According to a 2019 Accenture report, 52% of employees believe that methods for collecting workforce data can damage trust. As such, it is important for companies who work remotely to ensure that remote employee monitoring will be done legally and ethically.
Here are some of the big no-no’s in worker surveillance.
- Monitoring Without Employee Consent
- Collecting Personal Data via Employee Monitoring Software
- Continuing Surveillance Outside Work Hours
- Using the Monitoring Data for Non-Business Purposes
- The Importance of Ethical Employee Monitoring
Monitoring Without Employee Consent
Worker monitoring without consent can be legal if you’re suspecting policy violations and you want to catch unknowing employees.
However, if you’re using employee monitoring software secretly because you want to spy on them, the practice becomes unethical.
You can avoid this problem by informing your remote team about using a time tracker. You can also create a foolproof monitoring policy that comes with consent forms.
Make sure you detail everything that will be collected. You should also indicate how the information will be stored and accessed.
Collecting Personal Data via Employee Monitoring Software
Many employee monitoring software come with a screen capturing feature.
Yet, others can be more intrusive in the sense that they record keystrokes and mouse clicks.
Employers can use the screenshots as proof of work. However, they can be taken at the wrong time. Let’s say the screenshot was captured while an employee is accessing their bank account.
If you need a monitoring app that takes screenshots, choose one that will blur the images. It will give you an idea of what an employee is doing at a given time.
This way, it will not jeopardize the sensitive information of your workers.
Continuing Surveillance Outside Work Hours
Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work report says that 27% of WFH employees find unplugging after work a great challenge.
Indeed, the line between professional and personal time gets blurred when people start working remotely.
Now, it becomes a bigger issue if employers keep monitoring people on break or off duty. You may face lawsuits, especially if you end up recording personal data.
To prevent this problem, you should create a policy that forbids employees from using company-issued devices for personal use.
If they’re on break or off duty, they should also switch off their time trackers. You can keep engagement high when people know that they have full control over what can be monitored.
Using the Monitoring Data for Non-Business Purposes
The method you use for collecting productivity and time data are not the only things that define what’s ethical in employee monitoring.
Your intentions also matter.
If you plan to just spy and micromanage, you’ll end up doing more harm than good.
If you want to maximize the benefits of your employee monitoring tool and keep people on board, you need to develop a good plan.
Determine the reasons why you need to monitor your workers.
Moreover, you need to figure out the data you need and the goals you want to achieve.
Let’s say you want to ensure that your remote team is productive during work hours.
In this case, you need a time tracking app that will also measure efficiency. Once you’ve collected enough data, you can check what’s wasting people’s time.
Perhaps, they’re spending too much time on unnecessary meetings. On the other hand, they may be wasting time on social media or shopping sites.
You should only use the monitoring data to identify problems that cause bottlenecks. Use the information you collect to discuss the issues and solutions with your employees.
The Importance of Ethical Employee Monitoring
To be clear about the company’s and employees’ rights, you should seek legal counsel.
In general, monitoring workers is legal.
However, the laws on privacy protection can differ from state to state and from country to country.
The legality of the practice is not the only factor you should consider when using monitoring software.
It is much more important to take an ethical approach.
Your employees are the backbone of the company, and you should build, protect, and keep their trust. Here are some of the benefits of promoting ethical employee monitoring:
Promote a Healthy Work Culture
Without an ethical approach to monitoring, managers end up creating an unhealthy work environment.
The lack of transparency can be a serious concern in this practice.
Remote employees also have certain privacy expectations, especially when you’re using a monitoring app. If you’re not upfront about what you’re doing, you can violate people’s trust.
By letting workers know what data will be and will not be collected, you’re remaining transparent about the practice.
Be honest about how the company will use, store, and access the information.
This way, you can promote an online workplace culture that is grounded in trust.
Employee monitoring provides you with insights into performance and productivity.
By taking an ethical approach to the practice, you only collect important data that will contribute to workforce efficiency.
You will know what tasks an employee tackled during work hours. What’s more, you’ll know if every minute they logged went to productive activities.
When people are aware of being monitored, they tend to focus on their tasks and avoid distractions.
They will know that the time they spend on social media or shopping sites will be recorded. So, they won’t do that while their time tracker is running.
What’s more, they will understand that they will be accountable for being the cause of project delays.
Avoid Expensive Lawsuits
An ethical approach to employee monitoring requires you to create a detailed and foolproof policy.
As we’ve mentioned, you need to indicate when and how you will collect time and productivity data. The policy should also detail what the company will do with the information it will gather.
By being transparent about employee monitoring, you’re also avoiding privacy issues that may lead to expensive lawsuits.
Because of the pandemic, all sorts of businesses have allowed their employees to work from home.
Of course, the change made monitoring an essential business practice. Still, if it’s not done right, it can damage morale and even lead to legal hassles.
So, be aware of the things you must avoid to ensure ethical employee monitoring no matter whether you manage a remote or hybrid team.
Eunice Samson's interest in keeping up with the 'bleeding edge' of technology has led her to a career in digital marketing. She's currently a content writer for Traqq, a time tracking app that promotes ethical employee monitoring. Fun fact: Eunice has never met a cupcake she didn't like.