induced shift to remote work, employee monitoring has never been more important. Believe it or not, most people who aren’t used to remote work find it pretty hard to stay organized when working from home, and this can affect productivity.

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Source: Marharyta Pavliuk / shutterstock

But this is where employee monitoring comes in. If done properly, employee monitoring can provide the needed boost for both remote and in-house employees to stay on task and be more productive.

But as important as it is to monitor employees’ activities, it is critical not to invade people’s privacy in the process. So, how do you monitor your employees just enough to boost their productivity but not so much that you invade their private lives? Well, that’s the whole gist of this article.

So, sit back and relax as we take you through the best practices of employee monitoring that will produce amazing results.

Employee Monitoring: How to Do It Right

Done properly, employee monitoring can benefit the employees just as much as the employers. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you monitor your employees.

Use the right tools. This is kind of a no-brainer, but the quality and acceptability of your monitoring can depend largely on the method you adopt. Generally, using some sort of monitoring software is the way to go. But before choosing which tool to use, it’s a good idea to have some metrics in place that you would like to measure.

So, when shopping for tools, be sure to choose the one that allows you to accurately measure the parameters you selected. However, you should avoid monitoring tools that utilize an employee’s webcam, as this will ultimately violate people’s privacy and produce disgruntled employees.

It would be smart to opt for a tool that helps workers improve their productivity via time tracking while providing data to managers for accountability purposes. An example of such a tool is Time Doctor.

Set realistic goals. Instead of constantly looking over people’s shoulders, goal-setting is usually a better way to go. Both employers and employees should be involved in setting realizable short- and long-term goals.

This will provide a sense of mutuality and togetherness, even though monitoring is being conducted. And both parties should work toward achieving those goals, marking every milestone reached, and measuring performances.

Establish trust and confidence. Employee monitoring shouldn’t be the same as spying on people. Rather, effective employee monitoring focuses on building trust and confidence between employees and the employer.

It is important to build a cordial working relationship so employees don’t feel threatened when being monitored.

Request and provide feedback. Feedback provides opportunities for adjustment and growth. Employers should provide and receive periodic feedback to and from their employees. This will help streamline the monitoring process so everyone is comfortable and maximally productive.

However, harsh comments should be avoided, as they can destroy employees’ enthusiasm toward their duties.

Keys to Maintaining Workplace Privacy

Boundaries are established for a reason. While monitoring employees is important, it is equally important that employers adhere to good workplace practices. Here’s how you can protect and maintain privacy while monitoring employees:

Be transparent. Don’t leave your employees guessing. Let them know exactly what you expect from them. Also, share your employee monitoring tactics and tools with them. This will help keep them informed and aware.

Be flexible. Don’t put your employees under a rigid schedule. Allowing for some levels of flexibility will make it easier for them to explore other avenues that could enhance their productivity or change direction if the need arises. It also allows them to better manage their private lives

Show empathy. The COVID-19 pandemic took a great toll on people. Just because employees are working remotely doesn’t necessarily mean they’re comfortable. Rather, it can be disadvantageous for some people because of the many other things calling for their attention. So, if a worker turns up a little late for a meeting, show some empathy, and don’t force the individual to publicize his or her private life.

Limit your monitoring. Treat your remote team as you would if they were working in the physical office. In other words, limit your monitoring to what concerns your work only. For instance, if workers choose to use an image as their background on a zoom call, do not force them to take it down or show where they are.

Respect people’s schedules. Your employees already have their work and personal schedules, so try as much as possible to stick to those. But when you have no choice but to disrupt these schedules, it’s best to inform them earlier. Don’t get used to making last-minute demands.

Pros and Cons of Employee Monitoring

Depending on how you use it, employee monitoring is a double-edged sword that can help your company just as easily as it can harm it. Here are a few pros and cons to keep in mind.

Pros

Accountability. Employee monitoring is great for holding employees accountable for their activities during work hours. And because they are aware they’re being watched, they won’t deliberately fail at discharging their appropriate duties.

Commitment. Whether it is convenient or not, employees will show more commitment to their tasks if they are being monitored than when they’re left without supervision.

Productivity. Monitoring employees helps keep them focused on their assigned duties, which will, in turn, boost their productivity.

Equality. Employee monitoring allows for fairness and equality in performance evaluations. Because everyone is under surveillance, no one will feel cheated or undeserving of whatever the outcome of their performance review is.

Cons

Disengagement. Monitoring employees’ activities can create a feeling of uneasiness, especially when it is invasive. This may lead to disinterestedness and detachment from the employer and other employees.

Hypocrisy. Willing commitment to duties will naturally boost the performance and productivity of your staff. But working under a strict watch will promote hypocrisy. Some employees will only stick to their routine activities and may not be willing to go the extra mile for the organization.

Litigation. If not properly handled, employee monitoring can result in a lawsuit against employers for privacy violations.

The Bottom Line

Employee monitoring can boost your employees’ productivity if done properly. But whatever you do, don’t violate your workers’ privacy—that can be a deal breaker!

Liam Martin is a co-founder and CMO of Time Doctor, a time-tracking and productivity-monitoring software designed for remote teams. He is also the co-organizer of Running Remote – the world’s largest remote work conference.