Following the ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that companies can monitor workers’ private online chats, Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, comments:
“The line between work and personal life is becoming increasingly blurred. We know that the working day rarely fits into a nine-to-five mould any more. Employees often respond to work emails on personal devices outside of usual working hours so it makes sense that, on occasion, they may want to engage in social correspondence during the working day on a work device. It’s about give and take and about trusting employees rather than creating a culture of surveillance and suspicion.
“This ruling is not a green light for businesses to start snooping on their employees. Our research has shown that excessive monitoring of employees by organisations often cultivates a culture of distrust and negatively impacts on their loyalty and commitment. Employees that feel under excessive surveillance are also more likely to suffer from stress, so there needs to be a clear case for monitoring. Organisations need to be transparent about if they are doing it and why; for example, being clear on the risks that the monitoring is designed to prevent. Employers should also set out clear rules around what personal use they do allow and what the limitations on this may be, such as the hours in which it is permitted.
“It’s about respect too and that goes both ways. As much as employees need to respect that certain rules are in place in order to protect businesses – in terms of reputation, data and productivity – employers need to treat their people with respect and provide some flexibility to help workers balance their personal and professional lives.”