Most of the organizations are currently employing different means to monitor their employees’ trends at the workplace or even outside the workplace (Stbernard, 2009, par.2-4). Various policies have been developed that act as guidelines in this process. It is the responsibility of the organizations to ensure that their employees completely understand what is expected of them in the organization, what the organization intends to monitor, and what will not be monitored. This will help in creating awareness among the employees and thus creating their confidence in the workplace. It is a common belief that employees’ morale is low when they are not doing their job. Monitoring employees keeps them alert, hence increasing their morale and consequently productivity. This can be achieved by supplying the employees with the policy online or by printing brochures for them to read. By doing this the employees can know what is expected of them and violation of the rules can not be allowed. It is advised that the policies should be as specific as possible to avoid confusion among the employees and to cover for all the employees within the organization (computer monitoring, 2009, p. 2).
Employees monitoring to be done with care
Most employers monitor the trend of employee surfing. Some even go to the extent of using content substitute systems to restrict their employees from accessing some of the inappropriate sites. There are however some guidelines that employers need to follow when conducting their employee monitoring. Most of these policies are aimed at ensuring that the employees’ privacy is protected from being violated by the employers. As it is lawful for employers to monitor their employees, they should conduct it properly, with prudence and reason. They should ensure that all the employees are aware of their monitoring policies and should provide proper disclosure to them. For instance, if the sales personnel wish to monitor contacts being made by the inside sales team to the customers, they should inform both the sales team and the customers of their intention to avoid creating a negative idea among the customers. Even though the federal laws in California allow employers to monitor all business-related calls, it is still important for employers to write these policies and share them with the employees and the customers. It is also unlawful for the employees to monitor personal calls whether accidentally or intentionally (Miliefsky, 2006).
Monitoring employees’ communication within a business may result in improved employees’ productivity, maintaining business confidentiality as well as reducing the costs that the employers may incur due to employees misconduct. Conversely, monitoring may lead to employees feeling stressed, distracted, and being infringed on their privacy. There are set procedures that employers are subjected to when conducting employees monitor. For the employers to intercept calls made by their employees there must be a prior agreement between them otherwise the employers will be violating the law. The consent should also be clearly stated to avoid employers using this right to exploit their employees. Most states in the United States for instance have come up with statutes that rule out electronic eavesdropping. States like Michigan, California, and Illinois are more limiting and require all parties to come up with a consensus before any monitoring is conducted (Roberts, 2009, par.1-14).
Should employees expect the provision of privacy at the workplace?
Evidence from recent incidences of cases in the United States poses a primary question; whether the employees deserve to be given some privacy at the workplace? The company policies dictate clearly that all the communication infrastructures at the workplace are property of the company and hence the employees should expect no privacy at workplaces. Nevertheless, there is an authentic deviation between what the companies say and what they do, what employees perceive about their privacy, and how they carry themselves at workplaces. There is a big need for the scope of the employees’ privacy to be defined within organizations. In course of work, employees leave a great amount of digital accumulation and tracking of activities that can easily be monitored. Ownership of these records and employees’ privacy concerning their retrieval has not been well outlined under the law. The question of ownership, access, and rights further makes these issues complicated. An employer for instance may buy a phone for an employee but preserve the tenure of the phone or may allow the employee to buy a phone but put it under the corporate plan for services. Some organizations may require the employees to pay for all calls made or oblige them to reveal the business nature of calls compensated. Employees may make calls using equipment supplied by the employers and internet connection to the office from home may be catered for by the employee. Privacy in the workplace does not only involve the electronic workplace. Employers should learn that they do not have the right to read employees’ emails written private and confidential even if they are sent through the office address. They also do not have the right to videotape the employees in the office without their consent. There is, therefore, the need for employers to consider the employee’s privacy when formulating guidelines to use in monitoring the employee’s trends at the workplace (Rasch, 2006, pp.1-4).
Policies to monitor employees’ e-mail, voice mail, and internet use
The use of e-mail in the workplaces is growing exponentially with most of the employees using e-mails in their daily activities. While most employers are introducing the use of the e-mails, internet, and voice mail to improve employee productivity, most of the employees tend to misuse these facilities by sending insulting messages or circulating some obscene materials they have downloaded from the internet (Desrosiers, 2005, par2-5). This calls for the employers to take the initiative of monitoring the conduct of their employees to ensure that the facilities are used according to their expectations. Some careless and disloyal employees may disclose the companies’ secrets to their competitors. As a remedial, companies need to come up with policies that outline the methods to employ in conducting employees monitor to avoid such instances occurring. The companies should also bear in mind the rules stipulated by the Electronic Communication Privacy Act to avoid conflicts with the employees when conducting its monitoring process. The Act prohibits intrusion and disclosure of electronic communication in shipment, as well as those that are electronically stored. There are two provisions made by the statute under which the employer is said not to have violated the law. These are the business extension immunity and the consent immunity. For consent immunity, the employer is said not to have broken the law if the was prior consent from the employee of being monitored. This may be through the employer sending a written monitoring policy and explaining it to the employees. For the business extension immunity, it allows the employers to monitor the employees’ communication if they have business-related reasons for doing it (Duff, White & Turner, 1998, par.2-8). They are supposed to consistently enforce their monitoring policies by assigning a selected group the responsibility of ensuring that the guidelines set for the monitoring process are always followed.
Most organizations use electronic systems to monitor their employees. This has been faced with different problems. Most employers turn to employee monitoring only when they sense that there is some sort of misconduct among the employees. Employers do not discuss the monitoring policies with their employees leading to most of the employees being found to have violated the organizations’ rules claim not to be aware of such policies. The employers, therefore, need to involve their employees in the implementation of monitoring policies for the project to be a success. One of the greatest increasing areas of employee monitoring is internet usage. Companies are using automated systems to track web surfing, employees’ e-mails, and other technologies that are related to the internet. This has resulted in many employees reacting negatively to these moves as most of them have been using organizations’ facilities for their work and this has curtailed this (GSerrano, 2009, par.1-7).
Acceptable and not so acceptable ways of monitoring employees’ activities
According to Duffy (2009, pp.1-5), most employees fear that they will be liable to the managers for their conduct if the monitoring program is introduced. They fear that their private communication will be disclosed to the network administrators and that the breach of the policy, whether accidental, will result in disciplinary action being taken against them by their employers. The responsibility of monitoring what the employees do with company resources during the working hours in many organizations has been decided through legal guidelines which have held organizations responsible for their employees’ actions. The reason for the disparity between the organizations’ intention for monitoring and the employees’ interpretation is due to poor communication of the issue. Most of the companies do not have acceptable policies on the use of e-mails while others lack policies governing the use of the internet. There is a need for open communication within organizations to facilitate the formulation of clear policies that will be feasible. A point may come where the employee claims that his information was scanned discriminately and hence deny being accountable for any anomalies found. This requires the organization to have proper evidence of the discovered case in the course of its scanning process. There is need also for the organizations to consult cyber law experts to ensure that there are no state laws that would affect their monitoring strategies. For companies with international locations, there is a need for them to ensure that they have critically analyzed all the monitoring laws for each state they operate in (Wakefield, 2004, par. 3-7).
Recommendations to the managers
– As it has been observed in the past, organizations conduct limited employee monitoring such as trucking their movements at the entrance and sensitive areas but not in the elevators and restrooms. The organizations also record phone calls of their call centers staffs and do not screen outgoing postal mails. This has a limited impact on the organizations and there is a need for the managers to come up with advance monitoring policies that will help in covering all the loopholes that employees can use for their gain at the expense of the companies.
- There is also the need for the manager to ensure that their policies are regularly updated to be at par with the evolving technology.
- Managers should ensure that the companies’ employee monitoring information is protected accordingly as it is vital for the organization in the event of prosecution.
- In as far as the managers try to ensure that the employees carry themselves according to the organization’s regulations, they should also try to respect the privacy of the employees. This will improve the employees’ productivity as they will become loyal to the company and the management staff.
Employee monitoring may have benefits as well as be detrimental to organizations. There is a need for the organizations to involve all the stakeholders in coming up with monitoring policies that will be welcomed by all. Those coming up with the policies should consider the employees’ privacy and ensure that the policies do not violate the stipulated laws governing these privacies. There is also a need for the companies to properly communicate the policies to the employees to clear any doubt that may arise from them fearing that their job may be put at stake with the introduction of the policies.
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