With the risk of losing valuable company secrets and productivity quotas, more employers believe it is OK to monitor employee communications. According to a survey by GetApp some 90% of employers across America now feel it is okay to monitor their employee’s communications.
Not surprisingly protecting company secrets is a big concern and 38% of employers say they monitor communications for this specific reason. But there is an equal number at 25.4% who want the option to monitor their employees as well as monitoring after an incident takes place.
The results of this year’s survey are a far cry from those of 2015 where 43% considered monitoring employee communications as an invasion of privacy. This year’s survey, however, indicates 47% of employers admit to monitoring conversations on a daily or weekly basis.
Of the 173 employers surveyed, 72% have access to employee conversations taking place on internal communication tools. A leap from the 2015 survey where only 56% of them had access to employee conversations. The frequency of monitoring communications also saw a jump. Almost half claim to monitor communications either on a daily or weekly basis. This is in sharp contrast to the figure in 2015 which was at 22.5 %.
Shifting work culture where remote working and freelancing have made it difficult to monitor employees physically is in part responsible. And more recently the advent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and customer data security issues have made businesses more cautious.
Companies now have access to advance technology that makes it easy to snoop on employees. Improvements in technology in the past four years is allowing employers less invasive and cost-effective ways of monitoring employee communications.
Nearly 30% of employers now say they monitor employees to ensure productivity. while 25% admit they want to ensure employees are adhering to internal communication policies. A third top cause is that employers want to know what their employees are saying about them.
Where do Employees Snoop on Employees?
A large number of businesses monitor (29%) employees using Google hangouts while using company devices. Skype or Skype for Business (21.4%), Slack (15.6%), Microsoft Teams (12.7) and WhatsApp (12.1%) follow.
How are they Doing it?
Google Hangouts for instance stores chat history in Gmail. The administrators can set rules so that users cannot change this setting so they can archive the chat history. With Skype companies have access to calls with detail recordings. Skype for Business also allows access to past conversations.
With communications that are encrypted companies can install third-party tools on their devices to bypass those security features. Tools such as screen monitoring, keylogging and third-party applications can all do this with a relatively small cost.
The Need to Strike a Balance
The key to monitoring is to find the right balance. Businesses need to identify when not to cross the line when it comes to monitoring communications. A balance should be struck between what is applicable by law and what employees may interpret as an invasion of privacy.
Equally important, being transparent with your employees on your communications monitoring policy is crucial. This will help employees to not feel they are being watched. This can mitigate any misunderstanding that might come in the future. Writing it explicitly in their contracts will also help prevent future legal actions.
Setting usage rules on company devices helps clarify what is acceptable and what is not. To prevent abuse companies might want to think about blocking specific sites that might eat into employees’ productivity. Adopting a ‘less is more’ attitude can help businesses present a compromise on usage- withstanding that productivity and abuse issues do not occur.