By Pravinraj Panicker
In Blog

Is monitoring an employee ethical – this is one of the biggest questions which would seem to be bothering an HR of any organization considering implementing one!!

Why monitor Employees?

The main motivation behind monitoring has been to ensure that employees working can be fine tuned to increase productivity. General expectations is that knowing the work patterns will help to adjust or customize the work process. 

The common and traditional methods of employee monitoring have been manual. Typically a supervisor is hired to keep track of the employees and their work. This person is expected to physically go to the employees workplace and check on if the employee is working properly or not. Even today this format of monitoring and supervision is practiced. 

This method of keeping track of employees has a lot of disadvantages. Majorly being that it could be prone to human errors, human biases as well as physical limitations. This therefore would need for hiring multiple personnel to handle this monitoring.   

Technology a Tool for monitoring

In this era of technology obviously one looks for solutions available. The common solution that one can pick up is that of an employee monitoring software. 

This kind of software requires that a program be installed on the computer of the employee. This software tracks time spent on the computer, websites visited by the employees. This kind of system is useful specially for tracking remote employees working away from the central office. 

Additionally, managers also keep tabs on the remote teams using instant messaging softwares to ensure that the employees are actually present on the system. Trying to monitor the employees with remote access would be generally expected from such a software. Every supervisor would like to have some kind of access to the system of the employee especially so for the ones doing remote work

Why is Ethics relevant?

Along with the bottom-line and top-line what is key to business, it is their people. Employee dissatisfaction can lead to employee turnover. Employees have feelings, attitudes and opinions. It is therefore important for managers to be sensitive to the emotions of employees.

It is the precise reason why one should be concerned about whether it is ethical to monitor the employees using Employee Monitoring Software. When it comes to people related things many such 

Ethical Issues in Employee monitoring

The fact of the matter is that employee monitoring is a very tricky activity to perform. Invariably one may tend to tread into the zone of ethics violation. Let us look at some instances where one may tend to do so making the job of HR and Management trickier than a trapeze artist:

Secretly Monitoring Employees

Typically one may want to monitor what an employee is doing without their knowledge. This is generally to avoid the tendency to cheat when one knows that one is being observed. In reality, despite all the good intentions, this turns out to be the worst kind of unethical practice one may resort to when it comes to monitoring. 

The exception would be when there is malpractice suspected and management wants to catch red-handed. Installing an employee monitoring software without actually letting the employee know about it will fall in this type of practice. 

Collecting Personal Data

When one uses monitoring software, these tend to function by recording the actions taken by the users like their keystroke logging, recording screen or taking screenshots on your employee’s computer. It is difficult to curb personal work or general browsing being done during office hours. 

As this software can’t be discrete if something personal is being browsed these too would get captured. Thus one may end up capturing personal data too along with the relevant ones. Thus the ideal solution would be to avoid these techniques.

Monitoring Beyond Working Hours

Another tricky question is whether it would be ethical to monitor after the office hours. Technically speaking the infrastructure being official should be used only for official purposes but after office hours employees are bound to take liberties like checking social media, hence this hangs out as a morally incorrect thing, how unethical may be still a question unanswered.

Impact on Employee

The other major impact of employee monitoring is that on the emotional side. Although the softer aspects of employees are generally not actively monitored but these affect the performance. 

Employee Trust

The trust aspect becomes diluted the moment the employees know that there is some software that is doing activities tracking. At the back of the mind there is a mistrust that starts developing and the employees try to beat the system.

Employee Morale 

The lower level of trust factor starts impacting the employee productivity. This is a kind of a cycle where the employee morale starts to dip slowly.

Alternative to Employee Monitoring Software

If you choose to implement an employee monitoring software then above discussed are the common issues one would be facing. If one considers the impact this again adds to baggage and makes it heavier to carry through. What one would be interested to know is – How not to Cross the Line between Employee Monitoring and Employee Privacy and deliver it’s benefits?

Big question – Is there an alternative or another way to monitor your employees. There definitely are options available. One simple option would be to have cameras fitted in your office and someone monitors the staff from a remote location. A more advanced version could be that an artificial intelligence algorithm does the job of monitoring.

Another option is Quicsolv’s Employee Tracking and Monitoring System. This system provides a non-intrusive way to keep track of your employees. It also provides additional advantages of an attendance system as well as a system to track social distancing.  This system is an IoT based solution and has the promise of future-proofing too.

Final Word

The choice of what suits you best as an organization is individual choice. You need to weigh the pros and cons and risks of implementing the solution both short term and long term to go ahead and select the best fit.  

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