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Ethical Considerations for Employee Monitoring

With the right approach to employee monitoring, you can empower your employees and boost productivity without violating anyone’s privacy. Learn how.

More businesses than ever before are starting to monitor employees, both remote workers and those who come to the office. There are many benefits to this practice when it’s done collaboratively and transparently, and the ActivTrak team has spent years coaching managers on how to maximize these benefits. We know that employee tracking raises a lot of questions about workplace privacy, ethical issues, and monitoring laws — this article will teach you how to mitigate concerns surrounding employee monitoring ethics using the ActivTrak approach.

We’ll explore the growing popularity of monitoring systems and cover any questions you may have about employee monitoring ethics. You’ll also learn how to ensure your approach to workplace monitoring is supportive of a better, more productive workplace. By the time you finish reading, you’ll have all the insights you need to successfully implement a monitoring system that’s a win-win-win for employees, employers, and the enterprise.

Choose where to start:

The Growing Popularity of Employee Monitoring Software

Many people have negative preconceived notions about employee monitoring. After all, some organizations have used this technology punitively in the past, instead of as a way to support employees and boost organizational performance. Still, software platforms that offer electronic monitoring of digital work activity have become increasingly popular as of late.

You can attribute this surge in interest to many different trends, like increased compliance requirements or the need for greater protection against insider security threats. You can also attribute it to the (further) proliferation of technology throughout different industries. Perhaps the most prescient reason for the uptick in employee monitoring software is the era of remote work and the rise of the gig economy. 16% of the world’s companies are now fully remote and 71% of Americans are now working from home.

Now that more organizations than ever are looking for ways to better understand the productivity of a distributed workforce, it’s important to consider employee monitoring ethics and balance the need for visibility with the need to safeguard employees’ privacy.

Taking an Ethical Approach to Employee Monitoring

You should always consult your company’s legal counsel so you can be crystal clear on your rights and your employees’ rights. While employee monitoring is legal, privacy laws can differ by state and by country.

Of course, the legality of employee monitoring and monitoring laws should not be the only considerations. An ethical approach is much more important. In fact, building, maintaining, and respecting the trust of your team members is paramount, and it keeps managers from invading employees’ privacy or creating a hostile work environment. The good news is that monitoring your employees’ digital work activity without compromising their trust or privacy is absolutely possible. Here’s what you need to do:

Examine your motivations: Ethical employee tracking isn’t just about how you collect data —it’s about how you use it. Make sure that you’re gathering data from work computers for the specific purpose of improving productivity. Being open with your employees about how their data will be used to help them (eg. avoiding burnout, improving employee morale, balancing workloads) goes a long way to getting employees on board. In fact, an Accenture survey found that 92% of employees are willing to have their data collected as long as it’s used to boost their own well-being and performance.

Be transparent: When it comes to employee monitoring ethics, the top concern is a lack of transparency. Whether you’re tracking remote employees or in-office workers, there are certain expectations of privacy that your team members have. If you aren’t upfront about your monitoring policy, you risk violating those expectations. Take a cue from the EU when it comes to ethical monitoring practices! Always let your employees know what data is and isn’t collected, how it will be used, and who will have access to it. Ideally, your workforce analytics solution will offer ways to share data with individuals so they can see their own work patterns and experiment with different ways of managing their time.

Never monitor selectively: Although some managers might have initially become interested in employee monitoring because they wanted to ensure remote employees were staying productive, it’s a myth that employee monitoring should only be used for remote workers. All employees, no matter where they are, benefit from the productivity insights gathered from user activity data. Also, monitoring one group and not another is problematic in terms of company culture, employee morale, and a sense of fairness.

Be mindful of the data you’re collecting and when: With the rise of remote working and the increased use of personal devices for business, you must maintain strict boundaries between the personal and the professional. Use an employee monitoring software platform that includes safeguards to ensure personal data isn’t collected and includes features that turn off monitoring on employees’ computers outside of typical working hours.

Embracing Ethical Considerations for Monitoring with the Right Tool

The aforementioned tips are excellent for making sure that you’re approaching employee monitoring in a transparent, collaborative, and open way. To really succeed, you need to choose a workforce analytics solution that does the same.

At ActivTrak, we prioritize employee privacy and focus on the power of data and analytics to boost employee productivity in a way that benefits everyone, creating a better workplace culture where employees can thrive. We believe in transparency and the importance of data not for spying, but for empowerment.

Worrying about ethical issues when it comes to monitoring employees’ activities is perfectly natural, and it shows that you take the expectation of privacy seriously. Workplace monitoring that respects employee privacy is possible with the right workforce analytics software, and it’s the best way to create positive changes that will have long-term effects on the success of your employees. Just remember our pro tips and you’ll be set to start monitoring your employees ethically.

Pro Tips: 

  • When it comes to monitoring computer usage, place building and maintaining employee trust before anything else. Also, incorporate ethical considerations for employee monitoring into your company policy.
  • Never monitor user activity solely for the purpose of monitoring user activity. Data should only be gathered so it can be put to use for your teams.
  • Keep employees informed about your monitoring efforts and be ready to explain how computer monitoring benefits everyone.

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