OK — > Work monitoring is justified only to protect business assets and employees
While in some countries, such as the U.S., surveillance of employees is normal, in others it is highly or even completely illegal, but this depends on the scope and the purpose of the surveillance.
Generally, workplace/workstation surveillance is justified when it is used to protect employees on the job to prevent injuries, misconduct, and other types of losses. However, employers must be aware of the fine line between the invasion of employee privacy and the need for corporate surveillance. Common law provisions indicate that employees have a right to privacy and that they must be informed that they are being monitored, as well as the purpose and timing of the monitoring.
Not OK — > Constant monitoring and prohibition of personal activities
The belief that work time should be used for work and not for personal activities is a misconception. In fact, those who don’t work straight through the day, but are allowed to entertain themselves, go for a walk or check their social media are happier and more productive. It’s time to dispel the notion that work time should only be used for work. Employees should be treated as people who help the company succeed and who need a little space to do their best work.
Companies mistakenly believe that monitoring work and banning employees’ personal activities will increase productivity, but in reality these measures do the opposite and are associated with dissatisfaction, lower engagement and quiet quitting.
According to the study described by Harvard Business Review in the following article https://hbr.org/2022/06/monitoring-employees-makes-them-more-likely-to-break-rules
“Those employees who were told they were being monitored were actually more likely to cheat than those who did not believe they were being monitored.”
How does this affect global and remote work?
When a company has a globally distributed and remote workforce, the issue becomes increasingly complex, with cross-national regulations to consider and devices that are much harder to monitor and protect. These are also the reasons why companies need to forget the strict work culture of command and control and rather focus on training employees on how to protect the company’s assets and take care of their well-being while working remotely.
How can companies know what their employees are doing when they are in different locations?
Some may be hoping for the following answer:
“It’s important for employers to understand that when their employees are not present at work, they may be engaged in personal activities. These activities can range from taking a break or eating lunch to using social media or other electronic devices. There are many ways employers can track these activities and ensure their policies are being followed. One way is through surveillance cameras and voice recorders, which can be placed in various locations in offices, on computers and mobile devices, or in buildings.”
But that would be the answer WRONG! And following is the right one:
Businesses can not prevent someone from committing a criminal act, but they can protect business assets by securing premises with alarms, locks, and cameras, equipping technical devices with security software, establishing policies, and educating employees about what is considered criminal activity and what is acceptable behavior. All activities should be carried out with the aim of protection, but not to monitor employees and in any case not with the aim of monitoring productivity, restricting personal activities, and thus basic human rights.
So what should companies do to protect their business assets and satisfy their employees?
The first step in implementing a successful monitoring program is to make sure you have the right tools and knowledge of the law. A good place to start is to clarify what activities are acceptable and unacceptable for employees to engage in during work hours, with the goal of protecting only the company’s assets and not sanctioning employees.
A company may specify in its policies what is acceptable and what is unacceptable use of company resources. Such company policies may include, among other things, provisions on social media use, web browsing, emailing, content creation (e.g., blog posts), and data sharing (e.g., cloud storage).
It is important to clarify these terms and communicate them to employees as part of the company’s acceptable use policy (AUP) or other relevant policies before implementing an employee monitoring program, as understanding what types of activities are permissible will help employers identify the appropriate tools for monitoring activities on company devices and increase employee acceptance.