Monitoring Remote Employees - Is It Ethical?

Published On
September 28, 2023
Read Time
4.5 Minutes
OnBlick Inc

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a spike in the number of employees who work from home or other remote locations. As they operate from their comfort zones, organizations have been trying different ways to gauge the productivity of their employees. Despite the positive effects of monitoring solutions on a company’s operations, they can still raise ethical concerns.

This article aims to identify some issues regarding monitoring remote employees and suggests how it can be done ethically.

What is employee monitoring?

Employee monitoring is similar to keeping track of employees’ activities. Monitoring ensures that the company’s resources are being used efficiently. Employee monitoring also includes checking the activities of the employees working outside the office to identify if the provided resources are used well.

Employee monitoring and tracking systems help prevent unauthorized access to company resources. They can additionally provide evidence for potential legal actions. Employers can also use various methods available in the market today for security and productivity tracking.

The rise of remote employee monitoring

Remote work gained prominence when companies realized the necessity of changing the working environment to increase the efficiency of the employees. During the pandemic, several office work environments functioned remotely and made great reaps while some businesses faded utterly. One of the most common reasons employers still allow work from home after the pandemic is to maintain productivity. Employers are vested in ensuring their teams work hard and hit their goals. Companies emphasize empowerment and transparency in their workplace culture to track productivity and find ways to utilize the workforce effectively.

Legal implications

Employers are responsible for monitoring the use of technology by remote workers, just like they would be if they were using it in the workplace. However, there are special considerations when it comes to the legal side.

In most cases, employers should give their employees advance notice of their plans to keep a check on their use of technology. They should also ask them to share their consent in writing.

Creating a breach in the employees’ privacy and breaking the employees’ trust can cause great legal trouble for the company. There are legal and federal laws which companies should abide by for safe and effective employee monitoring. Businesses shall face lawsuits if they don’t follow a secure way of employee monitoring or don’t keep the process transparent and clean.

How to monitor remote workers -ethically

Monitoring an employee becomes unethical due to several reasons. But today, as technology emerges and companies look forward to productivity, ways to have ethical surveillance while employees work in their comfortable space is an excellent possibility. It offers mutual benefits for the employees and the employers.

1. Transparent Surveillance

One of the most unscrupulous ways companies practice monitoring is by secretly monitoring their employees without their consent. This can lead to distrust and lower employee retention rates. This practice should be transparent so that employees know what is being watched.

The importance of transparency is related to both performance and ethical reasons. Employees are more likely to react positively to surveillance if it is transparent and they are precise with what is watched. Managers can wipe negative assumptions about surveillance with trust.

2. Policy for surveillance

Managers can have strong policies on surveillance to avoid any complications. A monitoring policy should include clear and transparent consent forms that explain what information will be collected and how it will be used. This will also give employees the information to make informed decisions regarding their activities. Only employees who work remotely during the defined working hours should be watched.

The policy should make it evident to the employees that personal browsing details are not collected along with personal information. Only company-related or project-related work progress and browsing shall be monitored. Companies can follow their ways as long as they don’t copy any content related to an employee’s privacy.

3. Weekly reports

Instead of monitoring your employees’ work, a company can provide weekly reports detailing their completed tasks. This method can help you identify areas of concern and improve your team’s effectiveness.

Although ethical monitoring can be performed, it’s not always possible to monitor the activities of employees. A weekly report system is less complicated, and many tools are available for businesses from different sectors. Managers can be relieved and take the slightest risk by following a weekly report system.

4. Communication channels

Having a company email id is an excellent way to ensure that employees know that it is only used for work purposes. It also ensures that the information is monitored. Having all the communication and dealings of the company through the gadgets and space provided by the company lower the risk of violating their employees’ privacy.

According to law, businesses have a right to keep an eye on the activities of their employees. A monitor on the company’s server is a proper way to track what’s happening. Also, providing a workspace through the company makes it clear to the employees to understand that they are under surveillance. It will be ethical, and employees will accept it.

5. Output monitoring

Instead of relying on employee monitoring and surveillance, managers can monitor output instead. This method allows them to keep track of all the work output. Managers can use deadlines and timelines to ensure the projects are completed on time. Project management software that allows the company to monitor the employees’ progress can be installed. It also allows the company to see each accomplishment and accordingly appreciate the employees.

6. Tracking to raise productivity

Managers can track the work with the help of software and provide strategies. Monitoring software can be installed on the computer to record the activities of the employees. It can notify the employees that they are monitored. Managers can collect data on various reports, including the time the employees spend on each task and the details of their activities. This can help in improving productivity. This type of monitoring has become more prevalent due to the increasing digital technology and remote work.

Summing Up

Employee surveillance is an ethical issue, and the decision to monitor their employees has been challenging for many companies. However, if done transparently, awareness of the consequences of the law can be a boon to the company. Managers require a clear strategy that suits their employees and working spaces. Using that, they can devise a monitoring system that helps retain talent and enhance productivity.

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