As new electronic monitoring policies come into effect across Ontario, one University of Guelph human resources professor says the changes should benefit both employers and employees.
Dr. Nita Chhinzer is a professor in the Department of Management at the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics. An expert in human resource management, workplace restructuring and technology, she studies employment law and organizational strategy.
“The more standards and transparency we have, the more likely it is that both employers and employees will abide by the rules,” Chhinzer says of Ontario’s Working for Workers Act. The legislation mandates companies with more than 25 employees to disclose their electronic monitoring policies to workers.
These types of policies, says Chhinzer, are likely to reflect what many employers are currently doing and enable them to solidify ad hoc measures implemented at the start of the pandemic.
“As workers left the workplace in the move to remote work, organizations didn’t have a lot of time to think strategically about the use of technology in the workplace. There wasn’t the longevity that we now associate with remote work,” she explains. “In this digital world, we need to have digital workplace rules.”
Companies implement and communicate employee monitoring policies for multiple reasons, including ensuring legal compliance, formalizing existing measures or validating concerns about employee performance, she says. Some employers may view the legislation as a way to control workers.
“Employers are looking to see not only how frequently and when you work but also if you are accessing content that shouldn’t be accessed, sharing organization secrets, using work computers for personal reasons or using the mandated software like VPN,” she says. “Those challenges existed before and will continue to happen regardless of whether people are working remotely.”
Balancing employee and employer rights
The policies balance an employee’s Right to Disconnect and the employer’s right to know, says Chhinzer.
“Employees have the right to have their private time delineated from their work time, but they have the responsibility to communicate when they are not available,” she explains. “Similarly, employers have the right to expect employees to be where they are when they say they are and to use the workplace devices for exclusively workplace reasons. Employers also have a responsibility to communicate expectations clearly.”
Just as organizations can use electronic monitoring policies to ensure employees aren’t misusing devices, vehicles or time, employees are entitled to know how they’re being evaluated and what the rules are, says Chhinzer.
“Collectively, these types of rules increase transparency overall in the workplace and clarify expectations.”
Chhinzer is available for interviews.
Dr. Nita Chhinzer