Periodically the debate over whether a business has the right to monitor an employee’s email rears its ugly head. There is no question that it is a sensitive issue for both employers and employees alike.
According to the 2005 Electronic Monitoring & Survelliance Survey, 76% of employers monitor workers’ Website connections and 65% of companies use software to block connections to inappropriate Websites. Additionally, 26% have fired workers for misusing the Internet and 25% have terminated employees for e-mail misuse. Though still largely thought of as an issue reserved for larger corporations, an increasing number of small businesses are also beginning to monitor employees.
True, employers have legitimate concerns regarding proprietary information, security and employees who visit inappropriate websites while at work. However, with more and more employees working longer hours at work and taking more work home, the lines between work and life have definitely become blurred. Additionally, the question as to whether an email deserves the same level of protection as a piece of mail in terms of privacy is also debatable.
If you do choose to monitor your employees, you must tell your employees what you are monitoring and why. Somehow a balance will need to be achieved. As Michael Gartenberg, research director at Jupiter Research explains, “Employees need to understand that it is the employer’s right to protect its business communications vehicles from abuse, including situations that could prove to be liable or embarrassing to the company. Employers need to understand that expectations need to be set and met, and that an appropriate balance needs to be achieved between total trust of employees and total lack of trust.”