Woman working remotely.

Is it illegal to track your employees’ activities when they’re working from home?

Along with the surge of people working from home or in hybrid situations over the last few years, there has also been an increase in employers looking for ways to monitor their employees’ work activities to ensure they actually ARE working when remote.

This is no surprise given the new “quiet quitting” trend that has now evolved into “Bare Minimum Mondays” and “Try Less Tuesdays.” Sadly, some employees are taking advantage of working remotely as a way of working less.

Of course, not all remote employees are slackers. Other reasons why employers might monitor employees include to ensure procedure is being followed, to reduce or assess loss of business or even to prevent hacking or other cyber security threats that could attack the business’ systems, to name a few.

This is why organisations have turned to technology, in particular to software tools that can be installed on employees’ workstations and laptops to monitor their activity, both while in the office and remote.

Not only will these tools provide insights into productivity and where employees are spending their time, an employer can also see when someone checks in to work and leaves for the day. These apps can also help in ensuring employees aren’t surfing inappropriate websites during work hours using company resources.

While many people are against monitoring, it is legal in the UK, provided there is a legitimate reason to do so. After all, any monitoring software will collect employee data which means organisations need to comply with the GDPR.

Three recommendations

If you are thinking of rolling out employee-monitoring software, here are a few recommendations.

  1. Let your employees know you WILL be monitoring them, and how, before rolling out any monitoring activities. In order to comply with the GDPR, employees should be informed that they are being monitored. Also, being totally transparent about what you are monitoring and why is important to establishing and maintaining trust with your employees. Most people would be very upset to discover you were monitoring them without their knowledge, not to mention that only a handful of exceptions apply to justify covert monitoring, according to the GDPR.
  2. Put in writing what is and isn’t allowed during work hours and on company-owned assets. If you don’t want employees visiting what you deem as inappropriate websites and mixing personal activities with work activities on company-owned devices, let them know that. If they work from home, set guidelines such as start and end times for work and how long and how frequently they can take breaks, detailing when they need to be available (at work). No one likes getting a speeding ticket when there’s no speed limit signs posted. Be absolutely clear on your expectations and put them in writing so there’s no risk of “You never told me that…” happening.
  3. Get legal advice before implementing any kind of monitoring software, cameras or activities. If you have any doubts about what kind of monitoring is allowed, it’s best to consult a legal expert or reach out to the ICO. In fact, you should start by reading this guide for SMEs about monitoring employees in a GDPR-compliant way.

So, while it’s legal to monitor employees, you still need to be mindful of employment laws and data and privacy protection of the employees you monitor.

Need help implementing a more secure and productive remote workplace? Click here or call us on 0333 234 4288 to schedule a quick call to discuss your options and to get ideas on how we can help you and your entire team be productive and safe, no matter where or how you choose to work.

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