Policies and Training, Security Hardware and Technology

Employee Monitoring: Some Pros and Cons

Employee monitoring has become ubiquitous. There are numerous ways employees can be watched, reviewed, assessed, and monitored daily.

Employee at desk looking up at surveillance camera

Nicoleta Ionescu / Shutterstock.com

For example:

  • Using clock-in/clock-out systems
  • Tracking GPS on company vehicles
  • Tracking GPS on company phones with locating apps
  • Reading company e-mails or other data from company devices
  • Reviewing employee phone conversations (call monitoring or recording) and/or voice mails
  • Utilizing security cameras in the workplace
  • Using security card readers that limit and record access to specific areas
  • Setting up monitors that show how much time is spent on nonwork programs on work devices
  • Utilizing screen-recording software and/or keylogging software

These are some of the ways employees can be monitored, and it’s easy to see how quickly the amount of surveillance and data can grow. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of employee monitoring in general.

Employee Monitoring: Pros

Here are some potential benefits of monitoring some employee activities:

  • Helps to uncover problems, like harassment;
  • May reduce theft;
  • Can discover where workload may need to be redistributed (i.e., when some groups have too much time for nonwork activities);
  • Can help to monitor and ensure safe practices are being followed;
  • Can reduce incidences of employees wasting company time, as they know they’re being monitored and are then less likely to do so;
  • May highlight bottlenecks or areas where employees spend more time than expected during their work process, which can allow the employer to review the process and improve it;
  • Can allow employers to monitor employees’ activities to ensure they’re being productive and following rules;
  • Can track hours worked on a specific task, which can increase accuracy for invoicing;
  • Can help with recordkeeping, such as tracking employee time, etc.; and
  • Can monitor customer interactions to ensure policies are being adhered to and customers are being treated well.

Employee Monitoring: Cons

Naturally, there are also many potential drawbacks to employee monitoring. Here are a few:

  • Employees may feel their privacy has been devalued or violated.
  • It may be difficult to retain employees if monitoring seems intrusive.
  • Monitoring can signal a lack of trust, which can breed resentment and reduce employee morale and productivity.
  • The line between work and home may be blurred; people often use the same devices for both, so where does monitoring cross the line?
  • Extra data means more information could be misused if it lands in the wrong hands.
  • There are legal issues to contend with to ensure the employer remains within legal rights and respects employees’ rights. The more geographic areas the employer operates in, the more likely these regulations will differ in each area.
  • Any monitoring program is only useful if it is actually scrutinized, which takes time and money.
  • Surveillance may create a false sense of security, which can actually be a risk in and of itself.

What types of employee monitoring are used in your organization? Have you found that the benefits outweigh the risks?

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.