Is Employee Monitoring Good or Bad?

Is Employee Monitoring Good or Bad?

Employee monitoring has emerged as a necessity but controversial issue in recent years, mostly due to technology. While many employers are using some sort of monitoring device to track their assets, their employees are likely tied to those and opposed to “big brother” watching over them. An example of this can be a courier service or trucking company who are monitoring their vehicles but the employee may feel as if it’s an invasion of their privacy.

As businesses move forward and as technology continues to evolve in the workplace, many of our professional and even personal tasks are becoming much easier to perform on a daily basis. As an employee, you may not agree with being tracked by your employer. At the same time, you are less likely to be upset about it if there are benefits that improve productivity and reduce frustrations. You also may be less concerned about being monitored as an employee if your employer involves you in the process.

In order to deploy a successful monitoring solution, I recommend complete transparency by the employer as well as involvement from the team members. Employee monitoring is all about improving efficiency and productivity while eliminating unnecessary processes that employers would like to resolve for their team. This reduces stress, provides more time for employees to do other more fulfilling tasks and can eliminate a lot of manual paperwork that is done.

Though it’s controversial, it’s here and will only continue to become a larger part of our professional lives. I believe the term “employee monitoring” in itself sounds invasive and rude. But if we look at the productivity, the opportunities to improve and the efficiency this technology can create outweighs the fact that it may be abused. As long as these technologies are only functioning during company hours, employees (that have nothing to hide) should not resist this in my opinion.

What do you think about employee and asset monitoring? Comment and let us know!

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  1. LSH721 Jun 02, 2015 - 10:43 AM

    You say that “employee monitoring is all about improving efficiency and productivity, while eliminating unnecessary processes that employers would like to resolve for their team”. I do agree with you that it can be used to eliminate unnecessary processes, thereby improving efficiency. However, in my opinion, employee monitoring wouldn’t necessarily improve productivity. I understand in theory that by having unnecessary processes eliminated, employees can focus only on processes that are necessary, which would lead to greater productivity. However, employee monitoring can also have a negative impact on productivity. When employees know or find out that they are being monitored, they may feel anxious or stressed (Stanford University, n.d.). In my opinion, this does not have anything to do with whether they have something to hide or not. It could be that some employees don’t like the feeling of being watched, or they are anxious that they may make a mistake and be in trouble. There has been research that has shown that monitoring employees can contribute to “stress and stress-related illness” (Stanford University, n.d.). Employees that are stressed often when they work may be more prone to making mistakes.

    Stress from employee monitoring can also lead to problems with mental and physical health. Some examples that are shown from studies are high tension, extreme anxiety, depression, anger, severe fatigue, musculoskeletal problems and carpal tunnel syndrome (Martin & Freeman, 2003). Those who are sick, whether physically or mentally, take more sick leave. When employees aren’t at work, they are not productive.

    Employee monitoring can also negatively affect employee morale. There was a study that showed a link between the happiness of employees and their productivity (Oswald, Proto, & Sgroi, 2014). Employees who are happier, or have a higher morale, will usually be more productive at work. Employee monitoring can lower employee morale, thereby making them less productive. This can also cause a higher percentage of employee turnover (Stanford University, n.d.). People generally want to work at a place where they are happy. If they are passionate about what they are doing, they will work harder and be more focused, leading to greater productivity (Zwilling, 2014).

    If the employer monitors the employees, the employees may also feel like their boss does not trust them (TopTen Reviews, n.d.). This feeling of distrust may also lower their morale and make them over cautious in their work and around their boss. This may negatively affect their productivity.

    Therefore, I do think that employers can use monitoring of employees to remove unnecessary processes, leading to increased efficiency and productivity. However, the negative effects of employee monitoring should also be taken into account. In my opinion, the negative effects of monitoring employees are greater than the positive effects. Perhaps as a solution, rather than monitoring the activities of employees, the employer could have a look at the end result. This means that as long as employees are being productive, they can have a little more freedom at work. The employer could ask the employees to report to him/her if they believe any of their processes are unnecessary. This would mean that employees will feel like their boss trusts them and their morale will be boosted. This may encourage them to work harder, leading to greater productivity. My opinion is that this would be better than monitoring what employees do. There may be other legitimate reasons for monitoring employees, but I think for the argument of productivity, it would be best not to monitor them.

    Another claim you make is that “the opportunities to improve and the efficiency this technology can create outweighs the fact that it may be abused”. This is using employees as a means to an end (The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, 2015). I think this could be seen as an invasion of privacy by some employees, as you mentioned in your first paragraph. Their privacy is being invaded for the purpose of efficiency. I agree that there should be “complete transparency by the employer” and “involvement from the team members” regarding monitoring. However, I also think that employees should have to give informed consent before they can be monitored by the employer (The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, 2015). This shows respect to the employees as rational beings. Some employees that don’t have anything to hide won’t resist being monitored and will give informed consent if the employer gives them complete transparency by explaining to them all the reasons for monitoring them. However, some employees who have nothing to hide may not give informed consent to being monitored for other reasons. For example, they may feel uncomfortable with being watched even when they are doing what they are supposed to do. They may resist being monitored because it will make them anxious and feel stressed, as I mentioned above. I think that all employees should be treated with respect. Likewise, employees should show respect to employers by doing their best at their job.

    There may be situations where employee monitoring is required, such as in some Government organisations that work with top secret files, or courier companies, since they track their parcels for the benefit of customers. I also think that if there is evidence to believe that an employee is doing something bad, that they can be monitored. However, my opinion is that, in most cases, employees should not be monitored without giving informed consent.

    Reference List

    Martin, K., & Freeman, E. (2003). Some problems with employee monitoring. Journal of Business Ethics, 43, 353–361.

    Oswald, A. J., Proto, E., & Sgroi, D. (2014) Happiness and Productivity. UK: University of Warwick. Retrieved from workingpapers/happinessproductivity.pdf.

    Stanford University (n.d.). Health Concerns. Retrieved from

    The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. (2015). Module 2: Three Theories of Ethics. In 71203 Business Ethics. Retrieved from Jc1KRUcnRDSSugYaT-h

    TopTenReviews (n.d.). 5 Negatives of Monitoring Computer Use. Retrieved from http://monitoring-

    Zwilling, M. (2014). How To Increase Productivity By Employee Happiness. In Forbes. Retrieved from from-employee-happiness/.

    • Armin Jun 05, 2015 - 01:08 AM

      I agree but in most cases, businesses have plenty of ways to notice and respond to poor/negative behaviors of employees but lack in ways to notice/reward their teams for positive behaviors. Depending on how the employer deploys such a technology, it could be used for the good of the team and the company or for micro management purposes.