We were recently approached by a client for guidance in regards to implementing workplace surveillance strategies. Their particular concern related to a work from home employee who, they suspected, may have been “taking it a bit too easy”. While they are considering implementing some form of monitoring to determine computer use by the employee, it’s important to recognise that surveillance can take multiple forms, including but not limited to: surveillance of emails, phone and computer use, monitoring activity via the use of security cameras, and tracking the location (via GPS) of vehicles and devices.

The use of workplace surveillance comes with a myriad of considerations, so our first piece of advice is to proceed with caution. Matters to be considered include:

Strategic: what’s the aim of the surveillance, what problem are you trying to solve, are the potential benefits worth the costs and potential implications, are there other options for addressing the issue?

Technological/logistical issues: what systems/technologies are required, what are the initial and ongoing costs, who will administer the system, review the information etc…?

Legal / risk issues: for example, NSW requires that employees are given advance notice of the use of surveillance strategies/technologies. Consideration should also be given to requirements to consult, supportive policies required, necessary adjustments to employment contracts, onboarding practices etc…

Privacy: Be sure to check requirements. In NSW for example, employers must adhere to strict guidelines regarding the monitoring of employees, including who can view or access surveillance data, what it’s used for, and how it is stored.

Workplace culture: Even if you manage to successfully wade through the issues highlighted above, there’s the impact of surveillance strategies upon workplace culture to be considered. Inevitably, the introduction of such strategies raises potentially difficult issues relating to the level of trust within workplaces, the impact of which cannot be underestimated. This ABC article provides some interesting insight in this regard.

So what’s our take on it all? As we said in the headline, “proceed with caution”: take your time, consider the myriad of issues involved and be sure to consult and communicate effectively throughout. Also explore alternatives: beyond recording keystrokes and taking periodic “happy snaps” of your remote workers who are hopefully in front of their computers, are there other measures of productivity /work value that would be more effective, relevant and/or palatable?

Give us a call if you’d like to discuss….