It is a challenge to measure the employee’s performance, activities, and time usage. Employee monitoring is a method by which a company gathers information about the employee’s actions and locations. Technological advancement in tracking software and tracking devices have made employee monitoring possible for companies. Employee monitoring allows the company to detect time waste and other employee misconduct, but it can also produce privacy violations and other harmful effects.
“Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” is a 2005 film directed by Robert Greenwald (Gates, 2005) that shows several issues that Wal-Mart as a company has: environmental impact, low safety, unfair employee treatment, and many others. Even though employees are a fundamental part of the company, they suffered from endless abuse. One of the several ways of abuse mention in the film is excessive employee monitoring. Employees would not even want to take a break or bond with other employees, just because there is no privacy.
Hospitals and other healthcare providers use employee monitoring. Employee monitoring has brought significant advantages in these places. The supervisors can allocate employees very quickly in an emergency, and supplies are always in stock. “In the digital age, however, the use of employee monitoring isn’t limited to situations with potential life-or-death consequences, such as those involving patient care and safety. Companies everywhere are tracking employees’ activities in all kinds of ways to become more streamlined and productive.” (Katz, 2015) Employee monitoring primary purpose in most of the industries is to increase productivity and focus. The main issue is that employee-monitoring effects in employees and the company bring consequences that can potentially defeat its purpose.
A significant percentage of employees waste time at work, 26% of them give web browsing as the leading cause of wasting time (Gouveia, 2014). Detecting excessive unrelated web browsing can be achieved with employee monitoring. Using a variety of software available in the market, the company can have access to web history, typing rate, devices connected to the PC, and others. All the computers of the company can be connected to the same system. Companies can even detect devices connected to wireless networks.
Some consequences of employee monitoring are an increase in employee turn over, reduction of resources, and an increase in costs. Employees under supervision tend to be more productive, but constant and excessive monitoring causes stress.
Monitoring is not always seen positively. Employee monitoring propitiates higher stress and lowers employee morale, and this can increase turnover. The trust between a company and its employees is a fundamental bond. “When workplace trust is intact, the dynamic works well. When the trust is violated, the employee-manager relationship suffers.” (Root) As explained in the first example about healthcare, monitoring can be beneficial. Managers and employees will also accept it if there is supportive evidence of its importance. If there is no specific reason that will benefit the company then it can be taken as a sign of mistrust.
“When employees no longer trust management, it can create a situation of elevated employee turnover.” (Root) Excessive employee monitoring leads to distrust of management, and mistrust of management leads to employee turnover. Employees are usually primary stakeholders in a company; they are fundamental to the company’s operations. A stakeholder is defined “as any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of a corporation’s purpose” (Harrison, Wicks, & Freeman, 2007). Therefore an elevated employee turnover brings direct adverse effects to the company. High employee turnover results in lower productivity and higher costs due to the extra cost of training, recruiting and mentoring.
Employee monitoring will limit employees to resources. A company can potentially track emails, websites, voice mails, and others. Since this is a well-known fact nowadays, employees will refrain from entering certain websites that can be associated with work time misusage. Sites like social media, news, and advertisement can be resources for employees in the creative industry. Excessing monitoring can potentially limit valuable resources for creativity and innovation.
Employee monitoring will also produce high expenses in the company’s budget. Some common ways to track employees is with software, cameras, other employees, etc. All of the options require a significant investment of capital. The company has to allocate a special budget for this purpose. There is also a lot of data produced from the tracking. All this data in raw won’t be useful to detect misconduct. The information has to be stored and analyzed, depending on how many employees are under the software; this process can be expensive and time-consuming.
Employee Monitoring/Tracking – Privacy Issues
Companies deal with enormous pressure to meet deadlines and market expectations. Regarding privacy issues, companies deal with two main topics: consumer privacy and employee monitoring. “A challenge for companies today is meeting their business needs while protecting employees’ desire of privacy. There are few legal protections of an employee’s right to privacy, which allows businesses a great deal of flexibility in establishing policies regarding employee privacy while using company equipment on company property.” (Ferrell, Ferrell, & Fraedrich, 2015) Companies are legally able to track employees in a variety of ways, including video surveillance, email tracking, website tracking, etc.
The companies have a lot of data for each employee. The data collected can have sensitive or private information. The company has a great responsibility; they must protect the data according to privacy policies. The main issue arises with the lack of transparency of these monitoring techniques.
All in all, companies are increasing their usage of employee tracking with the objective of productivity, but they are leaving out many negative factors that come from employee tracking. Employee tracking is very useful in allocating resources in emergencies, detecting risks, and detecting employee misconduct. Employee monitoring can lower morale, increase turnover, increase costs, cause employee mistrust, and increase the probability of privacy violations. Even though there are still areas of the subject with very few regulations, the employer has to consider the limit where they are monitoring their employees for productivity purposes, and when they are risking employee’s privacy and trust.
Katz, L. m. (2015, 06 01). Retrieved 03 31, 2016, from https://www.shrm.org/publications/hrmagazine/editorialcontent/2015/0615/pages/0615-employee-monitoring.aspx#sthash.Ghf0cpQ9.dpuf
Gates, A. (2005, 11). NYT. Retrieved 03 2016, from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/04/movies/a-look-inside-the-outsize-company-that-is-the-biggest-retailer-on-the-planet.html
Root, G. N. (n.d.). Retrieved 03 31, 2016, from Demand Media: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/role-trust-employeemanager-relationship-11614.html
Ferrell, O., Ferrell, L., & Fraedrich, J. (2015). Business Ethics (Vol. 10).
Harrison, J. S., Wicks, A. C., & Freeman, E. (2007). Managing for Stakeholders. Yale University Press.
Gouveia, A. (2014). Salary.com. Retrieved from http://www.salary.com/2014-wasting-time-at-work/slide/6/