Pros and Cons of Employee Monitoring

Written by Asim Qureshi
By Asim Qureshi, CEO Jibble

Imagine you’re running a marathon but blindfolded.

Tricky, right?

That’s what managing a team, especially a remote team, can feel like without some form of employee monitoring software in place.

But where do we draw the line? What are the benefits of keeping a closer eye, and at what point does it start to backfire?

As the CEO of Jibble, a 100% FREE time tracking software, I’ve been in the trenches, working closely with teams that span from construction workers to investment bankers to software developers.

This firsthand experience has allowed me to observe the effective and sometimes ineffective use of employee monitoring software.

I’ve seen how the right tools can enhance productivity and team dynamics and also how they can falter if not used wisely.

So, here’s my take on the pros and cons of employee monitoring based on lived experiences and lessons learned.

In this article, I will go through:

What Employee Monitoring Really is?

Employee monitoring is the practice of using various methods to observe, track, and collect data about employees’ activities and locations. The process involves the use of technology to track various aspects of employee behavior, such as internet and email usage, computer activities, and even physical location through GPS tracking. The information gathered is used to analyze work patterns, improve business processes, and ensure appropriate use of company resources. 

Pros of Employee Monitoring

Free Coworkers Tossing Papers at an Office Stock Photo

First, let’s talk about the good stuff – the pros of screenshot monitoring. 

#1: Improves Efficiency by Identifying Key Productivity Areas

Employee monitoring allows employers to pinpoint areas where employees excel most. This valuable information can be leveraged to optimize workflows and assign tasks more effectively. For employees, this clarity translates into a better understanding of individual roles and responsibilities. Knowing which tasks significantly benefit the company can lead to a more fulfilling work experience, as employees focus efforts on impactful and meaningful tasks.

#2: Enhances Security by Monitoring for Potential Threats

Employee monitoring helps protect against security threats by keeping an eye on company data. This oversight includes tracking unusual access or use of information, which could potentially indicate a security breach. For employees, this translates to a more secure working environment where both personal and professional data are safe. It reassures everyone that proactive measures are in place to protect against both external and internal security threats.

#3: Promotes Fairness in the Workplace 

Employee monitoring offers an objective way to track team performance, leading to a fairer evaluation process. This system can identify high performers who might otherwise be overlooked and highlight areas where others may need improvement. For employees, this means recognition and rewards are based on actual performance data, not subjective opinions. It ensures a level playing field where everyone’s hard work and contributions are valued equally.

#4: Provides Opportunities for Personal and Professional Growth

Employee monitoring can highlight areas for personal and professional development. By identifying skills gaps or areas where employees spend a lot of time, it can inform training and development initiatives. For employees, this means opportunities to improve and grow in their respective roles. Employers benefit from having a more skilled workforce, and employees gain from receiving targeted training that enhances overall capabilities and boosts career prospects.

#5: Saves Time and Resources by Identifying Inefficiencies

Employee monitoring helps in pinpointing inefficiencies within the workplace. By understanding how time and resources are being utilized, employers can make informed decisions to eliminate waste and improve efficiency. For employees, this means working in a more streamlined environment where their efforts are focused on productive tasks. It can lead to a more satisfying work experience as time is not wasted on unnecessary or redundant activities.

In short, it’s not wrong to say that employee monitoring, when done right, can be a powerful tool for enhancing efficiency, security, and overall business health. It’s about finding that sweet spot where monitoring benefits everyone involved – a true win-win for employers and employees.

Cons of Employee Monitoring

Free Stressed Businesspeople at an Office Stock Photo

Now, on to the negatives, let’s talk about the other side – the cons of employee monitoring.

#1: Privacy Concerns 

Privacy concerns for employees are a significant downside of workplace monitoring. When employers implement monitoring systems, it can lead to feelings of invasion of privacy among the staff. Employees might worry that their every online move is being tracked, including personal activities or data that they would prefer to keep private. This constant oversight can create an environment where employees feel they lack personal space, leading to discomfort.

#2: Decreased Trust and Morale 

When employees feel they’re constantly under surveillance, it can create a sense of mistrust, as if their own capabilities and integrity are being questioned. This can lead to lower job satisfaction and morale, as employees may feel more like watched subjects than valued members of a team. Such an environment can dampen enthusiasm and initiative-taking approaches, impacting not only individual performance but also team dynamics and overall workplace culture.

#3: Legal and Ethical Challenges 

Legal and ethical challenges are significant issues in employee monitoring, as excessive monitoring can lead to legal repercussions if it infringes on employee privacy rights. Ethically, there’s a fine line between effective oversight and invading personal boundaries. Therefore, employers must balance the need for data security and productivity with respecting employee privacy, a task that requires careful policy development and consistent application.

#4: Misinterpretation of Data 

Employers, when relying solely on monitored data, may draw inaccurate conclusions about employee performance or conduct. Such misjudgments can lead to unjust actions and harm professional relationships within the workplace. To prevent these issues, it is imperative for employers to thoroughly analyze the data collected by the monitoring software and take into account the larger context before making any decisions that directly impact the workforce.

#5: Stifle Creativity and Innovation

A heavily monitored work environment can stifle creativity and innovation among employees. Knowing that they are constantly under surveillance can deter employees from attempting new approaches or thinking outside the box (they might stick to the ‘safe’ way of doing things), as they might fear making mistakes in such a monitored setting. This fear of being observed and judged can ultimately hinder the overall creative and innovative progress of the organization.

While employee monitoring can be a highly powerful tool, it’s essential to apply it with empathy and understanding. It’s not just about keeping an eye on activities; it’s a strategic move to adapt to today’s fast-paced business environment. 

Best Practices for Implementing Employee Monitoring

Being an employer, before you decide to implement employee monitoring at your company, here are some best practices to consider:

  • Clearly explain the purpose and methods of monitoring to your team.
  • Always adhere to privacy laws and regulations when monitoring.
  • Monitor only job-related activities, avoiding personal information.
  • Be transparent with employees about what and why you’re monitoring.
  • Use monitoring data to improve work processes, not just to find faults.
  • Involve your team in developing and refining monitoring practices.
  • Choose simple, user-friendly tools for monitoring (hint: Jibble)
  • Recognize and reward good performance based on monitoring data.
  • Train managers in interpreting and using monitoring data responsibly.
  • Maintain open lines of communication to address monitoring concerns.
  • Ensure the security and confidentiality of collected monitoring data.
  • Avoid micromanagement; trust your team while using data to guide them.

Now that you know the pros and cons of employee monitoring, to delve deeper into the topic, I recommend checking out my previous article, A Guide to Employee Monitoring in the US.