This blog is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center

Surprisingly, the concept of employee monitoring has been around for centuries with some of the earliest versions of monitoring capturing the length of time an employee used for lunch or a bathroom break (The Economist, 2022). However, in recent years, the monitoring of employees has increased dramatically due to technological advances. In fact, according to the American Management Associate (2019), almost 80% of organizations in the U.S. monitor employees using some form of technology. Employees can be monitored by email content, webcams, internet browser tracking, keyboard and mouse activity, and exclusive, third-party software such as ActivTrak (Hunter, 2021).

Given its prevalence in the workplace, managers need to be conscious of how employees feel about being monitored. In a recent survey of over 600 respondents, my research team and I discovered a lack of internal communication around employee monitoring and its purposes. This led to employer distrust, which impacted engagement and productivity. Therefore, management needs to prioritize internal communication and listening mechanisms for feedback when it comes to employee monitoring. Below I outline a few more suggestions to navigate this delicate topic so that it benefits the employee and the employer.

First, strategic internal programming needs to be a priority for organizations. Specifically, opportunities for feedback need to be available to employees so they can exercise their voice around concerns or potential system improvements. Managers should also be checking in with employees to make sure the monitoring systems are accurately capturing an employee’s work and productivity. In our study, we found that employees often do additional work to update the monitoring system with accomplished tasks, which requires more, yet counterproductive work. Therefore, management need to be checking in and making sure employees are not inundated with extra tasks to meet the needs of a monitoring system. 

Second, the employee onboarding experience should provide ample details regarding the monitoring practices of an organization. Specifically, what is management doing with the information, why is monitoring required, what is exactly being monitored and how, should all be addressed during orientation sessions. These sessions should also be centered around an open dialogue that allows employees to ask questions and express concerns. If an open forum is not ideal for any employee, then anonymous feedback mechanisms need to be available for all employees to privately share their thoughts and feelings.

Third, management should continue to revisit the impetus for employee monitoring to ensure it is still a required, ethical practice. These management conversations might require addressing difficult topics such as whether they trust their employees and how could trust be improved within an organization. If changes are made to employee monitoring processes, employees should be notified immediately to ensure they are up-to-speed on all organizational changes.

Until organizations are willing to fully relinquish control, employee monitoring is not going away anytime soon. Therefore, managers need to be committed to an open dialogue around such organizational practices so employees can trust their employers. This is the only way that these practices will enhance and not hinder an organization.


American Management Association (2019, April 8). The latest on workplace monitoring and surveillance.

The Economist (2021, April 8). The rise of working from home.

Hunter, T. (2021, September 24). Here are all the ways your boss can legally monitor you. The Washington Post.

Laura L. Lemon, Ph.D. is an associate professor at the University of Alabama in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations. She can be reached at

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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