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Should You Monitor Your Employees Computer Use?

Posted On
Stefan Schumacher

Big brother not only is here, he is right on our work computers. At least that’s what it might feel like for employees who work for a company that buys and uses employee monitoring software.

Such software triggers a series of new workplace issues, namely: Is the loss of privacy and trust from the software worth the extra productivity that could be gained by its use.

Before we get to those questions, let's answer the question, what is computer monitoring software?

One such product is called Flextivity, developed by Intego, a Seattle-based company.

Flextivity has two functions: monitoring computer activity and enforcing whatever security policies you want in place (i.e., not allowing certain websites); and a Cloud-based service that allows small business owners to make policies and then get reports on how employees' usage measures up.

Intego executives said they developed the product after hearing from companies that they had no idea what their employees were doing all day on their computers and wondered about lost productivity.

SpectorSoft promises to balance corporate security concerns with privacy for the employees.

Cnet and offer a number of products you can download, some of them free.

How Much Should You Track?

But how should a company go about monitoring their employees. Do they track all computer actions? Do they inform the employees? What is going too far?

Before you start monitoring your employees, you should probably do some research on how much privacy your employees are entitled to at work.

Small business experts believe the best way to handle monitoring is be completely upfront about the process. Intego, the software maker, agrees and advises buyers to be transparent. The company advises employers to be as up-front as possible about what they are monitoring.

Of course, once you let your employees know you're watching them, are they going to trust what you tell them?

Publications such as PC World have also advised an open-book policy, preferably in an employee handbook (if you have one).

Could Monitoring Backfire?

Today's employees are not limited to their work computer when it comes to wasting time online, chatting with friends, shopping or playing fantasy football.

If you clamp down on their usage of the work computer, you have to consider if they'll just shift their focus to their smartphones, possibly distracting them even further from work and making them less productive.

The other consideration is if you want your employees to feel like they're so confined at work, they can't stay in touch with their personal lives. Keep in mind, they are spending the majority of their time at the workplace. They probably spend more time with their colleagues than their families.

Still, you don't want an environment where employees take blatant advantage, either, and spend hours watching Netflix.

You know your employees best and hopefully this blog post helps you understand some of the pluses and minuses of monitoring their computer use. Let us know what you decide.