Video surveillance doesn’t need to be explicitly disclosed to employees and agreed to by your workforce. Visible signage stating that the premises are monitored by security cameras can be enough to cover legal and ethical grounds. The knowledge that cameras are monitoring everything is often enough to prevent internal theft by employees.
Transparency is always a good practice. Since many employees feel uncomfortable being monitored, it’s important to be forthcoming about what you hope to accomplish and how surveillance aligns with your business’s goals. According to a survey by Dtex Systems, “77% of employed Americans would be less concerned with their employer monitoring their digital activity on personal or work-issued devices they use to conduct work, as long as they are transparent about it and let them know up front.”
In fact, transparency can make employees more willing to subject themselves to different methods of monitoring and tracking. Approximately 50 of 80 employees at technology company Three Square Market voluntarily had microchips implanted in them. The chips allowed the employees to enter the building and buy lunch without keeping track of an ID card. Three Square Market’s honesty about the purpose of the microchips led to over half of its employees voluntarily participating in the program.
While Three Square Market’s technology isn’t widely used for tracking just yet, Amazon received a patent in 2018 for wristbands that vibrate when employees perform tasks incorrectly. While there is no report of these wristbands being used or even produced yet, the company believes the wristbands could speed up processes. Detractors worry about the technology’s potential to dehumanize employees. Clearly, as technology continues to develop, organizations will have opportunities to track and monitor employees in new ways. As these new options arise, business leaders need to listen to employees and review legal guidelines for employee monitoring.
Another way employers can monitor employees, as mentioned earlier, is through GPS tracking, normally as part of fleet tracking and telematics on company vehicles. With most fleet software, managers can track where a company vehicle is and where it’s been, even if the employee is off the clock. Business owners can do this, as they have the right to know where their property is. However, GPS tracking of company devices like laptops and phones is another murky area, since employers can learn more than they need to about an employee’s activity when they’re off the clock. [Looking for GPS fleet tracking software? Check out our best picks.]
With any form of employee monitoring, it’s best to err on the side of transparency and balance. For example, clear signage citing your company’s policy discouraging non-work-related computer use can cut down on undesirable behavior without the need to monitor employees overtly.
“Ultimately, a balance can be reached by thinking through legitimate business interests and weighing them against the expectation of privacy of employees while also taking into account regulatory limitations, which may differ state to state, country to country,” said Joseph Lazzarotti, a principal with Jackson Lewis who leads the law firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group.
Key takeaway: Transparency in your employee monitoring practices may make your employees feel more secure and prevent legal repercussions.