Spying on Employees
I am part owner of a small firm with about 20 employees --- mostly administrative and data entry types -- where my brother is the hands-on person.
He is a little frustrated because he says that about half the time he walks by some people's cubicles, they are in the process of changing screens, and some don't even bother to switch screens any more, revealing that they are simply surfing the net during working hours.
Now he wants to purchase software to track the employee's internet surfing habits. All he wants to see is how much company time they are wasting online and which sites they are visiting to see if we need to come up with an "internet surfing policy".
We are pretty laid back, and we don't care if people take a break to surf news sites or even play video games on their breaks, but we don't want to get robbed either.
Has anybody tracked their employee's surfing habits? Did you get any positive results? Is it considered an invasion of privacy? Should we notify them we're doing this before installing the software?
Any thoughts are appreciated.
most servers should have data loggers, not sure about the software though.
In Australia, provided you make sure the employees know that their internet use will be monitored it's not an invasion of privacy. Reading/checking their emails is another matter.
My last workplace had a glut of server traffic between 4:45 and 5pm. The IT manager closed access to the IP addy's for Ebay and Google earth.
As a business owner I'd be wondering if I need all that overhead or if I can shave some of it off and either gain some margin or lower the price of my goods/services and gain a little market share.
Staff deserve to relax if they work hard but if you can cut overheads without affecting internal and external service levels...
To answer your question, it looks like it's legal as long as the employees are aware of it and give their consent, acording to this article:
Employee Monitoring Facts Every CIO Should Know
More importantly, I understand your concern over your employees' web surfing since you are part-owner and this direclty affects your personal wealth, but couldn't this also indicate an underlying problem? Do the employees have any equity in the business and opportunities for advancement? Or, is their work primarily fear-based (e.g. they feel they have to work in order to feed their families and they aren't connected to any larger sort of mission). Does your organization follow the 12 Elements of Great Managing? I'm normally skeptical of lots of business books, but the 12 Elements seem very data-driven and accurate.
Be careful about addressing the surfing directly. You aren't going to make your employees happier by tightening the leash.
If your employees are delivering the results you expect and surfing, where is the problem? Let them be or increase their workload. If they are not delivering results you are happy with then you need to address those results and not necessarily the surfing.
If you are concerned about criminal activity, then you can inform the employees that you will be checking the logs regularly and that things such as pornography will not be tolerated.
*shrugs* If all your targets are being achieved, then you don't have a problem.
Bring the Net surfing into the light, and make it clear that people can surf the Internet as much as they like - but only while there's no work for them to do.
What you could instigate could be a policy....
Something like.....if a person has found to be surfing in company time...(after all they are paid to work, not play)....they will be subject to disciplicinary procedures.
Or give them certain times they can surf, such as lunchtimes.
If they fail to follow company procedures, then my old favourite with staff is to start public floggings....always a winner!!!
How about talking with the employes about the problem?
Pay people based on the results that they delivier and you don't it gets their problem when they waste time.
When you want to train animals (and people, we're not all that different) you have four options: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment and negative punishment. If I am not much mistaken, I believe positive reinforcement works the best. Try to incentivize people to use their time productively, instead of trying to punish them for using it unproductively. And people hate takebacks (like Michelle said). So if you're planning restricting internet access, be prepared for grumbling and lowered morale. People don't like having anything taken away unfairly (when has anyone ever felt it was fair?) and they'll fight for it. About how to incentivize them to do so, Zukin had an idea I liked, about offering them either a piece of the profits or something similar. Be careful of creating a cut-throat atmosphere, though.
Since you're into PD (I'd imagine), have you tried to encourage employees to improve themselves? Either by distributing copies of Getting Things Done (or offering them for a steeply discounted price, you might like to have some very small barriers to entry to create breakage) or trying to introduce this site? Depending on what the company does, be warned, some people might decide to follow their dreams and leave the company. :p
And like others said, if they're reaching their goals, let them relax. You can monitor their usage, as long as they know, but think hard before putting in any measures to curb it.
Thank you all for the great input.
I, myself I'm trying to stay out of it because I don't want to be "that guy that comes by once a month and took our internet away". This branch of our company was built primarily by consultants who are now fading away with their contracts, and my brother has decided he wants to run the show by himself.
Most of these workers do finance-related data entry, so they always have work to do. It's not like clearing out an in-box and waiting for more stuff to come in.
When we took this contract the first thing we agreed on was that we wanted to create a relaxed work atmosphere, treat our workers with respect, pay them a very competitive wage, give them good benefits, etc. That's where the consultants came in and they did a great job getting us off the ground.
It is not the most glamorous job in the world, so we gave them very spacious cubicles, top of the line equipment, and many other perks. But now my brother seems to think that not everyone is pulling their weight, so he brought up this idea before productivity becomes an issue.
I guess we'll start by asking the IT guys about the server logs and go from there. We are all for being fair and flexible, but there comes a time when you also have to think about the bottom line, and a lot of companies don't figure this out until they are in trouble.
People need vision.
Good people do their best because they believe in an idea. That is always better than people who are motivated by money.
Vision provides the why and some of the motivation. However, the behaviours necessary to follow through with that vision are conditioned. We just usually call them habits, such as the habit of success, the habit of coming in early, etc. And you can condition habits, which is an idea that NLP capitalizes on a lot.
Vision is the reason for the existance of certain behaviours. Which is definitely a plus point for being a human being. But, we're still not all that different. I think this is another meaning of Steve's term of conscious living, to live above the level of a conditioned animal.
Are the employees at the right place?
If the employees spend their worktime surfing the net, the question I have is : Are they where they belong ?
It seems like lack of motivation. If that is the case, goals ties to bonuses and rewards might be the solution.
Otherwise, my suggestion would be to get rid of those who do not belong.
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