Employee monitoring is a form of workplace surveillance where employers collect data regarding their employees’ computer usage, location, and productivity. This guide will detail the various methods that employers use to monitor their employees, the pros and cons of employee monitoring, and provide helpful resources for creating your very own employee monitoring strategy.
The 2007 Electronic Monitoring & Surveillance Survey from the American Management Association (AMA) found that 66% of employers monitor employee internet use. 65% of those surveyed also use web filtering software to block websites. Employers primarily monitor and restrict internet access to prevent employees from accessing inappropriate websites.
Why do employers monitor employee web activity?
Computer activity monitoring is a catch-all term for monitoring computer events such as application use, USB activity, websites visited, screenshots, and logon activity. 94% of organizations use some form of computer activity monitoring to improve productivity and security.
Why do employers monitor employee computer activity?
43% of employers in the American Management Association report monitor the email activity of their employees. Email monitoring is typically done with automated tools that scan for keywords, though 40% of the employers in the report stated they use manual email monitoring methods.
Why do employers monitor employee emails?
GPS and other forms of location tracking are a niche form of employee monitoring that is not as widely used as computer usage tracking. The use of location tracking is often reserved for roles where frequent travel is required. Employers will often use location tracking on company-provided vehicles and mobile devices.
Why do employers use GPS tracking?
Keylogging (keystroke logging) is a highly controversial employee monitoring practice. Keyloggers track the individual keyboard inputs of employees and save that data for review. Keyloggers may be hardware or software based.
As these tools capture individual keystrokes they pose significant security and privacy concerns. They are likely to capture sensitive information including passwords, credit card details, and other sensitive data. Storing sensitive data within the database of a keylogger is dangerous as unauthorized users or hackers could potentially access that data. For this reason they are rarely used.
Why do employers use keyloggers?
Video surveillance is commonly performed through closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems. These technologies are commonly used as security systems rather than for measuring productivity. It is common for companies that interact with the public to use video surveillance in locations where there are concerns surrounding the security of employees and theft of company assets.
Why do employers use video surveillance?
Employee telephone monitoring is most often used to monitor the performance of phone-based customer support roles. Calls are often recorded to investigate complaints, assist in employee training, and ensure that employees are adhering to the quality standards of the organization.
Why do employers monitor telephone calls?
The 2017 State of the American Workplace report from Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $483 billion to $605 billion each year in lost productivity. By monitoring employees an organization can discover early warning signs of disengagement such as excessive unproductive web browsing.
Underutilized software cost businesses in the US and UK an estimated $34 billion per year. Employee monitoring detects redundant or underutilized software that can be decommissioned or consolidated.
Historical data helps businesses understand productivity and engagement trends throughout their workforce. With this data, they can answer questions they may otherwise not have enough insight for.
Shadow IT refers to any system, solution, or software that’s used without approval from the IT department. Gartner has predicted that by 2020 a third of successful attacks on enterprises would be made possible by shadow IT exploits. Monitoring employee computer usage provides greater visibility into the use of shadow IT.
Organizations that collect, process, and/or store sensitive data are responsible for the security and integrity of that data. Employee monitoring is regularly used in regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, and defense to maintain data security compliance.
According to a Verizon report 58% of data loss events in healthcare involve insiders, making insider threats the greatest data security threat in that industry. Monitoring activity on data egress points such as USB storage devices and file sharing websites is crucial for detecting incidents of data theft and unsafe data handling.
Internet abuse in the workplace presents a significant risk if left unaddressed. Employees that visit hateful, pornographic, or otherwise harmful websites while at work create a hostile work environment for their coworkers. Failure to monitor for and address this type of behavior undermines organizational performance and creates serious legal liabilities for employers.
While internet use policies set standards for internet use in the workplace, without some form of electronic monitoring employers risk being unable to detect and deter egregious web browsing. A 2003 study by Dr. Kimberly S. Young & Dr. Carl J. Case found that among large firms, electronic monitoring software was rated as the most effective deterrent of inappropriate web use, followed by policies and training.
Overly invasive employee monitoring can have a negative effect on employee morale. Employees that are not aware that they are being monitored, why they are being monitored, and how they are being monitored are less likely to find employee monitoring acceptable.
To reduce the effect on employee morale employers should make monitoring a standard workplace policy rather than singling out individual employees. They should also avoid using employee monitoring as a micromanaging tool. Ensuring that their employees retain their autonomy when being monitored will go a long way to reducing the potential effects on morale.
Employee monitoring data has the potential to be incredibly sensitive. Employees may worry that their data will be misused or accessed by unauthorized parties. Employers need to treat employee monitoring data the same way they would any other sensitive data, providing it with equal protections such as restricting who can access the data and keeping it within a secured network.
Depending on the types of monitoring taking place employees may also worry that their personal lives are being monitored. Employers must do everything they can to limit monitoring to only what is necessary and keep their monitoring solutions separate from the personal lives of their employees.
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In the majority of jurisdictions employers have a right to monitor employee activity on company-provided devices. That said, data privacy frameworks such as GDPR mandate that employers use monitoring methods that are as minimally invasive as possible to meet the needs of their business.
Businesses that monitor their employees should consult with a legal professional to ensure that their intended methods are not in conflict with any laws and regulations.
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Employee Monitoring: Best Practices for Balancing Productivity, Security, and Privacy
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“If organizations wish to monitor their employees, they should be clear about its purpose and that it brings real benefits. Organizations also need to make employees aware of the nature, extent and reasons for any monitoring”Spokesperson from the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office
Employers that want to monitor employee computer activity should notify their employees. Many companies will start by using acceptable use policies to disclose their intent to monitor. Combining company policies with other notification measures will help keep employees informed.
When employers openly discuss their intention to deploy an employee monitoring solution, employees are given an opportunity to engage in a dialogue where they can preemptively express their concerns and become educated on the employer’s intended use of the data collected.
“Employers must not use tech to control and micromanage their staff. Monitoring toilet breaks, tracking, and snooping on staff outside working hours creates fear and distrust. And it undermines morale.”
Are you ready to take charge of your organization’s productivity and security? CurrentWare is here to help. Contact our sales team to sign up for a free trial of our employee monitoring software and see first-hand how employee monitoring can transform your workplace.
“The employees find the reports to be an extremely helpful self-analysis tool, and use the reports to analyze and reconfigure priorities!”
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Free Internet Usage Policy Template
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SHRM: Managing Workplace Monitoring and Surveillance
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General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
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