|After a recent survey conducted by the American Management Association and the e-Policy Institute, it is quite clear that many large businesses are monitoring employees—to some extent—both online and onsite. This survey found that:|
As a small business, it may not be necessary to monitor employees at the same levels as larger corporations, but that doesn’t mean small businesses should be in the dark about the benefits and risks of workplace monitoring and employee privacy.
Privacy, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law, is freedom from unauthorized intrusion or the state of being left alone and able to keep certain personal matters to oneself. Workplace privacy refers to the level of privacy a business allows to employees or that employees expect from an employer, not whether or not a business allows privacy at all; a certain level of intrusion and a certain level of privacy are expected from both parties.
Generally speaking, workplace privacy covers three different areas: Pre-employment screening (such as through obtaining criminal records or school transcripts), confidential information (such as maintaining employee files with social security numbers or personality test results) and monitoring employees on and off the job (such as by reading or storing e-mails or listening to phone conversations).
The benefits of employee screening and monitoring have been shown to increase the quality of job candidates, increase productivity of employees, enhance customer service and provide protection of information that is confidential or proprietary to a business. Employers aren’t the only beneficiaries, either. Employees see the same benefits, but with a slightly different perspective—any information obtained or collected by an employer could serve to substantiate raises or bonuses in providing evidence of hard work or respect of company time and resources. Sometimes information collected through monitoring can also be used to alter job descriptions or streamline processes for the better.
The key to finding a harmonious balance in walking the line between effective monitoring and respect to employees privacy revolves around putting it in writing and communicating it well. Here are a few pointers to consider if this sounds like territory your small business would like to explore:
Workplace monitoring isn’t reserved for the big dogs—it provides benefits to smaller businesses, too. All businesses should have some knowledge of workplace privacy in case an employee asks or your small business booms. Check out our Blue Paper® on the topic for more information.
“The Latest on Workplace Monitoring and Surveillance.” American Management Association (AMA). Web. 18 Mar. 2010.
“Privacy.” Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Print.
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