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Monitoring Your Workers

By: Matthew Strawbridge - Updated: 6 Mar 2017 | comments*Discuss
Monitor Workers Employees Staff Privacy

Just because you can monitor what an employee is doing, it does not necessarily follow that it is a good idea to do so. People like to feel trusted, especially by an employer, and the monitoring of workers has implications for privacy and staff motivation. We will discuss several areas in which the workforce could be scrutinised, and look at the pros and cons of monitoring in each case.


It is unusual for written communications to be monitored by an employer. Incoming letters are typically delivered to employees’ desks unopened, and outbound post is not generally reopened once its sender has sealed it. If your organisation’s policy varies from this, or if you wish to retain the right to open mail in certain circumstances, then you must make people aware of this.


Sometimes it is necessary to record business telephone calls. An external caller must be told as soon as possible that their call may be monitored. They are usually informed of this by a taped message if they are calling in. If staff are calling a customer, they must inform them straight away if the call is to be recorded.

Workers, of course, have a right to privacy, too. Most people with access to a telephone at work expect to be able to use it to make or receive a reasonable level of personal calls. If the calls are monitored in any way, even if this is just a case of storing the numbers that have been dialled, then people have a right to know. In this case, it is recommended practice to provide an alternative telephone service, not subject to such monitoring, that individuals can use to make personal calls.


Computer use is very easy to analyse, either by installing software on client PCs or by intercepting network traffic at the server. There are software applications that can monitor emails, record or block access to certain websites and record the amount of time that employees spend online.

These can all be useful tools if they are used appropriately and with the full knowledge and support of the workforce. However, introducing such measures by stealth could lead to accusations of an invasion of privacy.


Closed-circuit television cameras are often used in public areas, typically as a deterrent to crime. If, however, these are used in restricted areas, this will give the impression of distrust and will damage morale.

In any case, you must make employees aware of the locations of any CCTV cameras that are installed. It would also be helpful to ensure that there is at least one area free from such supervision, such as a staffroom where workers can relax in their breaks without feeling that they are under constant scrutiny.

Your privacy policy should also explain how long the footage is saved for before it is destroyed or taped over.

To Monitor or Not to Monitor

If you choose to clamp down on how employees do their jobs, by monitoring their every action, you may find that, rather than improving productivity as you had hoped, you actually harm it. It is difficult to keep staff motivated and productive when they feel restricted, untrusted and criminalised. In contrast, having no controls at all may lead to anarchy and could make it difficult to take corrective action when problems occur. You must strike a balance that gives workers room to breathe and at the same time looks after the best interests of the business.

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Our work has cctv in office I work in a community centre were the public use it my manager commented that she could watch us working from home as she had her phone linked up to cctv should I report this she said it was a joke should I take this serious as a privacy
Davie - 6-Mar-17 @ 5:33 AM
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