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The Advantages & Disadvantages of Workplace Monitoring

The advancement of technology in the workplace has had many effects on how employees fulfil their duties -- and how employers manage their workforces. Workplace monitoring refers to any type of workplace surveillance or record keeping, especially as it applies to employees' use of technology. From monitoring employee Internet usage to installing security cameras, monitoring is a reality in many workplaces despite its potential problems.

Increased Productivity

Enhancing efficiency is the goal behind workplace monitoring in many cases. Employers want to ensure that workers are attentive to their duties and discourage them from spending time on personal matters during working hours. In this area, workplace monitoring can be very effective. Employers can easily trace Internet usage on the business's network, revealing whether employees use their web access for work or pleasure. The same is true of telephone systems and e-mail monitoring. According to the American Management Association, as of 2008 nearly one-third of all businesses have fired workers for viewing inappropriate content online or excessive personal use of the Internet while on the job.

Protection for Employers

Employers also stand to gain legal protection from workplace monitoring. For example, employees caught on camera neglecting their duties, stealing or violating company policy have less chance to win in a wrongful termination lawsuit since the employer can present clear evidence of the infraction. Workplace monitoring also allows employers to make sure employees aren't sharing trade secrets with competitors or engaging in sabotage.

Cost of Implementation

Among the drawbacks of workplace monitoring is the cost of setting up such a system. In addition to the cost of cameras, computers and software, employers also need a means of storing the data they collect in case they need it for future reference. Employers who monitor workers also might need to invest in legal advice to make sure their workplace monitoring system complies with privacy rights laws.


Another disadvantage of workplace monitoring is the potential for misunderstanding. Employees who see workplace cameras installed or are asked to sign off on an enhanced workplace monitoring policy might feel as though their employers are intruding into their personal lives or expressing doubt about their trustworthiness. Employers need to educate employees on the purpose of workplace monitoring and explain specific policies to prevent undue fear of job loss or intrusion.