Employee Monitoring: The Pros & Cons of Watching Your Staff

Joanna Zambas
Joanna Zambas

Content Manager and Career Expert

A manager watching two employees through window blinds
Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

Do some employees work in bursts of productivity? One moment they’re feeling motivated and focused, and the next they’re feeling uninspired and demotivated?

If so, an employee monitoring programme can help you separate the slackers from the high performers. But it won’t be something that will be applauded and welcomed by everyone.

Indeed, despite the many benefits it offers a company, many employees will feel a sense of disconnection when an employee monitoring programme is implemented.

So, to help you determine whether monitoring your employees’ telephone calls, email messages, and software and internet usage is right for you, we’ve put together a list of the pros and cons below.

The Pros

1. It Reduces Distractions

As every office has access to the internet and other portals, it’s easier for employees to get distracted more than ever before. They might want to quickly pay a bill online, do some research for their upcoming holiday or purchase something that’s low on stock. But all these five-minute tasks end up wasting company time and distracting the employee from their job responsibilities.

By monitoring people’s internet usage, you can identify what websites they are viewing (that they shouldn’t), and you can then take further action by blocking them. It will also discourage employees from getting distracted, as they will be aware that they are being observed at all times.

2. It Improves Email Security

Tracking employees’ internet usage can also improve email security. For example, you can encrypt email messages so that only the sender and receiver can read them (as well as the IT manager), while you can also ensure that all employees are treated fairly by their coworkers and managers. You can also detect email scams that employees receive, and then advise them of the potential threat while helping to solve any issues that are brought to light.

3. It Helps You Catch Mistakes Before They Cause a Crisis

Occasionally, employees might make an innocent mistake that could potentially cost the business a lot of money, so they try to cover up their blunder in the hope that their manager doesn’t catch wind. Although it’s important to trust your staff, an employee monitoring tool can help you identify even the smallest mistake and correct it before it turns into a bigger problem, and you could turn it into a learning curve for the employee.

4. It Helps You Identify High Performers

Good workers don’t necessarily brag about how effective they are, and they often go under the radar. Through employee monitoring, though, you can identify the high performers and give them the credit that they deserve. After all, just because they are quiet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t doing a great job!

To highlight the pros of computer monitoring, you can set up awards and prizes for the best employee, whether it’s using their breaks effectively and increasing their overall productivity or delivering the best customer service over the month.

5. It Adds Transparency

By seeing the work that people are doing, you’re able to have a more open line of communication throughout the organisation. For example, let’s say a designer is running behind schedule on a given project; this will have a knock-on effect on the web developers who are waiting for the finalised designs so they can start their part.

By noticing the break in the chain, you can effectively eliminate wasted time and advise the developers to work on something else until the designer has finished their part of the task.

6. It Reduces the Need for Micromanaging

Most managers chase their employees for reports (at least once a week), they double-check everything employees do and often hang over employees’ shoulder 24/7. By being able to monitor their work, though, you can drastically decrease the managers’ need for micromanaging employees as they will already be aware of what they’re working on.

Indeed, employees will no longer need to waste 30 minutes or so giving a detailed report of what they have achieved throughout the week, and this gives them more time to work on other projects, and it also improves overall efficiency.

7. It Can Be Used as a Training Tool

Software surveillance can also be used as a training tool for new and existing employees. For example, a certain team member may have a great way of handling new requests, speaking to clients and working in a timely manner. As you can view and record their work, this can then be used in a training session which, in turn, will boost the business’s overall success.

The Cons

1. It Shows a Lack of Trust

PC monitoring can be intrusive to an employee’s privacy. They were hired for a reason, so they should be trusted to do their job at the best of their abilities. By following an employee’s every move, you can make them feel disheartened and less productive. Simply put, they won’t want to trust you as a business if you can’t trust them.

It’s important that if you do decide to track employees’ internet activity to make it clear from the start and let employees know through an official company announcement or within their employment contract.

2. It Increases Employee Stress and Paranoia

This lack of trust can also increase employee stress and paranoia. They can end up getting so worried about how their every move is being tracked that they start making bigger and more frequent mistakes. This is neither beneficial for the company or the employee, and it can result in increased anxiety at work. And such emotional strains can have an impact on employees’ health in the long run, too, creating a higher sick rate across the board.

3. It Creates Higher Employee Turnover

Such emotional strains also result in high employee turnover. If employees are under high-pressure situations on a daily basis, they are bound to seek employment elsewhere. Such circumstances are, ultimately, inefficient and costly to employers who keep having to invest in training and other costs to bring new employees on board.

4. It Causes a Breakdown in Communication

While employee monitoring can reduce micromanaging, it also causes a larger communication gap between team members and their managers. They will no longer be communicating about their workload, processes and general ideas, which can ultimately remove that sense of humanity within the workplace.

Employees need their breaks and their verbal conversations to feel content and stay motivated within the workplace. And employee tracking can remove all of that and leave the worker feeling drained and dissatisfied.

5. It Doesn’t Track Non-Computerised Work

Let’s not forget that time at work is spent away from electronic devices, too, and employees often need to attend meetings, brainstorming sessions and training conferences – which are all essential to their growth and development. In other words, while computer monitoring can be beneficial to an extent, it doesn’t track non-computerised work. It is, therefore, important that you realise that time spent away from the PC doesn’t necessarily mean that it was time wasted.

6. It Adds Extra Costs

Finally, installing a complete monitoring system on all devices can be costly to the business, especially if you’re a small company seeking software that will deliver your desired results. Before investing in tracking devices and systems, it’s important to establish how they will be used and how they will benefit the business.

While implementing an employee monitoring programme can be beneficial, it’s important to first understand what the pros and cons are and identify whether it will be useful for your organisation in the long run.

Remember: with increased productivity and safety also comes stress and a lack of morale. So, review the above and be careful when you create your own tracking system.

Do you think employee monitoring is beneficial or detrimental to a company’s success? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.