When at work, think before you type.
With the rise of technology in the workplace, access to worker’s emails and online activity along with watching our every move has become common practice. Company security has a price right? Never has it bothered me, I have nothing to hide; I’m not doing anything wrong. However, the more I ponder this scenario, the more questions I have.
Working life has changed dramatically over the past decade or so. Lines are blurred as to when the workday begins and ends. Many employees are expected to carry out work during personal time and as a trade-off private matters should be allowed during traditional hours using employer’s equipment (West & Bowman 2016, p. 629). However, with this new environment comes the capability for employers to closely watch our every move, professionally and personally.
You can see me … I can see you.
Taken by Joe Bovalino, 6 August 2016
Stanton & Stam (2006, p. 69) argue that being more aware of monitoring and surveillance in the workplace may alter work behaviour and attitudes towards the job and the organisation itself. It could create a sense of paranoia on management’s part and suspicion for employees.
There is a difference between monitoring an employee and keeping them under surveillance. For me, the concept of being monitored is positive, consisting of meetings and one-on-one time with management to review performance, set goals and keep you inspired. West & Bowman (2016, p. 629) observe that surveillance and technology allows management to monitor employee productivity without the need for direct supervision. Does this mean that with the evolution of technology within the workplace, bosses have become more concerned about company protection rather than employee improvement?
Watching company profits or watching us?
Surveillance in the workplace is developing in three directions – increased use of personal data, bio-metrics and covert surveillance (Ball 2010, p. 91). Personal data consists no more than bank details, home address, birth date; nothing sinister there. Bio-metrics includes alcohol and drug testing. For me, this seems imperative for safety-critical jobs such as driving large vehicles or handling dangerous equipment. It is the covert surveillance which concerns me most. This is where access to emails, web activities and work computers and those sneaky little cameras come into play. After becoming more aware of just how watched an employee can be I decided to look up and was quite surprised to discover the density of ‘eyes’ fixed on me.
So how can employers and employees create common ground and a better understanding of what is acceptable surveillance? In my view, employers should be transparent and clarify why cameras are necessary in the workplace. Is it purely for security reasons or for monitoring productivity? Explain to employees the reasons behind the monitoring of emails or computers, sure if offensive material is distributed through a work network then that is unacceptable. Otherwise in my case do what I do. I never connect my phone to the workplace Wi-Fi, I only use the work computer for work related matters and I always smile at the cameras. Employee of the year – ME!
Ball, K 2010, Workplace Surveillance: an Overview, Labor History, 51, 1, pp. 87-106, EBSCOhost, viewed 9 August 2016.
Stanton, J, & Stam, K 2006, The Visible Employee: Using Workplace Monitoring and Surveillance to Protect Information Assets–Without Compromising Employee Privacy or Trust, Medford, N.J., EBSCOhost, viewed 9 August 2016.
West, J, & Bowman, J 2016, ‘Electronic Surveillance at Work’, Administration & Society, 48, 5, pp. 628-651, EBSCOhost, viewed 9 August 2016.