Is Employee Monitoring An Ethical Practice?

Is Employee Monitoring An Ethical Practice?


Employee monitoring is a practice where employers keep tabs on workers’ activities during working hours. They can observe internet, software, and email usage, as well as work hours and location. The practice is geared towards helping employees boost productivity, understanding workflows, and calculating correct billable hours.

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Employee monitoring is a practice where employers keep tabs on workers’ activities during working hours. They can observe internet, software, and email usage, as well as work hours and location.

The practice is geared towards helping employees boost productivity, understanding workflows, and calculating correct billable hours.

Employee monitoring is more common in remote work environments. Since people aren’t supervised physically, employers want to keep tabs as much as possible. With access to today’s advanced technologies, it’s easy to monitor an employee from remote locations.

There are different types of employee monitoring methods. For example, companies can use CCTV cameras, time trackers, biometric technology, and GPS systems.

As great as employee monitoring sounds for business owners, there are ethical dilemmas and legal risks. You’d want to make sure you’re doing it in a way that sits well with your employees and the law.

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Pros And Cons Of Employee Monitoring

While employee monitoring comes with many benefits, it can put companies in tricky situations. So, let’s cover its pros and cons.

Advantages Of Employee Monitoring

Generally, businesses monitor employees to keep them focused on their jobs while improving their performance. However, that’s not all. We’ll cover the significant benefits companies enjoy from tracking workers.

Better Transparency

Employee monitoring tools produce evidenced-based data. This way, managers and workers can be on the same page. For example, billable hours can be easily calculated using time trackers.

Unburden Overworked Employees

Employee Monitoring can also be beneficial to workers. For example, a manager can identify an overworked employee by looking at logged work hours and corresponding rates. This way, they can reduce their workload by redistributing tasks to other team members with fewer jobs.

Reduce Time Theft

According to a study, buddy punching, a form of time theft, costs companies $273 million a year. With time tracking solutions, especially in remote workplaces, employers can significantly reduce, if not eliminate, time theft.

Most modern time trackers now come equipped with features that combat time-stealing techniques. So, it would be tough to game the system using toys for mouse movement and cheating methods.

Improve Productivity

Employers monitor workers to gain insights into their performance. The process allows them to understand and utilize each employee’s strong suits. For example, workers can be moved between departments once they exhibit specific skills.

Identifying And Reviewing Bloated Processes

Some processes waste time and hurt productivity. Employee monitoring allows companies to spot activities like unnecessary meetings and briefs.

Doodle’s 2019 State of the Meeting report found that poorly organized and unnecessary meetings cost UK businesses $58 billion. For US businesses, it’s $399 billion.

Cons of Employee Monitoring

Here are the downsides you’ll have to deal with if you don’t get employee monitoring right.

Employee Monitoring Concerns Can Create A Hostile And Suspicious Work Environment

If employees get to know you’re watching them without consent, trust begins to fade. This creates an unhealthy workplace, which could affect performance.

Undue Stress

Some people feel mentally worked up when they have to look over their shoulders constantly. The thought of privacy violation and fear of underperformance could lead to undue stress that could hurt workers’ productivity.

From Passion To Profit

Legal Issues

You risk going through expensive lawsuits if employees find out you’re recording sensitive personal data that are not business-related.

What Makes Employee Monitoring Unethical And How To Deal With It?

Sometimes, you’re treading the fine line between acceptable monitoring and invasive surveillance. As we mentioned, employee monitoring works when everyone is on board and you’re not breaking the law.

So, when do you cross the line when monitoring your employees? Here are some scenarios.

Monitoring Employees without Their Consent

Monitoring employees in secret is the number one example of unethical, and even illegal, surveillance. In some cases, employers are allowed to monitor workers secretly when foul play is suspected. That said, business owners and managers could still face legal consequences for observing employers without their knowledge.

This practice won’t bode well with your business in the long run. If your workers eventually find out you’re monitoring them in secret, it kills trust. A public legal battle could also give your company a reputation for such practice, hurting employee turnover.

Make Sure Your Workers Are On Board

You can avoid the consequences that come with clandestine monitoring by letting your employees know about your practices. If you’re in a remote setting, explain the need for employee monitoring software. Let them understand that it optimizes workflow, improves productivity, and ensures punctual and correct paychecks.

After-Hours Monitoring

Employers have somehow grown into the habit of monitoring employees after the close of work. Workers often use company devices such as phones or laptops for personal matters when they’re off work. If your company doesn’t provide these resources, it means they could have monitoring programs installed on personal devices they use for work.

Activating monitoring software outside of work hours could land you in legal trouble. That’s because you could record sensitive personal information that will lead you to lawsuits.

Avoid After-Hours Monitoring

You can ban employees from using company-owned phones, laptops, and vehicles for personal use. This way, you’ll avoid saving personal information accidentally. If they use personal devices for work, make sure they have access to turn off the monitoring applications when they clock out or during breaks.

When employees control when they’re monitored, it eases their concerns about privacy infringement.

Using The Employee Monitoring Application To Gather Personal Data

Some time-tracking applications work by taking random screenshots, recording keystrokes, and monitoring trackpad or mouse movement. Screenshots and keystrokes were introduced to monitor productivity and combat time-theft.

However, the program could take shots and record keystrokes at the wrong time. For example, your workers could be using banking apps or social media when these data are recorded. This kind of monitoring can be seen as invasive and could land you in a lot of trouble.

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Take Measures to Limit Keystroke Records and Screenshots

Some productivity apps for remote workers can take these records without collecting sensitive data. For example, some programs take screenshots but blur them out. This gives employers a sense of what users are doing without exposing the contents of their screens.

You can also limit monitoring tools to record only work-related applications and websites data. So, for instance, the program can take screenshots of Microsoft Office applications but not Facebook.


In the end, employee monitoring can be executed ethically. So, ensure you go for employee-friendly monitoring solutions that don’t infringe on your workers’ privacy.

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