Privacy – everyone values it. Workplace privacy is no different. Though employees work for organisations using the resources, equipment and premises provided by the employers, they expect certain privacy. Respecting employees’ privacy is part of the modern-day organisation’s culture. This makes employees feel secure thereby making them more loyal to the organisation.

It is common that employees spend at least a part of their work time in checking and sending personal e-mails or engaging in personal phone calls. ‘Personal’ indicates that it has got nothing to do with their job.

Employers usually would want to monitor such activities. It is because they believe that monitoring enhances productivity. However, employees feel that having workplace privacy to a certain extent is their right. This, they feel, is justified because they spend most of their waking hours at the workplace.

There are many aspects that employers need to know about their employees to ensure that they are faithful to their official commitments. Moreover, they believe that monitoring will enhance employee productivity.

Employers want to be completely confident that their employees are dedicated and committed to their jobs and employees feel frustrated about their every single movement being logged or monitored. They detest intrusion of employers into their privacy under the guise of ensuring productivity of employees. The conflict in workplace monitoring lies in this fact.

Telephone monitoring, computer monitoring, electronic mail, voice mail and postal mail monitoring, social media monitoring and video monitoring are the different forms of monitoring that employers may deploy.

Tracking the computer for Internet use, messaging, online chatting is the main form of monitoring. Employers may also impose restriction on the use of telephone. They may give limited access to use telephone and the calls may be registered or tracked. This implies that employers can view the list of numbers employees dial during work hours. Some companies prefer blocking content. This, they do by blocking certain websites such as social networking sites instead of monitoring the employees in other embarrassing ways. A few other companies allow employees to access these sites during a specific time of the day.

Some employers also record the idle time of the employee by monitoring the duration the employee is away from using the computer. Video recording is another method employers use to prevent theft and other illegal acts of employees. This can also help employers to provide security for the workforce. When employees know that there is surveillance by employers over their workplace activities, they do not indulge in inappropriate surfing, theft, fraud, harassment, violence and any other form of disruption.

Employees should be wise enough to understand that employers always monitor their workplace activities. Simply put, employers have legal right to monitor all employer-provided gadgets including computers and mobile phones, unless specified otherwise. It is always fair for employers to put their workplace privacy policies across to the employees at the time of induction. Similarly, employees need to procure information with respect to workplace privacy policies of the company before they sign the offer letter.

In a nutshell, employers and employees should maintain moderation in managing privacy decently and in a mutually respectful manner. Ultimately it is not monitoring the privacy but such moderation and ethics that bring in harmony to the employer-employee relationship.

V. Sandhya Srikanth