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Business Booster or Big Brother—the Ins and Outs of Employee Monitoring Systems

Business Productivity/Practices / Setting Boundaries / Sticky Situations

Today’s high-tech digital landscape is both a boon and a bane to business owners. The proliferation of apps, mobile devices, and software has improved business productivity like nothing before. At the same time, however, this technology has also spawned countless digital distractions that can turn those productivity gains into losses, especially if they steal the attention spans of your team members.

On top of all this, there are now an equally diverse number of digital systems designed to track and monitor employee activities and communications, both online and off. Indeed, nearly every facet of employee activity and communication can be easily monitored and measured. But the question is—should you do it?

From software that tracks how much time an employee spends online and which sites they visit, to GPS devices that monitor their locations and systems that record their keystrokes, there’s an app for that and so much more. However, this technology is not just about ensuring workers aren’t watching too many cat videos, it also has valuable benefits for maximizing workplace efficiency, productivity, and security.

For example, employers can learn exactly how much time employees spend on specific tasks, and use this information to help calculate the cost and value of projects, identify which tools are working best, and improve organizational structure based on their employees’ most productive periods and which teams work together best.

Of course, such technology also has potential downsides. Overzealous monitoring can lead to unhappy and/or stressed-out staff, who feel  their privacy is being unnecessarily invaded and their workday is being micromanaged by Big Brother. If not used properly, there could be potential legal issues as well, so consult with us as your  Family Business Lawyer® if you’re thinking about installing monitoring technology at your company.

As with any new technology that intimately affects employees, business owners should be as transparent as possible when adopting these systems. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests that the best way to avoid employee backlash and demoralization is to communicate early and often the reasons you’re using such systems. SHRM also suggests that you should focus on how the technology improves staff productivity first to get your team comfortable with it, not immediately punish employees for non-work-related web use.

Additionally, you should develop a clear Acceptable Use Policy, informing your team about how/why they’re being monitored, what the rules are, and also obtain their consent. Because some of these areas involve potential legal ramifications, you should work with a Family Business Lawyer® to help develop your new policy and advise you on situations that could lead to potential employee backlash. Contact us today to learn more.

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