IS EMPLOYEE TRACKING SPYING?
In our last blog post, we talked about how an integrated employee tracking system is created, and why businesses should consider incorporating it into their structure. In this post, we will consider whether employee tracking is legal or just another form of Big Brother in employees’ lives, and whether it could breach employee privacy.
As this The Week article suggests, workplace monitoring can feel pretty invasive for those on the receiving end. Not only can employers track their employees’ movements, but they can also “look in” on how work computers are being used, what they are doing when, and with whom they have come into contact.
Whereas employers could argue that they are more concerned with keeping productivity high, the employees, themselves, might not see the point of spying in on personal emails. With the potential for employers to also track who their employees are interacting with and how (through live-streaming of tones and intonations), employees can find themselves paranoid about their each and every action.
When it comes to tracking systems such as GPS, there are actually very few practical legal protections in place, as it is still a new practice in the workplace. In the US, the general legal tendency argues that whereas GPS monitoring is reasonable, there needs to be a definite line drawn between work spaces and the personal.
This entails that employers can track their employees during clearly defined work hours, or when they are supposed to be undertaking work commitments.
However, once that stated period has ended, employers have to step back and switch off Big Brother. At the same time, the legal stance also currently points to requiring employees to give their consent to their being monitored.
On a more human basis, employees may take tracking as a sign of distrust – and this could very negatively impact office morale. In the knowledge that every move they make is being watched, some may even become less productive. This is where effective communications need to come into play, with employers outlining the monitoring program, why it is being used and how the data will be used.
Employee Tracking Benefits
So what’s the difference between simply monitoring a worker’s output and actually spying on them? And when does employee tracking actually have its benefits?
One solution to employee tracking is to collect data anonymously, where data for groups of 2 or more anonymous employees is gathered and analyzed. This helps reduce employee fears that their jobs are at risk, or they may face sanctions if their name is attached to their work.
And when used properly, employee tracking systems actually have several benefits for workers, including:
- Safe evacuation procedures : Emergencies, such as fires, require quick thinking and speedy efforts to keep employees safe. Because employers know exactly where each employee is on site, less time is wasted looking for “missing” employees, and emergency evacuation procedures are much easier and more efficient. In turn, there is less risk to life, and, of course, no one is left in a potentially hazardous building.
- Better productivity : When workload is high, it is more meaningful to employees to have that workload evenly distributed. If management teams have easy-to-use, visualized data ready at their fingertips, they can see with greater ease who’s at risk of getting too much work. In turn, this means that employees can work in more comfortable circumstances, without too much stress.
- Offsite employee monitoring : When an employee is working in the field, such as in delivery vehicles or in equipment repairs, it is more difficult for managers to effectively track how they work. To ensure their full potential, employee tracking solutions simply give managers the details they need, to reassign jobs or ease the pressures of battling through traffic. It also ensures that employees are not penalized should traffic be heavy or the weather is inclement.
- Better output assessment : When a manager has improved access to employee output, they can ensure that the right skills sets are in the right jobs. This is a particularly useful feature for offsite employees, where work feedback may not be so forthcoming. Employee tracking also points to training courses that may help employees gain the skills they need for their roles and perform their work better.
Although employers may want to have the big data, employee tracking can have the negative fallout of creating paranoia. Workplace tracking systems have redefined the meaning of employee privacy – sometimes in a controversial way – and it has increased with the increasing numbers of monitoring types.
With these points on board, employers need to ask themselves the values of having employee tracking systems and consider why it is employees need tracking in the first place.