Why companies implement monitoring software.

The number of companies using monitoring software and equipment is increasing. Many employees including telecommuters may not even be aware they are being monitored.

  • Productivity - lowers when employees spend time on the Internet with non work-related activities. Employers do not want productivity levels to decrease and must find methods of preventing this.
  • Litigation prevention - lawsuits that may result from the release of confidential information.
  • Prevent Sexual Harassment suits - employees visiting pornography or sending/forwarding emails with pornographic content can constitute sexual harassment.
  • Verifying work location of employees.

Software programs installed on systems that can monitor Internet usage, web sites visited, emails sent and what reports or programs an employee is viewing. Keystrokes and inactive terminals can also be monitored.

Telephone calls - personal calls are not allowed to be monitored in the US - employer must make a no personal phone call on company time policy.

Numbers dialed from your extension and the length of the call can be recorded. Some systems are even capable of recording incoming calls if they were dialled direct to your phone.

There are also programs that map locations of mobile workers through their cell phones or laptops. Companies use this to check that mobile workers are where where they are supposed to be.

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What's all the Fuss About?

Any computer system or PDA that is owned by the company or phone system in their control can be monitored. If it belongs to the company then they do have the right to control and monitor the usage of said property.

As a mobile worker you may wonder what impact this may have on you. If you own your own computer equipment it is not likely the company can install monitoring software, nor would they be within their rights to do so. If you have your phone set up to receive incoming calls through their phone system or you connect to their phone system to make outgoing calls, then you may be subject to the calls being monitored. This is one reason why a second phone line for business use only is a good idea. Don't make the phone number for the second phone line public or available to anyone outside work.

If you use company equipment, that then is a different story and they may have monitoring software installed before you get the equipment home. If you are also allowed to use the computer after hours for non-work related surfing, then you need to find out if the company can "turn off" the monitoring software.

Companies should get legal advice before automatically making the decision to monitor mobile workers. While it is clear that work done onsite can be monitored, it is a grey area where mobile workers are concerned.

Important Points:

Computer usage and phone monitoring are items that should be specifically mentioned and described in detail in a telecommuting agreement.

Companies should provide employees with the details of what is being monitored. They should include this information in employee handbooks, provide labels on terminals with a warning that the system is being monitored and/or have pop-up screens when people are logging into the system to warn them that their computer usage is being monitored.

Protecting the Company

While it isn't a great feeling to know that everything you do with the computer and the phone can be monitored; companies must take measures to protect themselves from potential lawsuits that can result from employee use of computers and the telephone.

Where It Stands