I have an employee who hasn’t been performing well. She always has an excuse. Last week, she was out sick again and I needed a report that I know she’d received from a client. I tried to call her, but she didn’t answer. So, I asked IT if I could get the report from her email, and they gave me access to her inbox. I found the report, but curiosity overcame me, and I opened a few other emails with subject lines that caught my eye. Turns out that my employee has been doing a lot of non-work related things at work.

If it was her work email on a work computer, which it sounds like it was, and since your IT department was able to give you access, then you’re probably legally good. Everyone should always assume that 100% of their work computer usage is monitored, even if employees are accessing their private email account.

employee email snooping hiringplug blog hrMost companies and most managers don’t care one whit about the drama in your family that unfolds on your private email, but if you choose to log in to your professional account, that becomes something the company can see. The courts have consistently held that companies (i.e. managers) have the right to read their employees’ emails — even in employee-friendly states like California, USA.
Email monitoring is a necessary evil in the modern workplace.
Businesses face an increasing number of cybersecurity threats – ranging from data theft to malicious software – which can slip through the cracks of a poorly monitored communication system. And while it’s common for IT departments to focus on external attacks, 90% of organisations also recognise they are vulnerable to insider threats, a 2018 report from Cybersecurity Insiders showed.

Companies, therefore, have the right to keep a close watch on workplace communications.
It’s no longer a question of whether employers have access to employee emails and chats – but of how and to what extent.


So, What and How do companies monitor employee data?

Email surveillance is typically done by reviewing server logs and monitoring user activity. Wifi and keyword strokes are also monitored in many cases.Sometimes, employers instruct the IT Department to perform audits manually by pulling up the “history” and, in some cases, even the contents of an individual mailbox. This is mostly done, however, when there is already a suspicious pattern of activity emerging.

Most companies however, implement automated software that can do any of the following:
  • Measure the total number of outgoing and incoming emails by team member
  • Provide administrators and managers with the contents of all emails
  • Record the typing, attachment, and opening of messages for visual playback
  • Save a copy of all messages and their attachments
  • Log keystrokes to determine suspicious activity even while the draft is being composed
  • Take screenshots of the user’s email environment
  • Send administrators and managers alerts based on the subject, content, sender, and recipient, especially when a user is communicating with external contacts and non-corporate accounts
emploee email snooping hiringplug blog hr

Transparency is always a good practice. Since many employees may feel uncomfortable being monitored, it's important to be forthcoming about what you hope to accomplish and how surveillance aligns with your business's goals. In fact, transparency can make employees more willing to subject themselves to different methods of monitoring and tracking.

Employers have the burden of protecting that information, even that which comes from an employee's personal browsing history or private data stored on a company computer. If a data breach were to occur, for example, and certain sensitive information was exposed, it leaves the company vulnerable to litigation by the employee. Finally, it is universally proven that ... 

“Trust is the ultimate currency. It’s the path to innovation and fuels growth by unlocking people’s potential.”
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