Productivity vs. Working Relationships: Should You Be Monitoring Your Employees or Are There Legal Obstacles as Well?

Most of us are used to and unconsciously accept the fact that we are being monitored in our jobs. The level of monitoring greatly depends on the type of employment. For example, mom and pop shops are less likely to strictly monitor their employees than, say, the Pentagon. 

If you work in an office job that requires you to bring work equipment home, it’s expected that the devices will be monitored. Employers monitor their workers for many reasons. The most common reasons include preventing theft and tracking productivity. 

A company in the U.S. recently made headlines by implanting (willing) employees with chips that can log onto computers and perform other work-related activities. Mega retailer Amazon is testing wristbands that track the movements of warehouse employees. 

5 Ways Companies Monitor Employees

Microchips and wristband trackers are futuristic goals of employee monitoring. For now, employers have to make-do with traditional methods and productivity trackers currently on the market. 

Many of the ways employers monitor their workers are so ingrained that we don’t give it a second thought. There are 5 common methods used for monitoring employees. 

1. Time clocks to keep track of employee hours. 

2. GPS trackers on company vehicles.

3. Security cameras in work areas. 

4. Reviewing emails and phone records.

5. Monitoring computer usage with keylogging software. 

Monitoring employees can have negative and positive side effects. It’s important for employers to weigh their options and get feedback from employees before enacting any monitoring measures. 

Pros of Monitoring Employees’ Productivity

There are benefits that may be gained from monitoring employees, such as: 

  • Increased productivity by limiting distractions. With the popularity of smartphones and social media, employees can easily get distracted, which lowers productivity. Monitoring cell phone usage is just one way to eliminate distractions. 
  • Target problem areas or problem employees. Security cameras can prevent employees from committing harassment or theft. Employers can also monitor productivity remotely via camera. 
  • Catch suspicious cybersecurity activity early. In some industries, monitoring employees includes keeping a close eye on cybersecurity to prevent cyberattacks before they happen. 

Cons of Monitoring Employees’ Productivity

There will also be drawbacks to keeping track of your employees’ activities including: 

  • Lower employees’ morale. Some monitoring devices, such as security cameras, can erode employees’ trust in their employers. Along with the erosion of trust comes low morale and lower productivity. 
  • Interfering with employees’ right to privacy. Monitoring private communications from employees can, in some cases, directly interfere with their right to privacy. One example would be accidentally stumbling upon medical information about an employee. 
  • Monitoring requires additional resources. Monitoring employees is ineffective if no one is analyzing the security cameras or other tracking methods. Assigning someone the sole job of monitoring their co-workers requires resources, time and money. 

Bottom Line: Monitoring is Productive to an Extent

Monitoring employees doesn’t always weaken their trust or productivity. As long as employers are upfront from the point of hiring about any monitoring, the employee has the option to pursue other job opportunities. 

Taking a hard line is the surest way to reduce productivity and team morale.