Ethical Employee Monitoring in 2022 – What to Keep in Mind

Underperforming employees are every employer’s nightmare. This dread of low productivity drives most employers to adopt employee monitoring. This way, they can stay informed on workers’ activities and use the data to tailor workplace policies.

In addition, the pandemic triggered a sharp uptick in employee tracking activities. Since workers were forced to go remote, companies needed a way to keep tabs on them.

An ExpressVPN survey reported that 78% of employers digitally track their employees. Gartner also found a 16% increase in employee monitoring adoption after the pandemic and during the shift to remote work.

Employers rely on these monitoring systems to track app usage, monitor internet traffic, and protect sensitive company data against unauthorized access.

They also allow brands to reach other objectives. These goals include efficient resource allocation, workload management, employee accountability, and improved productivity.

Employee Monitoring Concerns

However, there’s an ongoing conversation about unethical employee monitoring practices. Some employees feel uncomfortable about their company’s tracking policies because they seem invasive.

According to the ExpressVPN survey, 54% of employees said they’d consider leaving their jobs if their employers started monitoring them.

So, what do you have to keep in mind to monitor your employees in 2022 ethically? This article covers the best ethical employee monitoring practices. But first, let’s talk about the downsides of unethical employee monitoring and why you must do things right.

The Negative Impacts Of Unethical Employee Monitoring

Unethically monitoring your employees has damaging effects, from legal woes to high employee turnover. Let’s cover them.

Legal Troubles

Employee monitoring can spiral out of control and lead to cases of serious privacy invasion. In addition, these issues come with legal implications as some forms of monitoring are unlawful.

If you’re dragged into a legal battle, you may be forced to pay hefty punitive fees and compensation sums. Your company’s reputation will also take a hit if there’s public coverage.

High Employee Turnover

No one likes snoopers. Once your employees find out you’re invading their privacy, they’ll never feel comfortable working for you again. As a result, they’ll start looking for work elsewhere.

This departure also would mark your company as a toxic workplace. Ex-employees could drop negative reviews about your practices on review sites, discouraging others from accepting roles with your brand. So, you’ll struggle to land the right talent for work.

In addition, high turnover will cost your organization. The work institute’s retention report found that replacing a worker costs an employer 33% of the employee’s salary. It will become a significant sum when you have to replace multiple employees.

Toxic Workplace

There’s no sense of trust and loyalty in a workplace with uncomfortable employees. Knowing that you’re trying to surveil them makes them keep their guards up and even look for ways to bypass the system.

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Moreover, they’ll be unable to do their best work since they’re always looking over their shoulders. As a result, the workplace will become unhealthy and unconducive.

Reduced Productivity

If people feel constantly monitored, they think their job is at risk. This sense of insecurity kills morale, motivation, and creativity, reducing productivity. You’ll notice a sharp decline in efficiency levels because the invasive monitoring system deals with your workers’ mindset.

How To Keep Up Ethical Employee Monitoring

Workers are still wary of companies that monitor them. As it turns out, they are now more knowledgeable about workplace tracking than ever. They know their rights and their legal recourse once their privacies are infringed.

You’ll have to take steps to assure them you’re not collecting sensitive data and monitoring them unethically.

Once you get your staff on board with your tracking policy, you’ll reap the benefits of employee monitoring without suffering the negative effects.

So how do you get your workers to be comfortable with your monitoring practices? These steps will help.

Be Transparent

You’re legally required to notify your employees before monitoring them in some jurisdictions. You’ll be held liable and pay penalties if you monitor emails, telephone conversations, or internet usage without their knowledge.

However, you should embrace transparency even without the legal requirement. That’s because transparency builds trust. When employees know that they’re being monitored and agree to the terms, they can focus on work without looking over their shoulders.

So, tell them why you’re monitoring them, how they’re being monitored, and what you’re monitoring.

Helping them understand the need for monitoring will ease their concerns.

You can also let them in on the specifics. For example, tell them how employee monitoring software ensures their paychecks are accurate and punctual. It will also help if you outline other purposes of the tracking system, such as overwork avoidance, increased productivity, and better workload management.

Next, tell them the kind of employee monitoring tool you’re using and why you chose it. Then, let them know if you want to adopt other systems, such as keyloggers and email monitoring. You should also teach them how to use these systems to confirm when they’re being monitored.

Finally, tell your workers when they’ll be monitored. This way, they know when to face work and have peace of mind when they’re off work.

Avoid Monitoring Workers Outside Work Hours

You should only monitor your employees during work hours. Surveilling outside the workplace or when they’re off duty is a surefire way to destroy trust. This kind of practice can also land you in legal woes, which will be bad for your company’s finances and reputation.

You’ll also suffer other consequences of unethical monitoring.

To prevent this, allow your workers to choose when they’re being monitored. For example, you can use a time tracker that they can turn on or off manually.

You can ensure they always turn it on during work by telling them the tracker only records their billable hours when they activate it.

Avoid Micromanagement

The urge to micromanage will tempt you to surveil workers unethically. So, try your best to trust your employees to do their jobs.

Set clear expectations and use well-detailed briefs to reduce the urge to micromanage. This way, workers know what you expect and can work to achieve the objective.

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You can also check in on them once in a while but don’t make it too frequent.  

Don’t Collect Personal Data

Collecting personal data is another red line you shouldn’t cross when monitoring employees.

So, restrict data collection to only emails and other work-related software applications. Avoid tracking personal devices and programs such as banking and social media apps.

Provide Work Devices

Some companies allow employees to work with personal devices. Since workers have to track time, they must install employee monitoring apps on these gadgets. Unfortunately, the app may accidentally collect sensitive data.

You can avoid this by providing company-issued laptops, phones, and tablets. This way, it’s easier to employ a non-invasive monitoring policy. For example, workers can turn off their work devices or leave them at the office after work hours.

Use Employee Monitoring Software That Promotes Ethical Monitoring

Employee monitoring software programs work differently. Some track keystrokes and mouse movements to determine when the employee uses their device. However, time trackers now use advanced features like screen grabbing to discourage employee time theft.

Programs with screen grabbing capabilities can record an employee’s screen and send it to their supervisors. Some trackers even go as far as turning on the employee’s webcam.

The problem with these monitoring features is that they can cause privacy invasion issues. For example, the app can take a screenshot when the employee views their social media inboxes, which are considered private.

To prevent this kind of invasion, use an app that blurs the screenshots and recordings. You should also go for time trackers that employees can turn on and off themselves.

Collect Feedback

As we mentioned, you have to get your employees to sign off on your monitoring policy to enjoy the full benefits of workplace tracking. Therefore, you should make this an ongoing practice.

Collect feedback from time to time to understand how they feel about your current monitoring system. Organize one-on-one interviews and anonymous surveys to get their input and act on them accordingly.

This way, employees can rest assured their concerns are taken into account.

Adhere To Country And State Laws

Different federal and state laws govern employee monitoring. For example, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) prohibits electronic communications monitoring. In addition, states like Connecticut and Delaware ban employers from monitoring without informing their employees.

So, ensure your lawyers go through your state and federal laws before implementing any employee monitoring system.

Always Improve Ethical Monitoring

As time changes, laws and sentiments surrounding employee monitoring also change. You have to stay on top of these trends and adjust your policies and practices accordingly. Remember that you can only enjoy the productivity, employee engagement, and security benefits of workplace tracking when you do things ethically.

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Jonathon Spire

Jonathon Spire

Tech Blogger at Jonathon Spire

My diverse background started with my computer science degree, and later progressed to building laptops and accessories. And now, for the last 7 years, I have been a social media marketing specialist and business growth consultant.

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Jonathon Spire

I blog about a range of tech topics.

For the last 7 years I have been a social media marketing specialist and business growth consultant, so I write about those the most.

Full transparency: I do review a lot of services and I try to do it as objectively as possible; I give honest feedback and only promote services I believe truly work (for which I may or may not receive a commission) – if you are a service owner and you think I have made a mistake then please let me know in the comments section.

– Jon