At my last job, my manager would often wander into my cubicle and ask me questions. Some of these were normal questions like “What are you working on?” or “How’s everything going?” But then there were other times when I felt like he was trying to catch me doing something wrong so that he could reprimand me for it. At first, this kind of behavior seemed like an isolated incident—just one manager who had issues with boundaries in the workplace. But after moving on from that job and getting to another position at another company, it became clear that employee surveillance is much more widespread than I originally thought. 

The ubiquity of cameras in retail stores makes it impossible for us not to be aware when we’re being watched by someone else, but many companies also require employees to carry tracking devices or wear badges with GPS functionality on them at all times while they’re working. 

What is Employee Surveillance?

At its most basic, employee surveillance is the monitoring of employees’ activities at work. Employers may use video cameras, GPS devices, keystroke logging software, and biometric data to monitor their employees. They can also monitor internet use by installing software that blocks certain websites and tracks online behavior.

When it comes to employee surveillance, what you don’t know can hurt you—or your boss. When corporations implement a system of monitoring without informing their workers about it beforehand, they risk fostering distrust among their staff members and eventually losing them altogether.

Employee Surveillance has Increased Since Hybrid and Remote Work

According to a BBC article, employee surveillance has increased in the world of rising hybrid and remote work. The article looked at the effect of employee surveillance on trust, which is a key component of any successful organization.

In the past, company surveillance was more focused on the physical office. Nowadays, it’s much easier to monitor employees who work remotely or in hybrid positions.

For example, a remote employee may be required to keep their webcam on at all times. This makes it possible for the employer to know what timezone they’re in and if they’re logged into their work communication tools at any given time.

Additionally, some employers have installed software on remote employees’ computers that requires them to take periodic breaks from their computers and walk around for a few minutes every hour. The purpose of this is supposed to help prevent burnout caused by extended periods of sitting down without movement—but it also allows employers to track exactly how long each employee spends working each day and whether or not they are taking regular breaks.

What are the Benefits of Employee Surveillance?

There are several reasons why employers might choose to monitor their employees, which may include the following: 

Monitoring Burnout

It’s important for employers to make sure their employees are not at risk of burnout because it’s bad for both the employee and the business.

By monitoring employees’ activity levels, employers can identify areas where a particular job causes an employee stress or fatigue. For example, if an employee who normally works 9-5 suddenly starts working later than they normally do, it’s a good sign that they’re experiencing some kind of stress or fatigue.

Preventing Theft

As anyone who has worked in retail knows, employee theft is a big problem for many companies. Surveillance can help identify which employees should be investigated further and prevent major losses of money or sensitive information.

Preventing Workplace Abuse

Some companies allow their employees access to areas where they might pose a danger to others—such as warehouses full of heavy equipment and other safety hazards. They need ways to ensure that these workers aren’t at risk from their own actions or those of other employees around them, such as violence between coworkers over personal disputes outside work hours (including harassment). 

Getting More Done

It helps you get more done. When you can see what everyone is doing, it’s easier to assign work and find out when something needs to be done. That means less time wasted on unnecessary meetings and endless email threads and more time spent getting things done.

Working toward a Common Goal

Employee surveillance makes sure everyone is working hard towards a common goal by watching each other’s progress over time (or lack thereof). This means that if someone isn’t pulling their weight, it will become apparent sooner rather than later—and then steps can be taken to address the issue before any damage is done.

Monitoring Productivity

Employee surveillance is a great way to monitor productivity. It can help you keep track of how much time your employees are spending on their projects and what they’re doing while they’re working, which can give you an idea of how productive they are.

If you want to know if your employees are taking advantage of the time they have off, or if they’re spending too much of it on non-work activities, then employee surveillance will help you out. You’ll be able to see where employees are spending their time, and whether or not that’s where they should be spending it.

It helps you keep track of your employees’ work productivity, so you can make sure they’re doing what they should be.

What are the Drawbacks of Employee Surveillance?

Employee surveillance is a controversial practice that’s becoming more common. But what are the drawbacks of employee surveillance?

Employee Mistrust is Deterrent to Surveillance

It’s possible that employee mistrust could be a deterrent to surveillance. If an employer is monitoring the employee’s movements, this can create a divide between them and their employer. They may feel as though their privacy is being invaded, or that the employer doesn’t trust them enough to allow some privacy in the workplace. Monitoring should always have a purpose and goal in mind; if it’s done without one, it may be counter-productive.

Monitoring Employees Leads to Breaking More Rules

The problem with surveillance is that it creates a mindset of mistrust. According to a Harvard study, monitoring employees leads to employees breaking more rules as compared to those that aren’t. The finding reveals that such employees are more likely to cheat on tests, work at a rather slower pace and even steal.

It can be Costly

Employee surveillance is expensive. It requires hiring additional staff members or outsourcing your monitoring efforts, which costs money. And then there are other expenses like hardware upgrades and software licenses that you’ll need to budget for as well.

It’s Invasive

Employees don’t like being watched all the time, and when they know that their actions are being monitored and recorded, it can make them feel like they’re being treated like criminals. This can lead to stress and anxiety.

Breach of Privacy

Employees have a right to privacy, and as such, employers should not be monitoring their communications or video recording them without their consent. This can also lead to legal trouble.

A Hostile Work Environment

Monitoring creates a hostile work environment because it makes employees feel like they aren’t trusted by management. If you’re constantly being watched while on the job, it’s easy to start feeling like your employer doesn’t trust you—and this can lead to low morale and productivity problems as well as loss of loyalty toward the company.

Increased Turnover

The main reason people leave a company is that they don’t feel like they fit in or are appreciated. If employees know you’re watching their every move, it can make them feel like they’re not trusted and valued by their employer. This can lead to feelings of resentment and distrust, which might make them want to look for a new job. And hence, can lead to a higher turnover rate.

How can Employers Prevent Workplace Abuse from Happening in the First Place?

Have a Clear Policy

First, employers should have a clear policy on workplace surveillance. The employer should make it clear what surveillance methods are being used to protect employees and the company, but also to make sure that employees are behaving appropriately in the workplace. This is important because it’s natural for people to feel uncomfortable around cameras, especially if there isn’t a clear reason for them to be there. 

Be Transparent

Second, employers should be transparent about their use of surveillance. If you choose not to tell your employees about the fact that there are cameras in place throughout your building or office space, this could end up costing you more than just a few stolen pens—it could cost you money by way of lawsuits from disgruntled former employees who felt harassed by being monitored constantly without knowing it.

Train Your Employees

Employers need to train them to use the surveillance software properly and ensure that they are comfortable with it. It should also educate them on where they are not being surveilled and why that is the case.

When is it Okay For Employers to Conduct Workplace Surveillance?

Now that you know what workplace surveillance is and why it’s being used, let’s take a look at when it’s okay for employers to conduct workplace surveillance.


Watching your employees work can help ensure their safety and protect them from harm. If there is a dangerous situation in your workplace, like a chemical spill or fire, it may be necessary for the employer to monitor their employees’ activities on camera so they can respond quickly in an emergency.

Preventing Employee Stress

Burnout and stress are serious issues in the workplace, and they can lead to high turnover rates, decreased productivity, and even absenteeism. By monitoring your employees’ work habits and keeping tabs on their emotional health, you can help them avoid burnout. You can also use this information to intervene before they reach the point where they are so tired that they need to take time off.

Criminal activity

If you suspect criminal activity on your premises, such as theft or fraud by an employee, video monitoring can provide evidence of those crimes which may be helpful for law enforcement when they investigate them further.

How Much Surveillance is Too Much?

The answer to this question depends on your company’s goals and culture, but it is possible to gauge whether your surveillance practices are in line with the expectations of employees. If your team feels like they’re being monitored all the time, or that their privacy isn’t respected, that could be a sign you should take some steps back.

If you’re worried about how much control you have over your employees’ lives, remember that there’s a difference between monitoring what they do at work and monitoring private information like personal emails or phone calls outside of work hours. It can be helpful for employees to know what kind of activity will trigger alerts sent straight to HR—so they know where the boundaries lie. This kind of transparency will help build trust among coworkers and managers alike—and keep everyone on good terms with one another!

Are employers’ concerns justified?

If you’re an employer, it’s your responsibility to protect your business. You can’t just let employees do whatever they want on company time and expect that everything will be okay.

You need to know what your employees are doing at work and if their performance is up to par. And if it’s not, then you have the right to hold them accountable for their actions.

But there has been some backlash against this practice of monitoring employee activity in the workplace because many people feel like it’s an invasion of privacy. However, those who support monitoring employee activity say that employers have every right to protect themselves from bad behavior or insubordination.

To Sum Up Employee Surveillance

In the end, employers need to take steps to ensure that their employees feel like they’re being treated fairly and with respect. In some ways employee monitoring can breed a sense of distrust in the workplace, but only if employees feel as though their activities at work and outside of hours are being monitored for no reason.

If, however, an employee finds that clear policies have been established, and enforcement is consistent and fair, then there is much less chance that feelings of distrust will set in.