Can Employers Monitor Emails?

With the rise of remote work and advanced computer technologies at our fingertips, there is much more that we’re capable of, especially when it comes to tracking the workplace. 

Employers track their employees to ensure they continue to provide quality work. But to what extent can these employers track? Can they monitor your emails?

If you’re wondering, as an employer, what you can monitor, you’re in the right place. If you’re an employee and you’ve stumbled on this blog, you, too, can learn what exactly your employer can track when at work. 

Do Employers Monitor Employee Emails?

Yes, it is common for employers to monitor employee emails, especially in medium to large organizations where maintaining security, productivity, and compliance with company policies is crucial. Monitoring employee emails can help employers identify potential risks, such as data leaks, harassment, or other inappropriate behavior, as well as ensure that employees are using company resources efficiently and effectively.

However, the extent of monitoring and the methods used can vary greatly depending on the organization and its specific needs. Some employers may only monitor emails on a case-by-case basis, while others may have automated systems to scan emails regularly for certain keywords or other potential red flags.

Employers can use other types of monitoring to improve their workplace. These might include: 

  • Video surveillance: Employers may install cameras to monitor employee activity, ensure safety, and prevent theft or other misconduct.
  • Computer and Internet monitoring: Employers may track employees’ computer usage, including internet browsing, emails, and instant messages, to ensure productivity and adherence to company policies.
  • Phone monitoring: Employers may monitor employees’ phone calls for quality assurance, training purposes, or to protect sensitive information.
  • GPS tracking: Employers may track the location of employees, particularly those who work in the field or drive company vehicles, for safety and productivity reasons.
  • Time and attendance systems: Employers may use various systems to track employees’ working hours, punctuality, and overall attendance.
  • Biometric monitoring: Employers may use fingerprint, facial recognition, or other biometric systems to confirm employee identity, control access to restricted areas, and maintain accurate attendance records.
  • Social media monitoring: Employers may monitor employees’ social media activity to ensure compliance with company policies and protect the organization’s reputation.

Are Employers Allowed to Monitor Their Employee Emails?

Employers are generally allowed to monitor their employees’ emails, especially when using company-provided email accounts and devices. However, the extent to which employers can monitor employee emails and the requirements necessary for doing so vary by country and jurisdiction.

It is often the case that employers have to follow legal requirements when monitoring. These include: 

Inform Employees 

Employers should communicate their email monitoring policies to employees through an employee handbook, written policy, or training sessions. Employees should be aware that their work email accounts may be monitored and should not expect privacy when using company email systems.

Ensure There is a Legitimate Business Purpose 

Employers should have a valid reason for monitoring employee emails, such as protecting company assets, ensuring productivity, maintaining security, or ensuring compliance with company policies.

Respect Employee Privacy

Employers should avoid excessive or invasive monitoring and focus on work-related communications. Sometimes, employers may need to obtain a court order or follow specific procedures before accessing employees’ personal emails.

Comply With Data Protection Regulations 

Employers must adhere to applicable data protection and privacy laws when monitoring employee emails, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union.

Respect Employee Rights

When monitoring emails, employers should be cautious not to infringe on employees’ rights to freedom of speech, association, and protection against discrimination.

Benefits of Employee Email Monitoring

Consumers may be familiar with the practice of monitoring customer service agents to improve customer care and training. However, there is more to it than that. 

Monitoring emails can help identify and prevent potential security threats, such as phishing attacks, malware, or unauthorized sharing of sensitive information. This can protect the organization’s assets and reputation. Monitoring can also prevent the unauthorized sharing of confidential or proprietary information, ensuring that valuable intellectual property remains secure.

Email monitoring helps employees comply with industry-specific regulations, data protection laws, and company policies. This can minimize the risk of legal penalties, fines, or damage to the organization’s reputation.

By monitoring emails, employers can gain insights into employee work patterns and identify any inefficiencies or time-wasting activities. This can help improve productivity and streamline communication. Employers can also evaluate the service quality, identify improvement areas, and implement necessary changes.

In legal disputes or internal investigations, archived email communications can serve as valuable evidence to support or refute claims, helping to resolve issues more efficiently. Stored emails can identify harassment, discrimination, or other inappropriate behavior, allowing employers to take prompt action and maintain a safe, respectful, and professional work environment.

How Do Employers Monitor Employee Emails in Remote Settings

Employee email monitoring software is designed to track, analyze, and manage emails sent and received by employees within an organization. Features of these software tools can vary, but some common features include content filtering, attachment scanning, data loss prevention (DLP), alerts and notifications, reporting, and access controls.

  1. Company email server: Most organizations provide employees with work email accounts hosted on the company’s email server. Employers can access, monitor, and review emails sent or received through these accounts, regardless of whether employees work remotely or on-site.
  2. Monitoring software: Employers may use specialized software to monitor employee email activity. These tools can track incoming and outgoing emails, identify suspicious patterns, and flag specific keywords or attachments. Monitoring software can be installed on company-provided devices or integrated with the email system.
  3. Remote desktop monitoring: Employers may use remote desktop monitoring tools that provide real-time access to an employee’s computer screen. This can enable employers to view employee email activity as it occurs, along with other activities on the employee’s device.
  4. VPN and network monitoring: When employees work remotely and connect to the company’s network through a virtual private network (VPN), employers can monitor network activity, including email communications, to ensure compliance with company policies and maintain security.

Features of Employee Email Monitoring Software

Employee email monitoring software can scan email content for specific keywords, phrases, or patterns that may indicate policy violations, inappropriate behavior, or potential security risks. It can also analyze email attachments to detect potential security threats like malware or sensitive data leaks.

DLP features can help identify and prevent the unauthorized sharing of sensitive or confidential information through email, such as intellectual property, financial data, or personal information. The software can then send alerts or notifications to administrators or designated personnel when it detects potential policy violations, security threats, or other concerns.

Managers can use software-generated reports and analytics to learn about email activity, such as the volume of emails sent and received, patterns of communication, and flagged content. This can help employers identify trends, potential issues, and areas for improvement.

How the software is set up can vary. Sometimes, the software can be integrated with other systems, such as human resources management systems (HRMS), customer relationship management (CRM) tools, or cybersecurity platforms.

Some software must be downloaded onto a central console and set up by an access control administrator. From there, they can configure the software and set the levels of access and permissions to administrators or designated personnel, allowing them to review and manage email monitoring activities as needed. The software can be configured with specific policies and rules based on the organization’s needs, ensuring monitoring is tailored to the company’s requirements and objectives.

Luckily the software can store and archive emails according to company policies and regulatory requirements, helping to ensure proper record-keeping and facilitating audits or investigations. These compliance features help organizations maintain compliance with industry-specific regulations and data protection laws, such as HIPAA, GDPR, or FINRA.

The Best Software Used for Employee Email Monitoring

Employers should consider factors such as ease of use, scalability, integration capabilities, and compliance with applicable laws and regulations when selecting employee email monitoring software. 

Finding the best software for your company is very important. With SoftActivity, you can monitor employee workstations and computers, including emails, to maintain company security, prevent data leaks and insider threats, and promote a productive workforce. 

Contact us today or start a free trial to discover all the features and benefits SoftActivity has to offer. 

By SoftActivity Team.

May 29th, 2023