How Do Big Companies Monitor Their Employees?

There is no news that big companies monitor their employees. Yet how exactly do they do it? When do the acceptable methods of boosting staff's efficiency cross the line and interfere with employees’ private life, violating their rights?

How Do They Track the Staff?

Checking the letters sent via company email is considered legal employee monitoring. Besides, there are many other ways to do it, such as going through browsing history, logging keystrokes and even reading private messages on Facebook, Gmail or Twitter. Those employees who use company-owned cell phones can be tracked with the help of GPS.

Any staff interactions with clients, suppliers or customers can be recorded and analyzed. Employers may also block popular social networks or set Internet filters to prevent their employees from wasting time on web-surfing. Moreover, some bosses may keep record of employees' computer activity, as well as use video/audio surveillance.

What is Monitoring?

Special software for employee monitoring (e.g., keylogger) is installed on workers’ desktops, laptops or company cell phones. It alerts a supervisor in case anything inappropriate is spotted. What exactly to consider "inappropriate" is, of course, up to each company: from misusing the Internet or even printer to inserting swear words in emails. Besides, companies struggle to prevent any leakage of information, like transferring client lists to competitors or disclosing databases of transactions.

Many companies also look for the signs that their employees are going to quit. For example, they check Google search results for recruiting sites. They can also view emails or private messages where people discuss possible discharges and new job opportunities.

  • 43% of USA employers track emails of their employees;
  • 45% use key logging;
  • 66% monitor Internet activities of their employees.

It is essential to introduce every new staff member to the company policy and the specifics of monitoring software installed at their workstation. After that, every new employee should sign a written confirmation that they have been notified about monitoring.

Snooping is Not Only for Office Workers

  • Nurses in the hospitals wear special badges to be checked for how often they wash their hands.
  • Employees in Amazon warehouses carry tablets to record their efficiency and speed while retrieving goods for the customers.
  • In 2009, UPS equipped their trucks with sensors to track the work of their drivers on every stage of delivery.
  • At supermarkets, a point-of-sale system records the speed of a cashier scanning grocery items.
  • In McDonald's, the same system monitors the efficiency of a server selling meals.

Many employers today try to analyze every aspect of the working process and optimize it as much as possible, even if their control over the staff may become excessive. Hence, privacy is often an illusion in the modern workplace.

Pros of Employee Monitoring

Employee monitoring should work as a productivity-boosting tool, and not the mean of total control. Here are several additional benefits of employee monitoring:

  • It helps to prevent serious issues, such as security breaches and data leaks.
  • It allows analyzing the working process and seeing it more realistically. Hence, employers who examine each stage of a working process can develop the best strategy, so the staff can work in the most efficient way possible.
  • The executives can find out whose performance is better, and who is procrastinating, shirking, or systematically fails to meet deadlines.
  • On top of that, monitoring can be very helpful in detecting whether newbies need some help.

An example of really successful and effective monitoring is Google, with its famous perks and personal approach to each member of its staff. The company analyzes everything - from working process arrangements to maternal leave duration to the shape of cafeteria tables. Attention to every detail to ensure that each employee is enjoying the working process makes work of the entire company super-efficient and profitable.

Cons of Employee Monitoring

However, employers should always remember that excessive control suppresses people and may force them to search for a new job. No one can keep doing the same things all day long, without taking breaks when they feel tired – and there will always be some distraction.

The biggest drawback of employee monitoring is that it can undermine trust among the colleagues, bosses, and subordinates. As a result, it can ruin a friendly atmosphere inside the company.

Moreover, strict monitoring procedures can violate employees' rights and cause legal problems.

Usually, such cases are hushed and aren’t known to public. However, quite a few of Apple's former and current engineers claim that the staff is being controlled on every step to prevent leaks of any new product info. The workers are not allowed to discuss any project details even with their family members.

If You are About to Take a New Job

Remember that employers have the right to control their employees’ productivity, but there are cases when they cross the line. That is why before you start working for a new company make sure to get to know as much as possible about the ways and methods of its employee monitoring. Study every detail of your labor contract regarding surveillance matters and try to get a feedback from anyone who used to work or is currently working for the company.

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