2011
06.01

Technology is providing employers with more insight into how employees perform their jobs. Often, this type of monitoring can rack up big savings for businesses. For instance, fleet-management systems can determine if a truck is being idled unnecessarily, or if a construction worker leaves a jobsite before quitting time. But these systems also have the potential to create anxiety for workers about being tracked.

Could the overuse of these systems create a culture of distrust and fear in a workplace? I think that is a real possibility, but it does not have to occur. Employee monitoring systems are extremely useful tools that can provide real value to an organization. The key is not to take it too far. Take, for example, the recent announcement of a system called Timecard GPS by Econz Wireless.

Timecard GPS is a mobile timecard app for cellphones that allows workers to log their time and attendance via their phones. The information can be confirmed using GPS coordinates, so if the employee says he is at work at a certain time, the app will know if that is true.

This seems like a useful tool, and a great way to accurately track employee hours. It could also serve as a morale boost, because employees who show up on time won’t resent those who waltz in a half-hour late every day.

But I can see where a system similar to this one has the potential to be abused by management. The GPS function could possibly be used to track an employee’s exact location at any time during the day, for no real reason. This seems too much like an overbearing use of technology, and in some cases wouldn’t serve any purpose except to make employees constantly fearful of being monitored.

I can imagine scenarios where that type of constant tracking would be useful: lone workers who need monitoring for safety, or workers who travel to remote locations, perhaps to repair an oil pipeline. But for many employees, constant tracking is not needed.

Like any new technology, employee monitoring needs to be used along with common sense and some empathy for how workers will feel while being tracked. An organization’s people are often its greatest asset.

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