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The topic of managing workplace monitoring and surveillance covers the practical and legal implications of managing and balancing the legitimate needs of an organization to protect its assets and safeguard the workplace with the reasonable expectations of privacy held by its employees. Employers are increasingly concerned about issues related to violence in the workplace, identity and property theft, and lowered productivity (Moussa, 2015). Employers must find appropriate ways to minimize these risks. As a result, many employers now monitor employees at work to prevent injuries, misconduct and other types of loss.
While guarding against these risks, companies also must balance the business interests of the company with the reasonable expectations of privacy of its employees. Magnifying this challenge is the availability of technology making it possible for employers to track all employee e-mail, Internet and telephone use without employees even knowing that they are being monitored. (Moussa, 2015). Some questions that organizations must ask themselves include:
- Should the electronic mailing system be utilized for business purposes only?
- Are employees allowed to e-mail work specific information to a colleague along with personal conversation?
- What is the acceptable use of the system?
- Who possesses the information that is produced from the network?
The failure of employers to recognize employee rights can cause extensive loss, such as expensive lawsuits, damage to the organization’s reputation, and impairment of employee values (Moussa, 2015). Therefore, employers should balance the need for productivity regarding employee rights to privacy, safety, and security.
Moussa, M. (2015). Monitoring employee behavior through the use of technology and issues of employee privacy in America. SAGE Open, 5(2), 215824401558016. doi:10.1177/2158244015580168
In the United States, unreasonable search and seizure is against the law for government officials only. Therefor, employers of private sectors can be monitored, observed and search at work by a representative of the organization without a warrant if they feel work rules have been violated. This includes searching desks, lockers, files, and computer files. According to Mathis et al. (2020), monitoring occurs in many forms but the most common is video surveillance at work and through employee performance. Video surveillance systems have been installed in various organizations for multiple reasons including safety in garages and parking lots as well as on retail floors to reduce theft. Organizations utilizing video surveillance need to be aware of potential issues related to privacy can arise such as restrooms and changing rooms. Employees need to be made aware of locations and reason behind video surveillance as this can create of feeling of distrust.
Employee performance monitoring monitors activities contributing to performance, ensures performance quality and customer service, theft, and enforcement of rules (Mathis et al., 2020). Concerns surrounding a monitored workplace revolves around how the monitoring should be conducted and who the information should be collected and used. Employees should be informed how, when, and why performance is being monitored and that phone calls will be recorded.
The advancement of technology has opened the doors for new ways for employers to monitor their employee’s activities. These uses can be to record and review phone calls with costumers which can be beneficial for the individual to listen to their conversation to see what they could do differently next time. Technology can be in place to monitor the amount of time one spends on the computer and what sites they are visiting and have certain sites blocked. There is nothing worse than the feeling of overwhelmed at work and you walk to another person’s desk and they are online shopping. This happens a lot in the medical field as reception is limited to what they can assist with. Video surveillance can be helpful for safety reasons such as a person walking to their car in the middle of the night in a dark parking ramp. I believe these uses of monitoring should be acceptable to employees as they know they are on the clock and should be performing job related tasks. According to Roba (2018), a Japanese company implemented the use of sensor collecting device in which the person wore a device while on employee property and it detected where and how long the individual spent time in any given location. Roba (2018) states the advantages to monitoring employees includes transparency, security, a better division of tasks, evaluation of performance, and increased work efficiency. However, it has the negative impact of creating more work stress and decrease trust which can affect productivity and workplace culture/climate.
While I am not sure how I feel about monitoring devices I do think in some situations it would be helpful. For example, I used to work night shifts at a nursing home. There was two nurses and three CNA’s split between two units. My unit had 80 long term care beds on my unit and the other unit was composed of 64 long term and transitional care beds (meaning residents needed a few weeks of rehabilitation before going home). Several shifts the CNA’s, would come alert me a patient at the other unit needed something and they could not find the nurse. She always had some excuse that seemed possible but as it continued to happen, we began to question on. One shift, we were unable to find her for over an hour, I finally sent one of the aids to go outside and look for her when he returned that she passed out outside. We later found out she had a drinking problem and was drinking on her shifts. I understand management was not allowed to divulge this information to me, however, in this case having a tracking sensor would have changed the situation drastically.
Mathis, R. L., Jackson, J. H., Valentine, S., & Meglich, P.A. (2020). Human Resource Management (16th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Roba, R. M. (2018). Legal aspects regarding the monitoring of employees in the workplace. Juridical Current, 21(4), 107–115.