Workplace Computer Monitoring

Workplace monitoring means to monitor the activities of employees during the work time when they are supposed to be working for their employers. An employee can be monitored for different activities using different techniques. One of the areas where an employee can be monitored in today’s working environment is to monitor the computer of the employee. Computers at workplace are provided to the employees by their employer for official work and hence they are expected to be using it for the same. Unless they comply with it they are surely using it for some unofficial purposes and also wasting the time during the working hours. However there is another issue related to it which is to be taken into account and that is of privacy. Employees will definitely like to have their privacy at work which is their right. They would certainly not like their every move to be monitored which would make them feel uneasy at work. Logically both things need to be done. We have to see to it that no unauthorized use of the computers is taking place and at the same time privacy of the employees is also to be protected. Ideally there should be well defined laws for it clearly defining to what extent an employer can go in monitoring his employee and what the judicial use of a computer at workplace is.There are a number of ways by which computers can be monitored. One of the most common methods is to monitor the internet activities of the employee. This gives a clear idea as to what sites the employee visits during his or her working hours and how much time does he or she spend for the same. Another method is ‘Keystroke monitoring’ by which it can be seen how many keystrokes and clicks per minute or hour the employee is making. This gives an idea of how well the employee is working. This paper will present many issues and laws related to workplace computer monitoring and discuss what limits should be there for the same.Ways of monitoringThe computer of an employee can be monitored in several ways. Basically there are two types of monitoring that are related to computers. One is seeing the amount of work that he or she does and the other one is to monitor the internet activities including emailing.Performance based monitoringOne way to see the working efficiency is keystroke monitoring. In this case the number of keystrokes per hour on the computer can be measured with the help of some software. Depending on the job of an employee it can be seen whether these number of keystrokes are sufficient or not. This will give the employer an estimate of his or her performance. This technique works very well for the employer but has been found to be the cause of many health problems in employees like the carpal tunnel syndrome because of stress he or she is subjected to. Another method is to measure the time for which computer of an employee remains idle. This means that for that much of time the employee was either away from work or just sitting idle.Internet based monitoringIn this case the internet activities of the user are checked using some software. Many a times employees have been seen to be browsing internet and doing other stuff on it while on work. This clearly violates the norms as during the working hours they are not supposed to do so. Mostly they visit the internet for general browsing and stuff like visiting job sites. In many cases employees have been seen to be visiting or writing blogs and in the extreme cases even browse porn sites. The employer can check and monitor the list of sites one is visiting and also the time for which the user has been online visiting these sites. Generally employees have been seen spending about one hour per day on the internet during the working hours.Another monitoring related to internet is to check the email content sent or received by the employees. Generally the email system is owned by the organizations and the employer can check the contents of email. The emails are checked due to apprehensions that the employee might be sharing some internal information with other organizations thus leaking some vital information. The monitoring can also be done for the web based email accounts such as hotmail, yahoo, etc. Thus an employee can never be sure even about the web based email services because any content that enters the organizational computer network can easily be seen. There is no assurance that an email cannot be read by the employer even if the encryption of emails is used in the system.Workplace computer monitoring: IssuesThe real issue here is that whether the employer should monitor the computer of an employee or not. Legally speaking the employee can do it since he is the owner of the whole network. He can access the computer of the employee through office network. It can be done since all the organizations use LANs and it is very easy to see the information inside employee’s computer and monitor it while the boss is sitting in his or her cabin. The employer can literally see and monitor everything one does with his or her computer. By using special softwares it is even possible to watch the desktop activities ‘live’ on a remote computer. As stated earlier employer has the legal right to do so but there are some cases where the privacy can be guaranteed. One such thing to do is to enter into an agreement before one is employed so that it becomes legal for the employer to bind with it and restrict his monitoring. The agreement in such cases should be signed both parties. After entering into the agreement the monitoring can definitely be restricted.The other side of the story is that the employer needs to monitor the computer of the employee since he cannot allow the working hours to be used for other activities like internet browsing, emailing and other stuff. It therefore becomes necessary for him go for computer monitoring. In this case privacy of the employee can still be protected. This can be done by notifying the employee beforehand. The employee can be notified in the form of memos, handbooks, etc. that the computer is being monitored. By this way the employee will remain cautious about and will not try to indulge in any such activities. At the same time his privacy will automatically be safeguarded.Sending and receiving emails does not often take much time and can be used for keeping in touch with dear ones. Generally the employer should not check email content because it violates the privacy of an individual more than any other type of monitoring. Although the employer can monitor the number of emails sent in order to see that not much time is wasted in this activity. Emails are the most private forms of communication that the employee can do from his workplace and therefore should not be checked.ConclusionWe should address the issue of computer monitoring from all the perspectives. From the employers point of view it is necessary to see that the time is not wasted by the employees as they are certainly not paid for that. From the employees point of view the privacy is the issue. There should be clear policies and laws stating the rights and duties of both the employees and the employer. Issue of checking emails should be dealt with separately. This has also of course something to do with trust. If the employer trusts his employee he need not go for checking his emails. Checking emails is literally like checking a regular mail and hence there should be a clear policy regarding emails which should separately address this issue.