How to Go About Monitoring Employee Activity at Work

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Monitoring employee activity is a subject that is often uncomfortable. As an employer, you know how important it is for the time your employees spend at work be filled with…well, actual work. Barring standard breaks, the hours your employees are on the clock must be dedicated to pushing the company forward. But with so many distractions available, through the internet and our various devices, how can you be sure that’s what’s happening?

Monitoring employee activity is very useful in determining the time your employees spend on actual work. But if you over-monitor, employees feel as if you are invading their privacy. You want to be able to trust your workers, but they need to be able to trust you as their employer. There is a fine line between monitoring your employees enough vs too much.

Monitoring Employee Activity

Who should be monitoring employee activity?

There are many advantages to monitoring the activity of your employees, but only if done right way. For example, if you have many employees working in a warehouse, particularly at night or with not many other people around, they might feel safer knowing the area is being monitored.

Monitoring employee activity is also a great way to get some ideas for increasing productivity. If you see that too many of your workers are spending too much time on social media, or using their work email for personal use, you can address the issue directly. You can also determine company related, low value activities.

Problems arise when employees don’t feel that the monitoring is being used to their benefit. You don’t want to counteractively reduce productivity because your employees are paranoid about being watched, or feeling overworked. They need to understand that the monitoring is for their benefit/safety as well. This is your job.

And keep in mind that monitoring is not the same as surveillance. Don’t allow your employees to feel like they’re being watched in an oppressive manner. That leads to distrust. If they feel like you’re just waiting to catch them doing something wrong, high turnover is likely right around the corner.

Below, we’ve outlined some of the best ways to monitor your employees’ activity, and how to best go about them.

1. Monitoring email & other electronic communication

The legality of monitoring electronic assets – computers, telephone, or email – varies from state to state. You should do your research before you approach this.

If it is legal in your state to monitor your employees’ emails and other electronic communication methods, you need to make sure you clearly list your monitoring policy in your employee handbook. Clearly state that using company resources does not come with an expectation of privacy. Be fair to your employees. Go over this policy during new employee orientation. You want to set everyone up for success!

They should understand that all company resources used while employed at your firm are the property of the firm and should only be used for business purposes. They should also know that their accounts, where permitted, are subject to review from time to time for quality assurance.

Monitoring Email, Phone and other Electronic Communications

Employees should be presented with an acknowledgement form to sign upon their first day of work. This will ensure that they have read the guidelines and understand what’s expected of them. And be sure to cover your policy – and any changes to it – regularly. One time per year is the minimum you should revisit this. Doing so will ensure that all employees are equally informed.

2. Social media use

Monitoring Social Media

Social media is known to be a huge time-waster for many companies. Yours may be no exception. Some people use social media as a welcome form of stress relief during the day. And that’s fine. As an employer, it can be tough to take it away entirely because of that.

Regardless of your stance in regards to social media use during work hours, be sure to clearly outline your social media policy in the employee handbook. Let them know what is and isn’t okay to publicly post about your company on social media. While it is legal for employees to discuss topics such as wages and workplace conditions, you can outline that they are not allowed to share confidential information, such as sales figures.

Additionally, you may want to consider making different social media policies for different positions at your company. For example, your head of PR or marketing, because it’s reviewed and cleared by 

legal, may be allowed to state more publicly about your company than, say, a sales representative. This is fine. These employees are intentionally putting this information out there for the benefit of the company – not having casual conversation.

3. Monitoring with cameras & proximity devices

You may need to track where your employees are during work hours. This depends on your company and industry. For example, in pharmaceuticals, only some employees are going to have access to the inventory.

Cameras, proximity cards, and other devices may be used to track employees. Of course, there are restrictions on any of these. You cannot place cameras in restrooms or changing rooms, for example, and they must be visible. As with the other methods we’ve outlined, transparency is key. Be sure to outline your policy in the employee handbook. Include your reasons for monitoring these activities. You should make it clear that this monitoring is being done to protect the company AND its employees. Your employees will be happy you have security footage if something goes wrong and they are found not at fault because of it. But they often don’t see it this way unless you educate them.

Surveillance Camera

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