Monitoring Technology in the Workplace
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There is an observed increasing trend in the use of technology in the work place both at the company, national and the international levels (Weckert, 2005). The use of technology has no doubt reduced the cost of operation of various companies. This has been made possible through the automation of tasks and ease communication. Technology has also ensured increased efficiency in many organizational tasks (Weckert, 2005). However, technology is criticized because it gives the employer an access to both the employees work-related and personal information. Privacy is therefore a concern for both the employers and the employees (Weckert, 2005).
The influence of technology on people, institutions, and relations within societies is both being celebrated and criticized today (Weckert, 2005). Technological development in computers telecommunications, satellites and fibre optics have generally been accepted to have brought in a new, more productive and economically efficient societies (Conte & Landy, 2007). However, even though the information age has improved the efficiency of various organizations, the effect of the use of electronic monitoring of the employees should be revisited. A section of employees have expressed concern that this action negatively impacts on their work habits and privacy (Conte & Landy, 2007).
Computer monitoring and other forms of workplace monitoring have both benefits and pitfalls. The debate of the computer technology is particularly prevalent in the organization of work and in the work place (Weckert, 2005). Of great concern is also the continued globalization of the media and the communication industries. Industries have therefore been keen on the ways in which they orient their managers, supervisors, and call centre operators. Such employees are trained in the emerging monitoring and surveillance technologies (Weckert, 2005). The new technology has influenced the management methods, individual employees and the organization structure and design. A study done in the US revealed the impossibility of improving productivity without achieving a balance between the technological development and the needs of human resource (Conte & Landy, 2007).
Forms of monitoring
Various forms of new technologies have made it possible for the employers to monitor the job of their employees. Such monitoring makes use of telephones, computer terminals, electronic and voice mail and internet use by employees. The choice of an organization on which form to use depends both on its policies and the policy of the government. The study has shown that there is no universal regulation to such monitoring exercises. Each company should therefore formulates its own policies that suites it (Conte & Landy, 2007).
Technologies have been developed to provide insights into individual employee’s behavior using trail of all their digital actions. The behavior modeling technology is meant to track all the employees’ electronic records by the employer (Conte & Landy, 2007). It provides the behavior pattern that each employee may utilize to evaluate their performance and conduct. The variables used may include word patterns, changes in language or style and the communication patterns between different employees (Conte & Landy, 2007).
Various surveys all over the world have shown that a large percentage of the employers monitor their employees (Conte & Landy, 2007). The main reason for monitoring by managers is their concern over litigation. They are also concern about the increasing role that the electronic evidence plays in the law suits and the government agency investigations (Conte & Landy, 2007).
A case study
A survey was carried out by the American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute. The result of the survey indicated that two thirds of the employers monitor their employee’s website visit in order to prevent inappropriate surfing (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006). Of the two thirds, sixty five percent have employed the use of a soft ware to control the websites that can be visited by the employees. The study also revealed that there was a twenty seven percent increase of employer monitoring from the 2001 survey findings (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006). From the study, most of the employers showed concern about their employees who visit the adult sites with sexual contents, games, social networking, entertainment, shopping and auctions, sports and external blogs (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006).
Of the forty three percent of companies that monitor e-mail, nearly three quarters use technology to automatically monitor e-mail. The study also revealed that twenty eight percent of employers have fired workers for e-mail misuse (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006). Almost half of the companies use video monitoring to protect the company from theft, violence and sabotage. The use video surveillance to track employees’ was the list used registering only seven percent (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006). The study also revealed that seventy eight percent of the employers notify their employees of anti-theft video surveillance. At the same time performance-related video monitoring was used by eighty nine percent of the employers (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006).
The specific forms of technological monitoring used by the employers include telephones, computer terminals, electronic and voice mail and internet use by employees. Various employers therefore adopt one or a number of these techniques of monitoring.
The question that most employees have been asking themselves is whether their employer can listen to their phone calls. Various studies have revealed the possibility of this happening in most cases (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006). Majority of the employers monitor the employees’ phone conversations with their clients and customers. This is majorly to control the quality and secure the image of the company (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006). Telephone monitoring is done either by putting a beep tone on the line or playing a recorded message. However, the law of some states may require that if the involved parties are from within the nation then the parties are informed prior. This is what happens in California (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006).
Various scholars have also doubted the policy noting that just a smaller percentage of businesses are aware of such requirements. Such businesses therefore have their management listening to the conversations by their employees without a prior notice (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006). The federal law which regulates the phone calls with any person from outside the state allows unannounced monitoring of business related calls (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006). The employee’s personal calls are exempted from such monitoring in many cases.
However, whenever making calls on any specific office phones are prohibited, even personal calls by the employees may be monitored. The best way in which employees can ensure the privacy of their calls is therefore to use their own mobile phones (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006). Other secure options include a pay phone or the phone that the employer has designated for personal calls. Studies have shown that the employer can even obtain the records of the calls made by the employees. The list and length of such calls can be recorded by a pen register device (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006).
The employer can therefore know the length of calls the employees made to their clients. The device is majorly used to monitor employees in jobs positions which require extensive calls. Certain employees have raised concern and even objections of the use of such information to evaluate their efficiency with clients. This is biasness according to them as it doesn’t consider the quality of their services (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006).
Studies have reported that the employers are able to monitor the use of all the computers with the terminal at the work place (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006). There is software developed to enable the employers to access all that is appearing on the screen or stored in any of the computer’s terminal. It can also access what is stored in the hard disks of the employees. The employer can also monitor the web surfing and electronic email by their employees (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006). The most affected by the computer monitoring are the employees involved in intensive word processing and data entry jobs.
The technique used in the computer monitoring is the key stroke monitoring. It allows the employer to know the number of the key strokes their employees are performing per hour. It may also inform the employees when they are above or below the standard number of key-strokes expected (Weckert, 2005).
Most employees have complained that key-stroke monitoring has been linked with the health problems. It may cause stress disabilities and carpal tunnel syndrome (Weckert, 2005). Employers are also able to monitor the duration an employee spends away from the computer or idling at the terminal. In most cases the employer is free to use the organization’s computers to monitor the employees (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006). In some cases, the employers’ right to monitor their employees is limited by the unionization of the employees. The privacy rights of employees in using workplace computer vary according to the laws of a given country (Weckert, 2005). The employee is noted whenever monitoring is to be done through various organizational communication channels such as memos.
Electronic mail voice and mail monitoring
The question of whether the electronic mails and the voice mails sent through the companies’ computers are monitored is often not considered by many employees (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006). Even though this does not happen in most cases, the messages sent within the company as well as those sent from the employees terminal to another company is monitored. The massages sent from another company o the employee can also be monitored by the employer. The mails sent via the web based accounts such as yahoo can therefore be monitored. The voice mails systems can also equally be subjected to monitoring (Weckert, 2005).
This issue has attracted a lot of controversy with many cases ended up in courts but being ruled in favor of the employer (Weckert, 2005). Some employers have also used encryption to protect the electronic mails of the employees. The technology scrambles the massage at the sender’s terminal while unscrambling it at the receiver’s terminal. It thus ensures that only the sender and the intended recipient read the massage (Stam & Jeffrey, 2006).
In most cases the employers use video monitoring to prevent theft, ensure security and to monitor their employees. It is a common phenomenon in various banks and supermarkets which use it to prevent robbery (Indian Chamber of Commerce, 2006). Some employers have also indicated that they use cameras to monitor the productivity of their employees and to prevent any form of internal theft. However, various countries have outlawed the use of such devices in such places as toilets and bathrooms. This is viewed as going against the individual’s right to privacy. Like other forms of monitoring, this form of monitoring can also be limited by the labor unionizations (Indian Chamber of Commerce, 2006).
In most cases the employees are protected by the stated policies of a specific organization regarding the issue of technology monitoring (Marjoribanks, 2008). Such policies are explained to the employees and are always legally binding to ensure protection to both the employer and the employee. Both the employees and the employers must therefore understand the provisions of both the organizational policy and the government policies (Marjoribanks, 2008).
Various supervisors have been reported all over the world having passed sexually explicit website to their subordinates (Weckert, 2005). This has been considered as a form of harassment. At the same time various employees have also been found putting unnecessary texts or images from the internet in their emails (Marjoribanks, 2008). Such employees are unaware of the copyright laws that prohibits them form alteration of copyrighted materials. The can therefore cost their companies incase legal actions are taken against them.
Certain chats by various employees have also turn to be defamatory (Marjoribanks, 2008). Workers without much knowledge of the company’s privacy post sensitive information about their employers. Some companies have lost very vital trade secrets because of this. Scholars have therefore scholars called for the formulation of standard policies and ethic (Marjoribanks, 2008).
The revolution in the information technology is with much benefits has come with its challenges. Without a proper policy in place, such challenges will therefore persist. Such policies can help minimize the in appropriate use of the internet by the employees. It can also help in laying the groundwork for disciplinary actions. It also minimizes the exposure to liability. Any company should therefore adopt clearly written policies on the use and access of the internet especially during the official working hours.
The issue of technology complicated by the fact the world is today a single information economy. Therefore the top secrets of a company can easily be stolen and used somewhere else in the world. Information is the most important factor of production of both the goods and services. Various companies are therefore ready to do whatever it costs to secure their information. Noting that the internet is a global issue, the policy should therefore take a global perspective.
It is also clear that for employees to ensure that their secrecy is maintained, they must learn to avoid any company’s hard wares. If such gargets as the companies telephone or computer is to be used, such an employee should strictly adhere to the policies set out by the company. Another measure that can greatly save the employee from their employer is unionization. Scholars have noted that in cases on strong employee unions, their influence on policy can not easily be neglected.
Lastly, it is evidenced that there is need for every employer to ensure that his/her employees are trained on safe internet use. This will limit the chances of the possibility of the loss of vital information by their company.