Big Brother Works 9 to 5

High-tech surveillance in the workplace is on the rise

In what reads eerily like a corporate version of George Orwell’s 1984, companies are increasingly using high-tech gadgetry to monitor the professional lives of their workers. Whether it’s the taping of phone conversations, reviewing of e-mail or hidden video cameras, Big Brother is definitely watching you.

A 1998 American Management Association report, Electronic Monitoring and Surveillance, found that 67% of the organizations surveyed (vs. 63% in 1997) practice some form of electronic monitoring and surveillance of workplace activities.

The three main reasons cited were: performance evaluation (i.e., customer service staff), compliance with federal and local laws in regulated industries (i.e., brokerage, banking and insurance) and cost-control measures to track employees who surf the Net or dial 900 numbers at company expense.

Financial services providers and large companies (those with 2,500 employees or more) are most likely to monitor their employees. However, 93% of firms do inform their staff about their policies.

According to the AMA report, while nearly two-thirds of surveyed organizations practice some form of monitoring, 43% actually tape phone conversations, store and review voice mail messages, computer files and e-mail, and/or videotape employee performance.

So before you take a 10-minute “power nap” at your desk or send an e-mail to a buddy across town, glance over your shoulder. Someone might just be watching.

ACROSS THE WEB