Productivity problems are becoming ever more prevalent due to a multitude of factors, such as the widespread presence of social media, stressful working environments, and many more. Globally, up to $7 trillion dollars are lost due to reduced employee engagement, and certain types of environments can lead up to a 15% reduction in employee productivity.
But these occurrences are not limited to office work only. Proper supervision of your employees is of the utmost importance, no matter the line of work you’re in. Since you’re here, you probably already know that, and there are many steps you can take to tackle this issue. In order to effectively supervise your employees, employee surveillance or monitoring (in some cases, even tracking), or even basic activity supervision can do wonders when it comes to making this whole process much smoother.
Knowing how to monitor your employees at work, as well as the pros and cons of employee monitoring, will make your life much easier. We’ve compiled a concise guide on how to do this, while also providing some information on whether it’s legal to record your employees without their knowledge.
What Are the Methods Employers Use to Monitor Their Employees?
Various businesses use different methods when it comes to monitoring their employees as a means to increase performance and productivity. You can choose to apply all of them at once, or any single example - it all depends on you and your organization.
Take a Hands-On Approach
In the case of smaller businesses, before opting for extensive employee surveillance, you could always try and reach out to your employees verbally and/or be engaged in their working process.
Before asking yourself “how to monitor employees?”, it’s important to remember that there’s no better way than seeing them do their job in person. Watching them interact with customers, or how they go about in creating or enhancing the required product is one of the best ways to gauge their performance, proficiency, as well as learning how dedicated they are. There are some nuances that you can catch only by being there.
Though the previous suggestion might not be possible for everyone, the next step regarding the hands-on approach might be more feasible. Establishing a proper line of communication is essential, so make sure you communicate with your employees.
Even if you can’t be there to supervise them personally, or don’t have such a position within your organization, you could always ask for a personal account of how their working day went. If you read between the lines (even if most of the time you shouldn’t have to), you’ll learn everything you need to know.
Productivity and Online Activity Monitoring Software
Another solution in terms of how to monitor employees at work is by controlling their online activity and monitoring their productivity through software. Although, this can only work to a certain extent and different organizations have different values regarding the importance of mental breaks and their employees’ online activity.
Block Certain Websites
According to this PRC survey, more than a third of the employees use social media during their working hours for a variety of reasons. Depending on your organization, you can choose to limit this via online activity monitoring software, should you think it will increase performance. You could also choose to block other websites that you deem to be distracting, such as the stock exchange or other inappropriate websites. But, make sure that these policies remain reasonable.
Incorporate Productivity Apps
There’s also a plethora of productivity apps that you can incorporate in your business or suggest to your employees. Depending on the application, they can track goals, objectives, active hours, etc. These are great for documenting and assessing individual progress while monitoring day-to-day activities and the general progress of an organization, which in turn leads to increased efficiency.
If you’ve already put our previous suggestions into effect, or simply want to take a more straightforward approach in regard to how to monitor employees at work, you could always opt to use physical surveillance methods. These include, but are not limited to video monitoring, audio monitoring, and GPS tracking.
A blanket solution to all-purpose employee surveillance is video monitoring. Even though most businesses use such methods to prevent product theft or customer misbehavior, it’s also a great tool to monitor employees and prevent them from violating your organization’s policies, as well as keeping them focused on the job.
Even though this is the most effective form of employee monitoring, it’s a double-edged sword; some employees might feel discouraged due to the lack of trust the act of video monitoring might show, while others will become more aware of their own behavior and improve their overall performance, but more on this issue later.
Should you find yourself in the market for covert video surveillance hardware, check out our collection.
Although audio monitoring is somewhat of a niche option, it serves its purpose in certain instances. But, it’s important to state that your options here are limited. You are only allowed to listen in to business calls, as per the ECPA. Any private conversations your employees might be having over the phone are off-limits.
Regarding its practical use, audio monitoring may prove useful in situations where you suspect that someone is undermining organizational authority or general policies of the organization. It can also provide proof of criminal activity within your business.
We offer plenty in the way of audio surveillance devices.
GPS or Asset Tracking
GPS tracking can be incredibly useful when it comes to monitoring employees over large areas. Workers in large construction areas, truck drivers on continental routes, and workers on oil rigs, to name a few, are the foremost beneficiaries of GPS tracking, along with your company.
Location monitoring of employees in the aforementioned professions is paramount, as it can help to avoid hazards, while providing you with a method to monitor efficiency. You will always know of unwarranted detours or unauthorized breaks.
Is It Legal to Record Employees Without Their Knowledge?
It’s important to remember that there are some legal issues you need to be aware of when tackling the issue of how to monitor employees at work.
The general rule is that there’s no federal law that prohibits the monitoring of employees while they perform their duties and you need not notify them of doing so. That being said, some general laws do apply even if the monitoring in question happens in the workplace.
Below are the general rules that pertain to all three types of monitoring, but should you want to read about these in detail, we have a thorough and extensive guide on this matter.
Video monitoring is legal in most states as long as it doesn’t occur in places where a reasonable expectation of privacy is presumed.
Audio surveillance laws and regulations apply based on the notion of consent. This can be either one-party or two-party consent, depending on the state in which you operate. Regarding audio surveillance at work; the only circumstance under which you have the legal grounds to do this is if the recorded audio pertains to some aspect of your business.
GPS or asset tracking as a form of employee monitoring is legal in some states only if it pertains to the use by fleet owners/motor carriers/car manufacturers or the use by employers in relation to the employee’s work.
Pros and Cons of Employee Monitoring
Just because you see a reason to start monitoring your employees, it doesn’t mean that it’s always ideal to do so. Employee surveillance comes with its own set of challenges, upsides, and downsides, so it’s important to discern the pros and cons of employee monitoring.
The Less Known Upsides of Employee Monitoring
Although we elaborated on some of the pros that come with proper employee monitoring, such as increased productivity and performance, there are some less apparent upsides you might want to focus on, other than the more obvious pros and cons of employee monitoring.
Awareness of the Rules
Simply put, while ensuring that your organization’s policies are followed accordingly, employee monitoring can create a positive culture regarding what’s appropriate and what’s not. This is especially true in “younger” companies.
Although the standards are defined beforehand, it’s a natural occurrence for the employees to pass their own judgments and neglect certain aspects of the “rule-book” over time. The presence of proper monitoring will keep them constantly aware of the guidelines.
Protection Against Malware
Blocking specific online activity and websites as a form of employee monitoring can also protect your business against malware on your office devices. Malware can be incredibly detrimental to businesses of all types and is often used as a means of corporate espionage.
Help in Creating a Hierarchy
Hiring employees based on their previous competencies is usually the go-to way in regards to hiring, but that doesn’t mean that a particular employee will perform at the same level as their former job. Sometimes even a rookie may outshine the more experienced worker and you need to have the means to detect that.
It is crucial to the growth of a business that the working environment is dynamic and that everyone is held accountable for their success (or lack thereof). This can be done only by having know-how on how to monitor employees. It will help you notice candidates for promotion while rooting out the underperformers.
The Biggest Downside to Employee Monitoring
Remember when we mentioned the double-edged sword? Well…
Some Not-So-Insignificant Privacy Concerns
Some employees may be on edge during their working hours, knowing that they’re being monitored. They may also end up worrying whether they’re being watched even in private spaces or when they’re not working. This will in turn have an opposite effect of the one that you’re trying to achieve in regard to productivity and performance.
That’s why it’s really important to notify them of the presence of any and all monitoring systems and explain your reasons, even though you’re not legally obliged to do so.
How to Tell If Your Computer Is Being Monitored at Work?
Now, a little something for the employees themselves. Since we divulged all the possible information on how to monitor employees, some of you might be wondering how to tell if your computers are being monitored at work?
Well, there are ways to find out, but keep in mind that if the monitoring is installed by your employer and you somehow make it known that you’ve tried to uncover or disable it, you might put yourself in “hot water”.
Install Third-party Software
There are many programs out there that will allow you to monitor the active connections to the internet. The majority of surveillance methods that track computer activity are live and connected to the internet. Though, installing such programs on company machines can be very risky, so proceed with caution.
Review Existing Programs
You could also take a look at the installed programs on the computer. Maybe your employer isn’t even trying to hide the fact that your workstation is being monitored - all you need to do is to rummage through the directories and look for any potential monitoring software.
Consult Your Colleagues
Before taking any action, it also might be wise to talk to your co-workers about any suspicions that you might have. If all of you have a feeling that your activity is unjustly monitored, the first thing you should do is talk about it and discuss a course of action.
Before You Go
We hope that you now know how to monitor employees at work properly (lawfully, and ethically), as this will almost always lead to increased employee performance and productivity.
Should you have questions regarding any spy gear or covert surveillance equipment, don’t hesitate to contact us. We typically answer any and all emails within a couple of hours or within one business day at the latest.
Meanwhile, check out our online store, where you can find many nifty gadgets for private use as well.