10 Questions about Employee Monitoring Systems That You Were Afraid to Ask
Prolonged economic downturn leads to the fact that companies tend to retain their best employees and let go those, who did not bring the expected benefits to the company. Of course, employees get laid off all the time, but the decision itself is often made by executives who get influenced by subjective factors. But it seems that soon subjectivity in the evaluation of employees will cease to exist. More and more companies choose to use employee monitoring systems. They collect information on how people spend their working time: how much time is spent in specialized and Office applications, for how long and for what the Internet is used, how actively an employee communicates with his or her colleagues and counterparts, using communication channels, and if he or she allows rudeness in communicating with customers, etc. These software systems are also able to generate reports about each employee. These reports can be seen by managers and then bosses can decide on how effectively (or ineffectively) each employee worked.
Nowadays in the US 60% of employers use such systems. But the interest for them is still quite high, so we decided to answer 10 of the most common questions about the employee monitoring systems.
Why employers need to monitor employees in the workplace?
Companies’ owners want to keep their business going, reduce costs, gather the most responsible and effective people in their team, and say goodbye to ineffective ones.
If an employee spends most of the day on entertainment sites, communicating in social networks, and watching soap operas, while not fulfilling the tasks, so he or she is not needed too much in the company. This is the first and perhaps the main employers’ goal. The second goal is, when deciding to use such a system, a company wants to reduce the risks of commercial information leaks, for example, find out who sells databases or redirects customers to competitors (such cases are not uncommon). The third goal is to manage reputation in the eyes of the customers, for example, find out which sales managers are not polite and courteous enough with the business partners. Actually, these three goals are key for the vast majority of organizations which decide to implement monitoring systems.
Is this at all legal?
Yes. In the companies, that respect their employees, the introduction of a monitoring system should be preceded by notification of employees and taking their written consent to such monitoring. For this an additional agreement for the employment contract is made, and it is signed by each employee.
What happens if I do not sign any papers, which confirm my consent to monitoring?
Use Labour Code to help you in this situation. The signing of any additional documents not covered by the LC may not be mandatory for the employee. However, the employer can put the signing of similar documents as a prerequisite for employment. In short, it depends on the situation.
What can the employer see in the results of monitoring?
Monitoring programs actually collect a lot of data. For example, they can look at e-mails and chats, record the time spent by users in various applications, keep browsing history. Advanced software can record video from your screen and save it in a special archive. In short, a lot of data is collected and to do this, all available technical potential is used.
How do I find out if I am being monitored?
In most cases on your computer a special agent program will be installed. It collects information about the user. It is visible in the list of installed applications on the computer. For each of the systems the program title will be different. The search engine can help you to find the name of this program. If you found such program in the list of application, it is likely that you are being monitored. This is the most reliable way.
You can sometimes find out from observing the behavior of your boss. If your department head suddenly starts to know more than he or she supposed to, it should be a signal. As a rule, managers often blurt it out. If you are an attentive person, you can easily notice monitoring.
How to behave if I realize that I am being monitored?
There are not many options here: either work well, so that the boss has nothing to complain about. Or, if you feel the screws tightening and are not willing to put up with it, find a new job. Suing can turn out pointless: legally your working time is paid for by the employer. And during working hours you have to work on your tasks and nothing else. In the US and Europe employees usually understand it.
How can an employer use the collected data against me?
Employers can use the collected data only in the "employer-employee" relationship. For example, they can collect information to understand that an employee does fulfill the plan because he or she slacks during working hours.
Actually, you should not think that the statistics can only be used against employees. There were cases where the employer used monitoring system in order to understand whether or not a sales department’s plan was too high. Or, in another case, employer wanted to find out which employee works better in a department and should be promoted. You only have to fear if you really only go to work to have fun at the expense of your employer. Although, it also happens.
What if my personal data gets used against me outside of work?
This is highly unlikely. Companies do not want to wash dirty laundry in public. But if you are "lucky" enough to be mistreated like that, it is a reason enough for a court case. The law is on your side here.
Is it possible to circumvent monitoring or somehow disable it?
Yes and no. In response to wide spreading of monitoring systems various programs that help neutralize monitoring clients began to appear. Often these programs are paid. You should be very careful with them. Firstly, they do not work for all monitoring systems: they might work well against system “A”, but are completely useless against system “B”. Secondly, they may contain malicious code that will transfer data from your computer not to your supervisor, but to hackers or fraudsters. Thirdly, even if you buy such application, you might not be able to install it. Most likely, the installation of third-party software on your computer will be shut down by the system administrators of your company.
Are there advantages to me being monitored?
Yes. The presence of a monitoring system is a great opportunity to objectively declare that you are a valuable employee, and, in case a promotion is available, you would be the best candidate. To do this, you need to really work well. If you want a career, especially in difficult economical conditions, it's time to let a special program to collect data about your work.