The Importance of Privacy-Focused Monitoring In Light of COVID-19 Work Disruption

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the already-robust adoption rates for employee monitoring software. Prominent publications, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, have reported on this trend, and they have documented employees’ general unease about the practice.

Indeed, even before employees were relegated to their homes, many were uncomfortable with the idea of invasive and unbridled digital oversight. Now that people are working from their kitchen tables and living rooms, practices like always-on webcams, screen recording and activity oversight feel especially problematic.

Of course, remote work also poses several well-documented cybersecurity threats, increasing the impetus for organizations to adopt software solutions that can protect customer and enterprise data.

Simply put, it has never been more important to balance insider threat prevention with employee privacy. In a post-COVID-19 environment, this means doubling down on specificity and communication.

Today’s employee monitoring software comes with many capabilities, and there are seemingly endless product iterations to choose from. However, a pandemic is not the time to institute a broad-brush approach to monitoring. Instead, pick a purpose (like protecting enterprise data), and implement software policies that are appropriate for that task.

Right now, employee morale is collapsing, with 41% expressing feeling burned out in a recent Society for Human Resources Management survey. In addition to working longer hours and balancing more responsibilities than ever before, the perception of distrust or invasive oversight is unlikely to improve your organization’s standing.

Therefore, in addition to narrowing the scope of your monitoring initiative, prioritize clear communication about this program’s purpose and implementation. Rather than burying the details in a contract or a handbook, be upfront about employee monitoring and clearly communicate your standards. This undoubtedly includes:

  1. The purpose for new monitoring initiatives
  2. The software used to collect their data
  3. The plan for managing, securing and evaluating their information
  4. The expectations for personal data management and accessibility

Employee monitoring software is an effective tool for mitigating the risk of an insider threat contributing to a data breach. Especially now, when the costs and consequences of a data loss event have never been higher, organizations have every reason to take aggressive action to curtail this risk. Most importantly, it is possible to execute on this priority without compromising employee privacy.

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