Employee Monitoring Guide

By Bernhard Mehl
May 05, 2020

Employee monitoring, or employee surveillance, is when employers use various tools and methods of surveillance to collect information about their employees. These tools could include internet and software monitoring, video surveillance, keystroke logging, and more. 

This is especially relevant nowadays as many businesses are hiring remote employees. Remote employee monitoring can help ensure that employees working from home are getting all their work done and working the appropriate number of hours. 

Electronic monitoring of employees is a useful way to find out exactly what your employees are doing on their computers while at work. It also helps to measure productivity, track the number of hours worked, provide extra security, and track employee attendance. 

Using technology to monitor employee performance is effective and efficient. You are able to find out which tasks your employees took longer to complete so you can see where they might need extra support and guidance. This will ultimately help to improve the efficiency of the workplace while ensuring your employees are all doing their jobs. 

This might be a great solution for employees but there are some arguments against employee monitoring. These regard employee privacy in the workplace. Employees may feel uncomfortable being monitored. This could negatively affect the employee-employer relationship. 

This comprehensive guide will take you through the different types of employee surveillance. We’ll also touch on the ethics surrounding the topic, and the pros and cons of employee monitoring. 

Types Of Employee Monitoring

There are many different types of employee monitoring. The most common of which include audio, video, and screen surveillance. These monitoring methods can help employers collect information about what their employees are doing when they’re at work. 

Audio Surveillance

Most businesses have video security cameras installed in their offices for security purposes. But, some of these video cameras can actually record audio too. Audio surveillance in the workplace is only suitable if your employees are aware that they are being monitored and have agreed to it. 

So, is it legal to have audio surveillance in the workplace? The short answer is no. There is a federal wiretap law that prohibits the recording of audio along with video camera footage. It is also illegal to record audio of your employees speaking in the washroom or on their breaks. 

As an employer, you can only record audio in the office space or you could incur a hefty fine or several years in jail. 

Audio surveillance also extends to Wifi recording. The same rules and laws above apply for this method of audio monitoring. 

On the other hand, telephone tapping is a very common workplace practice. Especially for businesses that conduct over-the-phone services or support. This type of audio surveillance is used to monitor the quality and duration of the calls so that companies can analyze that data. 

For this type of surveillance, it is important to ensure that your employees, and the people calling in, know that they are being recorded. In most cases, an automated recording will inform the caller that they will be recorded to evaluate the quality of the call. 

Video Surveillance 

Video surveillance involves the use of closed-circuit video cameras. These record video footage of the workplace and are primarily used for security purposes. Video cameras provide a continuous video feed of the activities occurring in the workplace. 

Generally, a security guard will monitor the feed to look for suspicious activity. But, the footage can be recorded and stored for future evaluation. 

Video surveillance is one of the most common and popular methods of employee monitoring. This is because it tracks employee actions accurately. It is especially important in financial departments or businesses when employees make critical transactions like canceling sales, withdrawals, and editing personal data. 

Every action of the employee has a description explaining that operation or process. This helps employers to monitor the performance of their employees. For example, video surveillance can be used to track the scanning of goods, input and output procedures on the company systems, implementation of financial transactions or other operations, and more. 

Combining video footage and software can allow the video cameras to record only if it detects any anomalous behavior that differs from the standard work procedures. Video surveillance also allows employers to search for footage by date and time so that they can find a specific event that took place. 

Screen Surveillance

Screen surveillance involves using software to monitor what employees are doing on their computers. This could include screen recordings, screenshots, and time-lapses of screen activity. 

Depending on the type of software you use, you could also capture screenshots at regular intervals or only when the computer is in use. For instance, the software will not take screenshots or recordings unless the mouse or keyboard is active.  

Employee screenshot monitoring is a surveillance method that allows employers to view exactly what their employees are doing on their computers. This can help ensure that employees aren’t using their computers for personal reasons while at work. 

Screen surveillance is an effective tool for remote employee monitoring as employers can see what they are doing during work hours. It also allows employers to analyze how long employees take to complete certain projects or tasks. This can help employers to allocate more accurate timeframes for certain projects in the future. 

Employee monitoring software often includes screen surveillance and screenshots along with some other useful monitoring tools. These include monitoring the applications used, keystrokes, communications, browsing history, as well as the copying of files to and from USB devices. 

This is not only helpful for evaluating employee performance but can also enhance the security of the company’s network. 

The Ethics Of Employee Monitoring

Employee monitoring is somewhat of a controversial topic because of its ethical implications. On one side of the argument, it is a violation of employee privacy. But on the other hand, employers have a right to know if company resources are being misused by employees. 

Both sides of the argument have good points with regard to workplace surveillance ethics. So, it is important that employers keep in line with employee monitoring policies and laws. Below we explain employee monitoring ethics from both employee and employer perspectives. 

For The Employee: What Is Legal And What Is Not

When it comes to the legality of monitoring employees in the workplace, certain things are acceptable while others are not. No matter the method used, it is vital that employees are made aware that they are being monitored and give consent for it. 

Different states have different regulations when it comes to employee monitoring. So it is important that employees research their rights for the state they work in. However, apart from the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, there aren’t any federal laws that prohibit private companies from monitoring their employees. 

Illegal employee monitoring includes recording employees without consent and monitoring them in the washrooms. 

For The Employer: Permits And How To Introduce Them 

If you’re an employer looking to install some form of employee monitoring, make sure you abide by your state’s specific regulations and policies. 

It is legal to monitor your employees via video surveillance or computer monitoring software but you have to make your employees aware that you are monitoring. Consent is very important. 

Make sure your employees are aware of the system you want to put in place as well as its benefits to the company. Having a written policy is essential so that your employees know exactly what you are monitoring and how it affects their privacy. 

To know more about the topic, read here.

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Pros And Cons Of Employee Monitoring

Like all things, employee monitoring has its pros and cons that affect both employees and employers. Outlined below are all the advantages of workplace surveillance as well as some of the arguments against employee monitoring. 

Firstly, employee monitoring is an effective way to measure employee performance in the workplace. This can help employers evaluate where they need to improve and how they can better employee productivity.

Besides this, it can help reduce theft, uncover harassment, avoid unsafe practices, limit employees’ ability to waste time while at work, and track hours. 

Tracking these procedures helps the company to collect important data. This data can help employers to better manage their business and their employees. 

On the other hand, employee monitoring can pose a threat to employee privacy. It can result in fairly severe legal consequences if employers do not adhere to privacy laws. 

It could also negatively impact employee morale as employees may feel as though their employer doesn’t trust them. This, in turn, could have an impact on productivity. 

In conclusion, while there are many benefits of employee monitoring, there are also several drawbacks. If you’re interested in implementing employee surveillance, make sure you follow the correct practices. That way you won’t negatively affect the relationship you have with your employees.

If you want to know what are our recommended softwares for employee monitoring, check out our dedicated article.

Bernhard Mehl

Bernhard is the co-founder and CEO of Kisi. His philosophy, "security is awesome," is contagious among tech-enabled companies.