Absolutely, yes. And what’s worse, they probably are.
Employee surveillance has never been easier thanks to advances in technology and the emergence of computers and the Internet. Employers are taking advantage like never before.
According to a recent survey conducted by the American Management Association and The ePolicy Institute, two-thirds of the 304 employers surveyed said that they monitor their employees’ Internet connections. Over 40% said they monitor each of the following: their employees’ emails, the time spent and phone numbers called by employees using company phones, time spent by employees at their computers and/or their employees’ computer keystrokes. Some employers (7%) even use video surveillance to make sure their employees are doing their jobs, while 9% say they monitor their employees’ voicemail messages. 17% said they assign an individual to manually read and review employee emails.
The bottom line: it’s very likely your employer is watching you and every single thing you do at your workstation.
Employers are also firing employees based on misconduct discovered through electronic surveillance. Nearly a third of employers said they had fired workers for email misuse, including offensive language, excessive personal use, breach of confidentiality, etc. Nearly a third also said they had fired workers for Internet misuse including viewing pornography, excessive personal use, etc.
It appears the growing role emails play in lawsuits and regulatory investigations is at least partially to blame for the rise in employee surveillance. However, employers also seem to view surveillance as a tool to keep employee productivity high. What did the Italian philosopher Machiavelli say, “It’s better to be feared than loved”? Or maybe a quote from George Orwell’s 1984 is more appropriate here. Brazil, anyone?
Luckily, most employers (70% to 90%) notify their employees ahead of time that their activities are being monitored. For instance, 71% tell employees they are monitoring their emails. Of course, that means many employers don’t warn their employees of all, or even any, of their surveillance activities.
Could your employer be one of them? Better to be safe than sorry. If you have personal errands you need to conduct on your computer or phone at work, keep it to a minimum. Otherwise, you might find yourself looking for a new job. And NEVER communicate with your attorney (if you have one) from your work computer or phone. Otherwise, your communications may not be protected by attorney-client privilege.