In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a large part of the professional world to work remotely from home. It’s a change that was once thought to be temporary, but now as we near the one-year mark of life with the virus, employers have had to invest in and implement new tools to make the transition an efficient one.
Many organizations have considered or even implemented employee monitoring software to help ensure that remote employees are meeting their work time expectations even though they are not working together in the office space.
Remote employee monitoring software can track data including the number of mouse clicks, keystrokes, emails, applications used, and time spent on particular sites. Prodoscore, a Californian company which monitors emails, work documents, calendar appointments, and even transcribes internet-based phone calls to produce an overall productivity score was reported to have had a six-fold increase in sales since the start of the pandemic.
This practice has received its fair share of criticism, but monitoring software isn’t without merit.
Employee monitoring has several advantages, such as increased productivity, increased security, and improved team performance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year companies may lose $1,685 per employee due to unproductive workers.
Employee monitoring software enables employers to view saved documents, installed applications, websites visited, and messages sent on company property, like computers and mobile devices. It also often monitors business files, account information, and client data. This can protect companies from insider threats, security breaches, and suspicious behavior.
For many companies the cybersecurity threats alone could be reason enough to implement monitoring software. More than 80% of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) view IT security as a top business concern, and 75% of corporate executives rank cybersecurity enhancements as a pressing issue in the year ahead.
However, monitoring employees can also inherently damage the culture of a company and trust between employees. Instead of making employees more productive, surveillance can hurt their morale. The best solution to this problem is to be transparent. Many employees support cybersecurity initiatives, but they are wary of compromising their privacy for unwarranted oversight.
Breaking down employee activity can also be a complex and time-consuming activity. When employers have so much access to employee data, they may also unintentionally access personal material, such as bank account information, health records, or profoundly private emails, which exposes employees to privacy breaches of their own.
Generally, employers in the U.S. have the right to monitor employees’ use of the internet during office hours, which includes social media, email activity, and instant messaging on computers that are owned by the company. It’s equally important that companies maintain a culture of positivity, trust, and privacy.
The pandemic has forever changed the way people work for both employers and employees. It's also clear that employee surveillance is likely to become a hot button issue as employers strive to supervise a workforce that is forecasted to remain remote for the foreseeable future. By being transparent about what will be monitored and how that information will be used, it may be possible to track productivity in a respectful and sustainable way.