Tweeting Instead of Working? 5 HR Tips for Workforce Monitoring

Written by: Christina Merhar
Published on April 14, 2015.

Do employees check Facebook too much at work? Are they using work email for personal business? Are they chatting friends instead of customers? You want to trust your employees, but as small business owners or managers we worry about how technology misuse impacts employee performance and security. In this article, we’ll discuss appropriate ways to keep tabs on employees’ technology use and we’ll outline five HR tips for workplace monitoring and surveillance.Workplace_Monitoring_and_Surveillance-1

Popular Types of Workplace Monitoring and Surveillance

Employers use workplace monitoring and surveillance to track employee technology use, safeguard data, and protect company brand. Types of workplace monitoring and surveillance vary industry to industry, and company to company, but may include:

  • Tracking email and internet use

  • Blocking websites

  • Monitoring social media and forum websites

  • Limiting video streaming

  • Recording phone calls

  • GPS tracking (ex: of company vehicles)

  • Physical building security

  • Data security

5 HR Tips for Workplace Monitoring and Surveillance

If these practices seem a little “Big Brother,” well, they can be. But, they can also be an important way to keep employees productive and protect your business. So, how do you strike a balance?

As you evaluate which monitoring and surveillance measures are right for your business, here are five HR tips to consider.

1. Identify Your Goals

First, what are your goals with monitoring or surveillance? Is it to improve productivity? Is it for data security? Is it to control your brand? Your goals can be reactive (ex: fix an issue) or proactive - but don’t just have a policy for policy’s sake. Make sure there is a goal and reason behind it.

2. Evaluate Policies

Next, brainstorm and evaluate policies to put into place. For example, if you want to monitor email usage, how will this be done? Consider both the pros and the cons of any given procedure, including whether the gain (ex: increased productivity) is worth the expense (ex: cost of email monitoring software).

Related: 6 Ways Small Business Human Resources Can Gain Employee Trust

3. Make Sure It’s Legal

Before you implement the policies, double check the practice is legal. The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) outlines do’s and don’ts for employer monitoring and surveillance, however also check with your state’s labor department for state-specific guidelines.

4. Put It In Writing

Next, document your workplace monitoring and surveillance policies. Policies should be documented in writing and can be included in your employee handbook or personnel policies and procedures.

5. Communicate to Employees the “What” and the “Why”

Lastly, communicate to employees your expectations for technology use, security, and workplace monitoring and surveillance policies and procedures. Explain not only the “what” but also the “why.” This will help employees understand the reasoning behind the policies, and the rules they need to follow.

Related: Small Business HR - 6 Tips for Effective Employee Communication


Workplace monitoring and surveillance can have big wins for small businesses including increased productivity and security. As you consider which types of programs to implement, remember to identify your goals, make sure it’s legal, have written procedures, and communicate expectations to employees.

Are you monitoring workforce technology use or using surveillance? What HR tips do you have? Leave a comment below.

Topics: Human Resources
Originally published on April 14, 2015. Last updated April 14, 2015.


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