Choosing the Right Way to Inform Your Employees About Monitoring
As technology progresses, more and more monitoring systems become available for employers to utilize in the workplace. Although this sounds nifty, it brings with it the heavy responsibility that comes with great power.
We've now moved beyond simply “tapping phones” and installing hidden cameras, and on to the possibilities of monitoring just about every aspect of production within a company. Employers can install monitoring systems that allow them to access employee emails and view every moment of their internet usage. It's possible to not only track how much time and data is being used browsing the net, but exactly which sites are being frequented. Company mobile devices can also be outfitted with apps that covertly records all texts, mobile web browsing, and phone calls.
There are intricate software systems now available that even monitor keystroke activity on work terminals, alerting employers when an employee's workstation has been idle for too long. GPS units are installed on company vehicles and are used especially in companies with large fleets or freight vehicles. The law even allows companies to open postage marked “personal” that is delivered to the company address.
The fact is, the law allows for very little privacy when it comes to the workplace. These monitoring systems are in place not only to track productivity but to enhance the safety of the workplace.
Workplace Monitoring: Managing Expectations with Sensitivity
Irrespective of the means, monitoring staff can be a delicate matter and, for many, an emotional boundary to managing with a sense of compassion and sensitivity. For employers looking at installing monitoring systems to track their staff’s productivity and safety, consideration will need to be given on how to inform employees that their activities at work are being constantly surveyed.
In order to decide how to inform staff that they are being monitored, employers would need to examine their company's size, the company culture, and the racial and gender make-up of their team. Additionally, they should examine the relationship that they, as executives, have fostered with their employees to pre-empt how the news may be received.
The following methods could be considered for informing staff of workplace monitoring:
This is probably the most commonly used method, for its convenience, and its seeming lack of prejudice. While this is a convenient solution for a large-scale corporate company, one would need to bear in mind that for a smaller business with an informal culture, it may come across as cold, and staff members may feel that questions about the systems are not welcome. Another risk to consider that that when employee concerns arise over the workplace monitoring, these negative reactions are not being addressed swiftly. As a result, mass panic could occur, and employers could find themselves doing unnecessary damage control to restore peace and trust. It is also worth remembering that there are certain staff members, such as janitors, who may not have access to emails, and therefore are often overlooked when important memos are sent out.
A more personalized method of informing staff of workplace monitoring could be to incorporate it into existing staff meetings. This could make it the responsibility of each Department Head to issue the news to his/her team in their weekly or monthly meetings. This would work ideally in the case that each department head has forged positive relationships with their team, and as such, the news would be received with respect and a sense of safety and trust. This format also allows employees to ask questions and managers to convey concerns back to corporate leaders. Once again, one would need to take care that absent team members are updated.
Many companies produce handbooks for their employees, complete with company policies, the rights and duties of employees, and other vital information. Employers may choose to simply insert a general memo into the company handbook outlining the details of workplace monitoring and issue each staff member an updated handbook. This method may also seem impersonal, and invites very little engagement on the matter, but may well be sufficient for a company where employee job satisfaction is positive, and staff members have little reason to mistrust their employer. This can also be a useful way of informing new employees about the processes of employee monitoring already in place.
Discussion and Q&A – Group and Individual
Where a company environment is volatile--whether this is a result of a breach in security, critical-level office politics, or gross mismanagement of time or resources--it may be necessary to consider holding an open-forum discussion with all employees. Informing employees who are already unhappy that they’re now under constant surveillance can be like negotiating a landmine of emotions. Allowing staff members to express their concerns openly, and addressing their concerns with compassion, are the first steps in building trust with employees and helping them to feel not only comfortable with workplace monitoring, but even to potentially see its value.
Putting Workers' Minds at Rest
When informing staff that they are now under surveillance at their workplace, it is important that the following concerns are addressed:
- Inform team members that all staff members are being monitored equally. No prejudice is being given to any ethnicity, gender, class, or hierarchy.
- Where possible, and if safe, be specific as to what measures are being taken and elaborate on what systems are being installed, such as telephone conversation recording, internet usage monitoring, computer terminal activity, video recording, vehicle GPS, etc.
- Help employees to see that these systems are being implemented for their physical safety, to enhance their workplace experience, and to help managers to lead their teams more effectively by allowing them to identify problems that occur in their absence.
- Reiterate to employees that any bathrooms and changing rooms are still a safe and private place.
- Reassure staff that all measures being put into place are legal and ethical, and in the event of litigation, recordings are made available to the law to support the truth.
Monitoring employees at a workplace is a sensitive task, but if negotiated correctly, it can empower employers with information about their organization and ultimately change the direction of the entire company. If you believe your company may benefit from such systems, we encourage you to contact our team for assistance. We can help you get a handle on your business.