Monitor Your Employees

Effective managers and team leaders actively monitor their employees in a variety of ways to ensure that low performers are quickly disciplined and high performers are rewarded. Monitoring employees can also help you identify areas where employees are wasting company time or resources on private matters. With the right software, you can block websites that are inappropriate or not applicable to business operations. Successfully monitoring employees, without causing unnecessary office friction, should be goal of any effective manager.


Monitoring Online Activity

  1. Choose monitoring software. Monitoring software can be set up in a number of ways. The first thing to consider is setting a complete system with a server. This will include antivirus and malware protection, and also employee monitoring. If you don't have IT staff to maintain the equipment, you can use a cloud-based service like Trend Micro Business Security or Symantec Cloud to get these services. These services are not tremendously expensive; expect to pay about $150 per year.
    • If you are just trying to track employee web usage and block some sites, a simpler software package will do. This service will be cheaper and allow you to monitor and filter web pages, view keystrokes, and capture screenshots. For example, Interguard Sonar provides these services.
    • In some cases, you may even be able to get rudimentary tracking systems for free. For example, ActivTrak monitors system web traffic and produces a monthly report for you.[1]
  2. Block harmful or inappropriate websites. Employers have the right to monitor what web pages their employees visit and to block websites that they deem unimportant to business operations, inappropriate, or potentially harmful. Mainly, employers block certain websites to either make sure employees are productive, like blocking Facebook or stock trading sites that distract them, or to ensure that employees are not harassing coworkers or committing corporate espionage.
    • Employers may also block sites considered to be pornographic or hateful.
    • Some monitoring packages allow for set time limits on certain types of websites, for example allowing a set amount of time each day on social media sites.[2]
    • When you notice that your employees are visiting a website unrelated to work frequently, block that website and then send out an email reminding them that they are on company time.[3]
  3. Monitor email. Monitoring emails is more difficult for employers to justify. Before reading any employee emails, employees should be notified of the policy that allows their emails to be read. In addition, the employer usually needs a reason for the suspicion that led them to read the emails, like a documented incident with that employee. It is also difficult for employers to justify reading emails if they claimed originally that emails will be confidential.[4]
  4. Make sure you are in compliance with the law. Certain monitoring measures may interfere with your employees' right to privacy. Check with an employment lawyer before you install monitoring software. Make sure there is written documentation on the software that the employees have signed, and that everyone understands what the software is for.[5]

Instituting Other Types of Monitoring

  1. Record phone conversations. Federal law allows employers to monitor employee phone conversations. However, this is only true for business-related calls, like those with customers or suppliers. An employer is generally not permitted to monitor personal calls, and must stop recording and monitoring the call when they realize it is personal. The only exception to this is if personal phone calls are explicitly prohibited by workplace policy.
    • The recording and monitoring of voice mails should be done only with justification, like a documented suspicion of misconduct.[6]
    • Phone conversations may be recorded using phone taps or an electronic recording system. In some cases, this can be tied in with your other monitoring software.
  2. Set up video surveillance. Businesses typically use video surveillance to discourage customers from stealing products. However, some businesses also use video surveillance to make sure that employees are being productive and not violating the business's policies. Monitoring employees this way can provide you with unbiased evidence of employee misconduct and can also motivate them to work more diligently. However, the constant feeling of being watched might make employees uncomfortable and lead to a decline in morale. For these reasons, carefully consider the pros and cons before using video surveillance.
    • In many states, video surveillance is also carefully regulated by state law. Check with your state laws before implementing this type of monitoring.
    • Videotaping employees doing certain activities, like using the restroom or changing, is always illegal and can result in criminal penalties.[7]
  3. Track your employees' locations. Certain apps, like Xora and TSheets, allow employers to track employee movement through their smartphones. This is typically used for clocking in or out and is legal if the employee gives consent. However, some employees are tracked 24/7 using the software, which could give them legal grounds to sue their employers for breach of privacy. If you implement this type of policy, consult with a lawyer to make sure you are doing so legally.
    • Shipping or driving-based businesses may also use trackers in vehicles to ensure that drivers stay on route. This is a common practice and is generally acceptable.[8]

Defining Expectations

  1. Create a written explanation of your policies. Your policies will only be effective if they are explained in clear terms in an employee handbook or guide. This guide should be easily accessible to all employees and define what your policies are and what will be done in the event that they are not followed. For any monitoring policy you have, like internet or phone monitoring, you may want to also explain the thought process that led to your policies. Explaining why you are doing so may help to reduce employee mistrust caused by monitoring their activities.[9]
    • Set clear policies on timekeeping, billable hours (if applicable), personal phone calls, and personal internet use at work. Encourage employees to take off-the-clock breaks where appropriate.
  2. Make sure employees are aware of these policies. If any type of monitoring is taking place beyond standard checking-in on progress, such as if you are using phone or internet monitoring, you should inform your employees directly. Hold a meeting or send out a mass email to explain changes in monitoring policy and explain exactly when and how information will be recorded, saved, and deleted.
    • In some states, like Connecticut and Delaware, you are legally required to inform your employees of any internet monitoring.
    • Even if you are not required to inform your employees about monitoring, there may be backlash if you don't tell them and they find out on their own.[10]
  3. Follow disciplinary guidelines exactly. When an employee fails to follow your policies, make sure that the stated disciplinary action for that infraction is taken. Make sure to apply policies equally to all employees. Be clear about your intentions. Document the disciplinary action and have the employee sign disciplinary plans. If you fail to properly follow these guidelines, employees will come to believe that your carefully-set policies will not really be enforced.
  4. Keep your policies within reason. Don't check in too often or institute overly-limiting internet policies. A nosy boss can decrease morale and make employees feel nervous. Focus on results, rather than on process. If an employee is producing good work and works well in a team, don't harp too much on the details.[11]
    • Give your upper-level staff more freedom. While it might be appropriate to give a temp or administrative assistant who has little investment in your business a computer that faces an open space you can monitor, upper-level staff will expect trust.
    • Freedom to do work their own way will likely make upper-level staff more productive, not less.

Assessing Productivity

  1. Check in on your employees. From time to time, check in with staff in their own office at an unscheduled time. If a staff member is frequently "clicking away" from a window when you walk in, or hanging up the phone, you may need to express some concern. Watching employees in person can also help you offer constructive criticism for their work.[12]
    • Try to keep an eye on employee morale, too. Morale can help you figure out how your team is feeling.[13]
  2. Ask for an explanation of what an employee has been working on. One simple way to keep employees accountable is to have regular conversations with them about how their work is going. Ask them what they have done since your last conversation, asking more questions and evaluating their responses as the conversation develops. Ask for details and tangible evidence of results.[14]
  3. Make employees document their own work. Have your employee record their work progress in activity logs, checklists, or progress reports. However, reports should not be overly burdensome or "busywork," but should encourage team members and management alike to keep in touch and on the same page. Don't be afraid to ask for proof of work described in a report when you speak with the employee.[15]
  4. Assess works in progress. If you're concerned about productivity, ask for concrete proof of performance that is measurable and time-bound. If an employee is a project leader, set milestones but also ask for plans and timelines for the project. Check in with other staff to make sure all members of the project team are communicating. Personally track the progress of longer term projects and assess their accuracy and completeness.
    • For example, you could monitor data entries for an employee who is assigned to managing a database. You could evaluate the timeliness of the entries, their accuracy, and their adherence to company guidelines.[16]
    • Deadlines are a great way to monitor your staff's productivity.[17]
  5. Ask others about employee interactions. Ask suppliers, customers, and other employees about their interactions with a given employee to get a picture of how that employee has been behaving. However, you need a way to increase the objectivity of these observation so that employees are not unfairly represented. When asking for this information, ask for details about the interaction instead of impressions. Ask for descriptions of the interactions instead of evaluations. And always keep an open mind; you never know when an employee is being misrepresented.[18]

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  13. [v161842_b01]. 29 June 2021.
  17. [v161842_b01]. 29 June 2021.

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