Employers tracking workers to ensure better work

Is your boss spying on you? As technology continues to develop and more things are becoming readily available through the Internet, this is a question that many people may have become accustomed to asking. Several people either have personally been fired for inappropriate behavior on the job or know someone who has been through the same ordeal.

“A friend of mine was caught, on tape, stealing money from his job and was fired soon after,” said Arsadia Walker, 19, a sophomore elementary education student from Del Ray Beach.

Although there are laws protecting employees against extreme forms of monitoring, almost all workplaces have implemented some form of evaluation in order to track the quantity and quality of their employees’ work.

According to a report put together by the National Workrights Institute, three main reasons employers monitor their employees are to increase quality and customer service, to promote productivity and for legitimate business concerns.

With new technology coming onto the market every day, employers are utilizing several new methods to track their employees’ behavior. Computer logs, entrance cards with embedded computer chips and video cameras are just some of the tools used in this new wave of employee spy gear.

According to a 2005 American Management Association survey, 76 percent of employers monitor their employees’ Internet usage by checking their Web site connections. By checking an employee’s Web site connection, employers are able to determine whether an employee is surfing inappropriate Web sites.

Not only can an employer determine what Web sites an employee visits, but through monitoring software, they can also determine the keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard.

“When I worked as a counselor for a summer program at home, the camp sponsors made each of us log into a book every time we used the computer,” said Brittney Robinson, 19, a second-year business administration student from Del Ray Beach. “We had to write the time and date we visited each Web site as well as write which computer we used while visiting those sites.”

The AMA survey stated that 57 percent of employers block access to 900 lines and other unauthorized phone numbers, and about 19 percent of employers tape the calls of employees in selected job categories.

Not only does monitoring employees’ phone calls help to avoid inappropriate telephone usage, it also helps to report customer and worker accuracy.

Diane Keeney, a frontline performance leader for Allstate Insurance Company, monitors her employees by having them log into a phone system each day. This allows her to determine what time an employee arrived at work.

The AMA survey showed that over 80 percent of employers disclose their monitoring practices to employees. Although studies show that a high number of companies inform their employees they are being monitored, workers are still cautious about their actions.

Besides privacy protection rights, which have been endorsed by few states, the only major law enacted to help protect worker privacy is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

According to the National Workrights Institute, the ECPA prohibits the interception, disclosure or use of wire, oral or electronic communication. This protection applies to all businesses involved in interstate commerce and has also been interpreted to extend to most intrastate phone communications.

“I do not think that it is right that employers have the capability of monitoring their employees’ every move,” said Ava Jennings, 19, a sophomore public relations student from Winter Park. “I feel that more legislation should be enacted in order to help protect the privacy of employees.”

Closed Circuit Television and SpectorSoft are two major brands of technology that employers use to monitor their employees.

Not only can CCTV and SpectorSoft programs be used to monitor employees, Global Positioning Technology has become increasingly popular among employers trying to play the role of big brother. Employers are embedding GPS satellites in company cell phones and cars to increase worker productivity and cuts cost in overtime.

Although there is an abundance of spy gear available to employers, employees might want to remember that it is important to do their best work and be on their best behavior. What they do in the dark can eventually come out in the light or in this case, on camera.