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Is it Ethical To Monitor Remote Employees?

— June 19, 2020

Your team might not be thrilled with the thought of increased monitoring right off the bat, but it’s crucial for you to understand your goals, the effort it will take and the pros and cons of increased monitoring before diving into a full-blown remote monitoring policy.

Many businesses turned to remote work as a way to support employee health and safety while keeping operations afloat. Although some businesses are choosing to gradually send their employees back to the office, many employees want to continue working from home after the current climate settles.

Managing remote workers is much different than managing on-site employees. The lack of face-to-face interaction can take a toll on employee engagement, security, and productivity if not addressed proactively and directly. Managers can solve employee engagement issues by employing different types of communication methods. Solving for security and productivity, on the other hand, calls for more complex solutions that may involve some forms of remote monitoring for your team.

Your team might not be thrilled with the thought of increased monitoring right off the bat, but it’s crucial for you to understand your goals, the effort it will take and the pros and cons of increased monitoring before diving into a full-blown remote monitoring policy.

Remote Monitoring Best Practices

You’ll need to do some leg work to ensure you’re doing everything you can to. Here are just some things you’ll need to do when considering a remote work policy:

  • Engage your team throughout the process: It’s a best practice to at least speak with your team to get their thoughts before beginning on the process. Letting your team give their input early allows you to hear and address any fears and concerns they may have while also educating them on your goals.
  • Test out tools: There are a number of monitoring tools on the market that range in price and features. Choose a program that aligns with your goals, budget and falls in line with what your employees are comfortable with based on their early feedback. You should also allow a small group of your team to test out the tools ahead of time to see how they like it.
  • Train your team and account for learning curves: New technology and policies take some time to adjust. Factor in time for training sessions and the time it takes for everyone to get settled.
  • Readjust as ongoing feedback comes in: Some may have different opinions of your monitoring software or your new policies as they’re put in motion. Make employees comfortable enough to share any grievances with you, especially if it relates to serious issues like privacy.
  • Consider other protections: We don’t like to consider it, but things like employee theft and other types of employee dishonesty can happen despite a robust monitoring policy. Hiring a business lawyer to advise you throughout the process of putting together a monitoring program can help you understand your options if you find a dishonest employee and advise on other things you can do to protect your business if that happens. Other protections like fidelity bonds financially protect you and your clients or customers if an employee commits fraud or other dishonest acts.

Now that you understand what you’ll need to do, it’s time to also consider the pros and cons of a remote monitoring system.


Increased monitoring removes the uncertainty of what your employees are doing throughout the day and can track many things, like:

  • What sites your employees visit
  • What files your employees access
  • How much time they spend on projects
  • How long they’ve been away from their desk

From a project management perspective, it helps you understand how time is spent, if employee work loads should shift and if budgets need to shift if anything is over or under budget. It can also cut down the time spent tracking down things like time sheets or checking in on how much time each employee spent on different tasks.

Sophisticated monitoring software also allows you to limit employee access to sensitive files and inappropriate websites. This can protect your company from data breaches, whether they’re intentional or unintentional. It also ensures that employees don’t navigate away to social media or other sites.


The obvious cons are that you may lose employee trust and employee morale can take a hit. If employees aren’t clear on why you’ve chosen to monitor them, they may interpret it as a lack of trust between you and them. Some employees may simply feel uncomfortable with their employer monitoring their online activity and their productivity may suffer. These are grievances that you should hopefully address ahead of time if you’ve kept communication open.

You can also run into legal trouble if you aren’t aware of employee rights to privacy and other related laws. You may unintentionally not be in compliance with certain security laws or have employees who unlawfully access information they shouldn’t. To address at least some grievances and confusion, you should not hide the fact that you are monitoring your employees or you can quickly put yourself in hot water.

When putting together your policy and choosing your tools, you should: stay transparent, consult with a business attorney and HR professional, and keep an open line of communication with your team.

Now that you understand everything that goes into a policy, you can use this flowchart below to help you decide whether or not remote employee monitoring is the right move for your business. This chart walks you through simple questions to pinpoint your reasons for wanting to increase monitoring and whether or not it’s the best solution. 

Please include attribution to JW Surety Bonds with this graphic.

remote employee monitoring flowchart

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