A decision point for workplace surveillance

While the practices of employee surveillance and activity analysis are beneficial for management, they can have some adverse effects on the employees.

Network Intelligence Platform contributors

Digitization of work has allowed organizations to expand their operations and hire employees from different parts of the world. Along with new approaches to work, many companies have begun to explore new practices to maintain employee productivity and performance. In many cases, they have begun to turn to new surveillance techniques with the potential for both ethical issues and unintended consequences.

We are now at a decision point for surveillance technologies. If the issues that they raise are not addressed head-on then, over the long term, these tools are likely to cause far more problems than they solve.

The Rise of Employee Surveillance Technology

The number of companies using surveillance tools for employees is growing over time. A recent study found that, in a bid to ensure employee performance and productivity, that 94% of organizations deploy some method of monitoring employees’ use of email, internet, or phone. This figure represents a sharp rise from 1997 when only 35% of companies monitored employees.

The nature of these tools is also changing. Where companies might traditionally have relied simply on a time-clock or security camera system, newer tools oftern give a far more detailed view of an employee's activities.

It is evident that companies and businesses are increasingly looking at different avenues and solutions to maintain and enhance the performance of their employees and workers. Some examples of the kinds of new tools that are being used for employee surveillance include:

Case 1: Humanyze

Humanyze is a leading employee analytics monitoring application that helps organizations understand how their teams interact in order to increase performance. It supplies biometric badges and accompanying software to companies wanting to track their staff. Humanyze badges look like a normal employee ID badge but are equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) and near field communication (NFC) sensors, Bluetooth for proximity sensing, infrared to detect face-to-face interaction, an accelerometer, and two microphones.

Case 2: Teramind

Teramind is a leading, global provider of employee monitoring, user behavior analytics, insider threat detection, forensics, and software solutions for data loss prevention. It includes features for employee activity monitoring like controlling webpages and applications, instant messages, emails, file transfers, keystroke logins, printed document tracking, and screenshot capability.

Case 3: WorkSmart

WorkSmart is a workplace productivity monitoring and analysis tool that provides management with useful insights. It is used company-wide to measure the productivity, focus, and intensity of each skilled professional. Managers can use these insights to craft a corrective plan and provide coaching during daily Check-in Chats.


As Internet of Things and Big Data become more and more common they are likely to pressure companies to err toward the collection of ever more information about employee performance. For this reason, it is critical that organizations recognize that there are also downsides to these programs that need to be taken into account. While the practices of employee surveillance and analysis can be beneficial from a management perspective, they can have some adverse effects on the employees. Some of the adverse impacts reported to emerge from workplace monitoring programs include influencing employee motivation and satisfaction levels and damaging the trust that an employee might have with the managerial leadership of the organization. Employees may view these practices as an attempt to control and limit their freedom and workplace independence.

Forward-looking organizations recognize that they need to explicitly discuss the ethical dimensions of any tacking initiatives before adopting them.


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