The Truth Behind 5 Employee Monitoring Myths

Workplace and employee monitoring are extremely common. However, many people believe that employee monitoring is illegal. This belief is understandable when you consider that there are a number of workplace privacy laws in place to restrict the invasiveness of employee monitoring. 

Employee monitoring, such as employee surveillance in the workplace and the use of employee monitoring software, is completely legal, but privacy laws will vary by jurisdiction. When you think of employee monitoring, know that it comes with its restrictions and that not all the myths that you’ve heard about it are true. 

What is Employee Monitoring?

Before we break down these legalities, let’s first recognize what is happening when employers are monitoring their employees. There are largely two types of employee monitoring – online (or digital) employee monitoring through employee monitoring software and workplace or physical monitoring through employee surveillance systems. 

Many businesses with a physical location will have some type of surveillance system, and generally, it is in place to protect a business against other threats as well, such as theft and break-ins, unruly customers, and as objective references when issues arise in the workplace. In some cases, this surveillance technology will also be used to monitor employee behavior. You can think of video cameras in places where money transfers happen, where sensitive data/information is held, and so on. 

Employee monitoring software, on the other hand, is not as commonplace in physical businesses, but it may still be in use. Employee monitoring software records and logs the computer activity on the specific computer it is installed on. So an employer might download employee monitoring software onto a computer so that they can monitor the behaviors, productivity, and messages that occur on that computer. 

Any computer monitored by an employer must either be company property or if not, consent must be obtained from the employee. Because employees are being paid for their time, employers are legally allowed to ask this of their employees, and employers aren’t obliged to tell their employees that this type of monitoring is occurring. 

Here are the top 4 myths about employee monitoring DEBUNKED by SoftActivity:

1. MYTH: Employee Monitoring Violates Privacy

Probably one of the biggest fallacies around the subject is that employee monitoring violates privacy. When we talk about privacy here, we are referring to the privacy of all the employees that a business might monitor (and not necessarily about the data that is collected on customers – different thing). 

Employers are legally allowed to monitor their employees for two reasons: to ensure the safety and security of their business (in a range of capacities) and to ensure that employees are legally working and not committing time theft. 

At the same time, employers are able to monitor their business assets and ensure that their workplace is safe so long as reasonable measures are taken. Working within legal parameters, the employer must ensure that workplace surveillance is implemented to stop errant behavior by customers and employees. 

However, the employer must also tailor the workplace monitoring so that it is not too general and that the monitoring is needed for legitimate business purposes. Employees must also understand that they have limited or no reasonable expectations for privacy on company-owned devices. 

BUSTED: Employee monitoring is regulated by federal and state laws. 

2. MYTH: Employee Monitoring is Demotivating

Employee monitoring generally includes time tracking to monitor productivity and some believe that it can also indicate that employees aren’t trusted. 

In both of these cases, employees might feel demotivated. Unfortunately, this is a big fat myth. And here’s why: 

  1. While time tracking can be tedious, it is actually extremely useful for employees and employers as objective measures of their productivity. Even if employees find them slightly annoying, they still will get work done and be able to see how long a project took.
    In this way, time tracking is not demotivating and is exactly the opposite – it is motivating! The little bit of annoyance that they will have to go through might be viewed as demotivating, but in reality, this is the employee butting heads with their inner struggles, their inability to actually be productive, or outside forces that are holding them back from working. 
    If you have employees that experience frustrations around employee monitoring and claim that it is demotivating, you’ll want to sit down and have a chat with them about these frustrations. 
    You may find that your employees are actually overworked and therefore can’t get their work done, and this has nothing to do with the employee monitoring software. Alternatively, you can use the employee monitoring software to see their productivity levels and have a conversation with your employees based on these stats. 
  1. Employees may not feel like they are being trusted when they are forced to track time. And this makes sense. In general, most people don’t like to be micromanaged. And having a conversation with your employees about this is rather simple. 
    Time tracking has less to do with trust, and more to do with accountability. Your employees are lazy sometimes – this is a fact! Every so often, they want to go shopping during company hours or mess around. You are simply protecting your bottom line. 
    Additionally, the “trust” factor might come into play because some employees do in fact steal from companies. So, unfortunately, companies have to treat all employees similarly. These aspects should not be demotivating. 
    In a way, an employee who might be demotivated by these aspects might actually be a little shady or be shopping on the clock. So, instead, use claims about demotivation as fuel for the fire!

BUSTED: Employee monitoring software actually motivates employees because they are able to objectively understand their productivity and it keeps employees accountable!

3. MYTH: Employee Monitoring is Illegal

Nope! This is an easy one. Employee monitoring is completely legal because companies are paying workers for their time. See the following privacy laws: Digital privacy covered by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and also includes the Stored Communications Act (SCA). And only Connecticut and Delaware are legally required to inform their employees that they will be monitored as of 2020. 

While the employer does not “own” them or their time, and employees have rights around the workplace and monitoring, employers are legally allowed to verify that their employees are actually doing the work that they are being paid for. 

So, while there are laws in place to protect workers, there are also laws in place to protect employers. 

Employee monitoring might sound strange – to think that your employer is sneaking around and spying on employees. However, recognize that employers are simply protecting their bottom line against time theft and potential insider threats. 

BUSTED: Employee monitoring is legal for legitimate business reasons, like protecting the workplace against theft, insider threats, and protecting business data. 

4. MYTH: Employee Monitoring Doesn’t Actually Work

Employee monitoring is a great way to objectively see what your employees are actually doing when on the clock. A sophisticated employee monitoring software that records the user’s computer screens, records using the webcam and performs keylogging can provide a lot of insight into what your employees do during their time at work. 

You can clearly see the employees that waste time, that are actively avoiding work, as well as those employees that are overworking!

Through the unique combination of features, employee monitoring is actually a sophisticated tool that needs to be in every project manager’s belt!

BUSTED: Employee monitoring actually works to monitor productivity objectively.

5. MYTH: Employee Monitoring Software is Computer Spyware

While the idea of secretly monitoring any individuals might sound malevolent, employee monitoring software is most certainly not computer spyware. The two are completely different in function and action. 

Computer spyware is a malware program that secretly and maliciously gains access to a computer and is able to hide on the device and secretly record the computer activity. This spyware program will use keystroke logging software to record sensitive information like banking details and passwords. 

Compared to computer spyware, employee monitoring is only a monitoring system, one which is usually a piece of software installed on an employee’s computer. While the software may be secretly installed and also use a keylogger, it is meant for a different intention and not put in place by a malicious actor. And, keylogging software in employee monitoring software will often obscure sensitive banking information for user protection. 

It is legal for employers to deploy an activity monitor to surveil their employees, but the extent to which they monitor employee behavior will vary based on the legal jurisdiction where the company resides and other privacy laws. 

BUSTED: Employee monitoring redacts sensitive information and is not deployed by malicious actors like computer spyware.

By SoftActivity Team

December 21st, 2020