Employee Privacy and Workplace Monitoring
You Are Being Monitored at Work
New Hire Paperwork Gives Your Employer the Authority to Monitor You
The expectation of personal privacy at work is a myth. Most companies set the expectation of privacy before you even begin your first day of work. As part of an offer letter for employment, you will also receive a packet of information that you must sign and return, as a condition of employment. In addition, you are required to prove your identity and eligibility to work in the United states. Document items in the packet may include:
- Business Ethics and Conduct Policy Acknowledgement Form and Questionnaire
- Electronic Information Systems Statement of Policy and Acknowledgement Form
- Safety Policy and Implementation Guidelines and Acknowledgment Form
- Employee Handbook and Acknowledgement Form
Your new hire paperwork will also ensure that you have been made aware that changes can be made regarding work assignments and reporting relationships. All the bases are covered to ensure that the company will be made whole in the event your relationship ends badly. This isn't a bad thing, but it does favor your employer, 100%.
Expect Your Employer to Run a Thorough Background Check
Hiring a new employee is expensive and can cost a company from $4,000 - $10,000, so they need to ensure that you are worth the risk before you can access their network. Your employment is based on the contingency that you can perform the job you were hired to do, but it's more than just your abilities. The professional references you provided will be contacted, a background check will dig into your school records, driving record, former employers and even insurance companies. They may even run a credit check to determine your level of financial stability. Your employer wants to know that you pay your rent, mortgage, car note, insurance, utilities, phone bill, child support and credit card bills on time. If you have a low credit score then you present a certain level of risk. They want to know if you show up on time and if you have a high absenteeism rate. It is entirely possible that the employer won't have time to collect all the information before your first day of work. However, the paperwork you submitted gives them the ability to terminate your employment if the reviews do not come back in your favor. Don't lie on your resume because the truth will eventually come to light.
Employee Monitoring Begins on Your First Day at Work
Employee onboarding programs are part of the new-hire checklist to acclimate new employees to the company culture. Your company may have an employee orientation meeting, or they may park you in front of a video that defines their expectation, and those of their industry. In some industries, information must be encrypted if it is being sent in a digital format. This protects the user data and the company. Failure to follow industry guidelines can cost the money large fines and attention they don't want from government agencies.
This is where employee monitoring comes into play. While these steps are set up to protect the company from employees that take shortcuts, and it may appear to be a big-brother type of thing, what steps would you take to protect your home from people that you barely know?
A Network ID and Password Provide Limited Access to Your Employers Resources
Your employer will create a Windows user account which is a network ID. They will provide you with a password that provides you access to certain areas of their network resources. You will also have access to job-related applications such as email and Microsoft Office. If you are a designer, then you will probably use a MAC instead of a PC, and you'll need access to creative packages such as PhotoShop and InDesign. You will also have access to a direct phone line which is assigned to your workspace. A password will be provided to allow you to check voice mail from your desk and outside the office. A network ID and password does not give you the keys to the corporate kingdom but will grant you access to different areas of the company based on user permissions granted by the hiring manager and the IT department.
You May Need Access to Blocked Websites
Employers can monitor your productivity at home, at work, and even in some vehicles. The IT department can watch your computer monitor from their desk and take control of your keyboard. I learned this firsthand when I saw the mouse pointer moving around on my screen. I asked the onsite IT person and she admitted that she accessed my computer, but did not provide a business reason for monitoring my work. You should assume that email exchanges, online interactions, and even team chats are not private. You should also assume that your employer owns the content of your sent and received email because it is sent through their network.
You may need access to websites that are currently blocked and will need to provide the IT department and your manager a valid reason for access. It may be blocked because it fits certain criteria that make it easier for them to block all related websites, but doesn't mean that you don't have a valid reason to access the site. Some companies block social media sites because they reduce employee productivity.
A Workplace Wellness Program and Monitoring Helps Your Employer Reduce Risk
There are a variety of tools that employers can use for employee tracking purposes. Some companies have a wellness program that requires you to wear a device that monitors your activity level such as daily steps and heart rate. If you are overweight, or a smoker they may give you an incentive to join a gym or to begin a stop-smoking program. Lack of participation can result in increased healthcare premiums and higher deductibles for the employee. It may seem like a harmless gesture, or a cool incentive if your employer provides you with a Fitbit but what will it really cost you?
Are you familiar with your employer's workplace privacy policies?
Personal Privacy Does Not Apply to Work-Related Equipment
Employee Monitoring Software Reviews
A website called TopTenReviews posts an annual list of 'The Best Employee Monitoring Software'. Each company is ranked by the software on a scale of 1-10, using four different metrics and an overall rating.
Ranked categories include a variety of metrics:
- Monitoring and Development
- Monitoring Features
- Control Functions
- Help and Support
The Top 5 companies listed for 2017 include Teramind, Veraito, SentryPC, NetVizor and InterGuard. According to the website, the reason Teramind won the Gold Award is because "Teramind has the tools and features that fit into all these important categories. It also has customization options so certain rules can be applied to certain groups of employees and so websites can be filtered only at certain times of the day."
How Do I Protect My Privacy at My Job?
If you have an expectation of privacy in your home, then don't use equipment from work. If you have been assigned a cell phone, tablet or laptop only access this equipment for work purposes. If you don't want your coworkers to know about your private life then don't connect to them on facebook, twitter, Instagram or any other social media channel. You can swap stories about your weekend, your vacation, new in-laws, outlaws, or new pet tricks on Monday. But don't expect privacy if you're connected to any coworkers on social media.
If you have a side business, hobby or other interest, you can create a new brand, a logo, and tagline that doesn't have to include your name. I use HubPages as a creative outlet, and for the first four years just used the profile name lifelovemystery. I have added my real name because occasionally potential employers will ask for writing samples. This validates my writing abilities and can give me an advantage over candidates that cannot provide samples.
The Future of Workplace Privacy
Corporate access to privacy tools has expanded to cloud networks and can be deployed virtually anywhere. As companies demand better control, increased productivity and limited access through permission-based controls, the expectation of personal privacy in the workplace will disappear.
© 2017 Michelle Orelup