Workplace Monitoring: Do it transparently

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As a business owner, workplace monitoring to keep an eye on employee activities is your prerogative when they are engaged in work for your café or restaurant. How you go about it will shape employee-management relationships, and could greatly influence productivity.

But here’s the rub: High-tech monitoring feels like a violation of privacy to some workers (no one wantstheir every mundane move recorded), while employers say such measures improve workplace safety and productivity while also helping to reduce theft, harassment or even discrimination.

And doing a job for hire isn’t a private matter—hence the fact that workplace monitoring is perfectly legal.

Typical restaurant monitoring includes security cameras, tracking software on point-of-sale systems, and sometimes phone-call monitoring. Experts recommend these tools because the more data that is available around such a suspicious event, the more likely it will be resolved quickly and accurately.

"It's not a question of whether companies should monitor," said Lewis Maltby, founder of the National Workrights Institute, which promotes employee privacy. "It's a question of how." His group advises companies to clearly explain how workers are watched and to make sure employees understand that monitoring is meant to keep them safe from potentially dangerous customers, not just to help keep an eye on them.

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A survey by the American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute showed that almost half of companies use video monitoring to counter theft, violence and sabotage. Of those, only 7% state they use video surveillance to track employees’ on-the-job performance. Most employers notify employees of anti-theft video surveillance (78%) and performance-related video monitoring (89%).

In terms of point-of-sale monitoring: many systems let you track when employees begin and end their shifts, and how many sales each of them makes, which may (or may not) indicate who’s working hard and who’s not. It’s enough information to help you pay close how each employee spends his/her time when you’re on site, and start a conversation with a low-sales employee about picking up the pace, if need be. After all, every employee who isn’t performing up to your standards is costing you real money — don’t you want to know when that’s happening?

Though you can’t be at your establishment 24-7, the most personable way to keep tabs on your business is by being a visible presence. If you’re engaged and know your staff on an individual basis, they’ll feel more accountable—and more valued. If you can’t get to your stores every day, hire a supervisor who can.