Ethics of Surveying Your Remote Employees

Ethics of Surveying Your Remote Employees

All you need to know to ensure your remote surveillance system doesn’t cross any ethical boundaries.

For employees and employers alike, the work-from-home scenario has not been easy. Sure, we have all found ways of staying productive and getting our jobs done. Yet, for employers supervising remote employees for the very first time, remote surveillance has become the only option. 

Companies have had to rely on remote employee surveillance software to make sure that their employees are staying productive. Different applications provide different levels of surveillance. The most common features include monitoring the employee’s keyboard activity, log-on and log-off times, browsing history and application usage. These employee-tracking programs give employers information on how actively the user has been typing and when they stop clicking around. They can also block certain websites or give prompts to employees that they shouldn’t spend more than a certain amount of time on a specific website. On the more alarming end of remote surveillance, some software, like Sneek, can even take photos of ‌workers throughout the day. 

The nagging question with remote surveillance has been how to balance overseeing your employees’ work without encroaching on their privacy? To understand that, here are some very important things to consider when surveying remote workers. 

Properly research your software provider

It is extremely crucial that you verify your software vendor. Privacy software bought in haste can sometimes end up accumulating more information than you intend for it to. One of the dangerous practices followed by some monitoring software is keylogging. Keylogging is essentially the practice of keeping track of everything a person types on their laptop. Not only will keylogging tell an employer the type of music their employee is searching for on YouTube while working, but it can also tell them your passwords. Keylogging is particularly threatening to privacy in situations where employees use their personal devices or their work machines outside office hours. 

Give ample information to your employees

It should come as no surprise that monitoring your employees in secret is a breach of trust. In fact, it is not only unethical but also illegal. Whenever you use an employee monitoring system, it is indispensable that you let your employees know they are being surveyed and even provide them with consent forms. These forms should contain details of what you will be monitoring, how the monitored data will be stored and who will be able to access it.

Preventing discrimination between employees when surveying

When surveying employee performance, it is important that everyone is being monitored to the same extent. For instance, ‌junior-most employees shouldn’t be monitored more than upper management. Altering promotion or dismissal decisions is another kind of discrimination that surveillance can lead to. More than 65% of all surveillance programs can look at employee data and determine whether a person is pregnant, unwell or a union member. To prevent this, the employer must make sure that the surveyed information is protected from those making promotion and dismissal decisions. 

So is all surveillance bad?

To be fair, not all surveillance is bad. It can tell you what your employees are doing, how much time a task takes to finish and what resources are required to complete said task. It can even help employees because if the employer could actually monitor what you are doing, you wouldn’t constantly be asked what you are doing

Surveillance can also help employers find out who your high performers are and reward them. Moreover, knowing that their performance is being monitored will help employees stay productive and get more done. If you make sure that your surveillance practices are transparent and consensual, you will be able to keep your employees’ trust and still keep productivity high. 

Header image courtesy of Freepik 


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Kamya Pandey
Kamya is a writer at Jumpstart. She is obsessed with podcasts, films, everything horror-related, and art.


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