Employee Monitoring: Does It Violate Privacy Rights?
It has become quite common for business owners nowadays to use different employee monitoring methods to control their personnel. With the availability of tools and devices that make it possible to monitor voice mail, computers and telephones, the number of employers who use these technologies keeps growing. At the same time, there exists the opinion that employee monitoring methods violate the privacy of people in the workplace, because many of them are not aware of the fact that they are being watched. In fact, the issue of employee privacy has already become controversial and widely discussed in the field of HR management. Thus, it has been counted that over 30 million employees in the USA are monitored in their offices and don’t even suspect that. No wonder, there emerges concerns regarding the privacy rights of employees. While company managers aim at identifying the way their employees work, people tell that they don’t wish their behavior, personal activity and lunches to be monitored and watched. Unfortunately, there is no law that can protect their privacy in such situations yet. Let us discuss the most popular methods of employee monitoring below.
Methods of Employee Monitoring
While workers consider monitoring the way of violation their privacy and the reason for extra job stress, managers of large and small companies continue using this method to increase their workforce productivity, which is interconnected with their business development and success. The most popular and widely used methods of employee monitoring are:
- Video surveillance
- Computer monitoring
- Active badges
These are only a few possible methods employers may use to keep control of their staff. We will further discuss each of these situations to find out whether they really violate the privacy of workers or not.
Video surveillance is probably one of the most frequently used methods of employee monitoring, which has been used for many years already. Employers use cameras to see how their employees behave in the office when nobody can see them. With this purpose, they use different types of cameras. Some of them are placed in noticeable places, while other may be hidden around the office. Such devices are so tiny that they may be used for weeks without employees’ awareness of their existence. As a matter of fact, experts have identified that over 40% of office workers do not consider the usage of cameras the violation of their privacy, because these tools may provide extra safety, which is a benefit in itself. That is why employers continue using these devices without the fear of being accused of privacy rights violation.
Computer monitoring systems can be of different types. The most popular of them are video display terminals or VDTs and special computer software. Video display terminals are used to control the efficacy of work performed by an employee. They help find out the amount of mistakes an employee does during the specified amount of time, the number and the type of jobs done, the speed of transactions performed by each employee etc.
Computer software programs also help keep record of personnel performance and get the insight into what exactly an employee does during the working time in the office. The number of such programs keeps growing nowadays, which is another proof of the fact that these programs are highly effective. Some software tools do not only allow to control the efficiency of work performed by employees, but also make it possible for an employer to check what websites a worker visits during a day, how much time he/she spends there, what actions he/she performs etc. Apart from that, these programs help check when employees come to the office and when they leave their workplaces, which is also important when evaluating staff performance. Helping prevent data theft and increase employee productivity, computer monitoring software is a nice choice for employers who value their time, money and effort. According to recent surveys, over 60% of employees favor this monitoring method, even though they admit that it makes them feel stressed sometimes.
Wiretapping or telephone tapping is the most standard method of employee monitoring. Although many people believe that this method is mostly used by the police workers, it is still popular among business owners and even governmental establishments. This method provides information about the duration, destination, types and frequency of calls an employee makes during a particular time interval. This employee control method is always used to evaluate the proficiency of employees in call centers and customer support services. It helps detect whether an employee provides customers with proper and relevant information about the company, services and products it offers.
Active badges are special cards that are attached to an employee’s clothes. Each badge has a unique ID number, which makes it possible to control all movements a worker does during a day. The motion information is monitored and controlled with the help of special infrared sensors installed in the office or building. Although this method helps employers detect the amount of time a worker spends in the office and the places he/she visits every day, the efficacy of the active badges system is still under question. This is because an employer may leave the badge in the office when going somewhere or other workers may use it when a person is not in the office.
All methods of employee monitoring mentioned in the article have their pros and cons. Some of them (like computer software or video surveillance) are more effective and provide deeper insight into the employee performance and productivity, while others are not that reliable and effective (like active badge system, for example). Nonetheless, each method may be considered the one that may potentially violate the privacy of employees. As far as there are no laws that regulate the responsibilities and duties of both sides (the employer and the employee) in such situations, it is up to the business owner to decide whether to use these methods or not.