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The Feeling of Being Watched While You Work

Posted At: April 9, 2008 12:10 PM
by Savannah Lanier 

“Oh, I’ll just Google it!” “Have you checked out that YouTube video?” “Yeah, I will forward the picture to your e-mail.” These are phrases often heard in modern offices throughout the country. Today’s endless means of communication, technology and entertainment create a completely new dynamic in the workplace that was nonexistent a mere 20 years ago. Now a company e-mail can be sent to thousands of people in a split second. Employees can procrastinate the day away while on the clock, watching online videos, forwarding entertaining e-mails and Web surfing.

These new methods of communication can be very helpful, but at the same time drastically inhibit a company’s productivity and even cause harm. When people are spending more time checking their e-mails for forwards, watching videos on YouTube and e-mailing than working, there is a problem. Many employees admit to large amounts of Web-surfing. Along with being an endless distraction, this new technology also has the potential of being a security threat to a company.

Employers are now faced with the controversial question: “To monitor or not to monitor?” In a 2007 survey, AMA found that three-fourths of employers monitor their employees’ Web site visits in order to prevent inappropriate surfing. Employers are reading e-mails, monitoring calls and voicemail, monitoring Web activity and even keeping tabs on the office through video.

Monitoring employees can create friction between employer and employees. Having every move watched makes many employees feel as though they aren’t trusted, preventing them from forming strong and open relationships with management. Good relations are essential for a healthy company.

Many other employees think that their privacy is being violated. Is the lack of solid relations in a company just as toxic as Web-surfing? Does monitoring prohibit productivity more than procrastinating online? Bad employee relations can be devastating, but with the right approach, a relationship crisis resulting from monitoring employees can be avoided.

It’s important for employers to be open and honest with employees about the monitoring process. Employers need to emphasize that monitoring is nothing personal against the employees, and that it protects not only the company, but also the workers. Employers don’t want to meddle in the lives of workers. They simply want to know who’s doing a good job and to keep the company safe. It’s crucial to help employees move past the initial feeling of being violated and realize that monitoring is very beneficial in the long run to the success of a company and the careers of its workers.

As technology continues to develop, there will inevitably be new issues that will accompany it. Monitoring is here to stay. It’s up to the employers to be diligent in strengthening relationships with monitored employees, ensuring productivity and job satisfaction.

American Management Association. (February 28, 2007).
Electric Monitoring and Surveillance Survey. Retrieved March 1, 2008, from

Does employee monitoring violate rights?

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