From the prevalence of tablets, computers and cell phones, to cameras and electronic tracking devices, employees and employers in the workplace are working and communicating using technology — and are monitoring, watching, and recording each other like never before.
Employers frequently monitor their employees’ computer use for security reasons, to ensure compliance with company policies, and to ensure employees’ productivity. Internet access provides employees with more opportunities than ever to waste time and simply get distracted from actually working. Common employee distractions include online shopping, gaming, investing, social media use and chatting, and even accessing pornography. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) cites in "Employee Internet Management: Now an HR Issue," IDC Research found that up to 40% of all workplace internet activity is not work-related.
Because of this, employers would do well to have robust and reasonable computer use policies and consider using technology wisely to both limit employee access to non-work-related internet sites and then to monitor such use in the workplace to ensure that policies are being followed.
Ideally, your policy should clearly set forth the general principle that company-owned computing equipment is intended for business use, and as such, employees have no reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to such use. In other words, give your employees fair warning that their use will be monitored.
In addition, your policy should clearly set forth inappropriate and prohibited behavior. At a minimum, your policy should prohibit:
You should decide whether you will allow some personal use of your computer equipment or no personal use. Once you decide, your written policy should clearly proscribe whether, when, and how much personal use is permitted.
Even where occasional personal use of your computer systems is allowed, employees should also be warned that such personal use is subject to all of the prohibited uses and conditions already set forth in your policy and should describe any other conditions or limitations, such as use being confined to nonworking times like lunch or breaks. Write your policy in clear, easy to understand language. This is one policy that you want your employees to read, understand and follow.
There are a number of employee monitoring systems for employers to choose from and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every organization. Choosing a technology to limit and monitor internet or email use will depend on your needs, budgets, and appetite for information.
For example, you could choose a system that blocks access to certain websites, such as Twitter or YouTube, or you could allow some access but choose to monitor the number of visits or length of time spent at each site to determine if such use is actually related to your employee’s job duties. Employers can choose to monitor use in real time or can simply collect snapshot information such as sites visited, or computer keystrokes per day or per hour, to review at a later time.
Although many believe that Millennial workers are more likely to accept and even assume that their use of technology is always being monitored and tracked, employers must still be sensitive to employees who may feel that their organization is being too intrusive; the feeling that “Big Brother” is always watching can have a negative impact on employee morale.
In addition, while federal law generally allows broad employee monitoring and tracking on employer-owned work devices, employers should take the time to review any applicable state laws that might restrict such monitoring or tracking. Learn more about the do’s and don’ts of workplace monitoring, and follow these best practice tips when it comes to electronic tracking.
For questions about workplace monitoring policies or tech solutions, please contact us.
Janice Pintar has extensive litigation experience in the field of employment law and was a plaintiff’s attorney for nearly thirteen years before becoming an HR Consultant in 2015. She educates and advises human resources professionals and employers on a broad range of
Janice Pintar has extensive litigation experience in the field of employment law and was a plaintiff’s attorney for nearly thirteen years before joining Associated Financial Group’s HR Consultants in 2015. She educates and advises Human Resources professionals and employers on a broad range of employment issues and best practices and costly litigation compliance topics including respectful workplace practices, unlawful harassment avoidance, wage and hour issues, medical leaves and accommodations, as well as federal and state discrimination and anti-retaliation issues. Janice received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, magna cum laude, and her law degree from the University of Wisconsin, cum laude.
Send a Message
Find a Location