Are Office Surveillance Cameras a Good Idea?

You can’t personally monitor everything that occurs at your place of business. Increasingly, small-business owners are turning to surveillance systems to keep them apprised of what’s happening when they aren’t around, according to the American Management Association. In its most recent survey, the group found that 48 percent of employers use video monitoring in the workplace.

But is setting up cameras to spy on your employees and customers a good idea? Before you install any surveillance gear, consider the possible legal ramifications of doing so — as well as the advantages and disadvantages of keeping an eye on your employees and customers.

Legal Issues

The rules around the legality of workplace surveillance cameras differ by state. Some states only allow you to monitor public areas, and places such as employee lounges are off-limits. Most states disallow monitoring areas where an employee has a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as restrooms and locker rooms.

Even in states with no privacy legislation, courts have ruled in favor of employees when the employers did not provide enough evidence that the need for surveillance overrode workers’ rights to privacy. Before installing cameras, it’s best to contact an experienced employment lawyer.

The Advantages

Installing security cameras in your workplace may give you two big advantages: If employees know that the cameras are there, surveillance can help prevent inappropriate and illegal behavior. If they don’t know that the cameras are there, you can catch any illegal activity and, if necessary, provide valuable evidence to police.

Here are three common problems that security cameras can help manage:

1. Adherence to company policy — Even the smallest successful businesses maintain a formal set of policies and procedures for employees to follow, both for dealing with customers and for creating the products or services the business sells. Watching camera footage of how your staff members perform their duties can give you insight into how well they are adhering to the standards that you set. It can also highlight where you need to make changes to your policies.

2. Theft and shrinkage — As a small-business owner, you probably don’t want to have to think about employee theft. But you need to consider it. Here’s why: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that employee theft costs employers between $20 billion and $40 billion a year. Theft can happen in many ways, from outright stealing from the cash register to “borrowing” inventory from the back room. Cameras can deter employee theft and catch employees in the act. However, the best way to prevent employee theft is to build a solid set of internal controls that does not give any employee both access to the physical assets of your business and the authority to account for them.

3. Harassment — Stopping inappropriate employee behavior is your responsibility. Harassment (sexual and otherwise) is taken very seriously by the courts, and employers may be held liable for providing an environment in which it’s allowed to happen. Security cameras set up in staff areas, such as kitchens and lounges, help to reinforce the company’s commitment to disallowing such behavior. They can also bolster or discredit an employee’s claim of harassment, so that it doesn’t become a “he said, she said” situation. Check to ensure that your state allows videotaping in staff areas like these. Alternatively, your state may allow monitoring of email or telephone communications between employees.

The Disadvantages

Some small-business owners choose not to install security cameras in their companies. It can create an environment of distrust that may impact employee performance and retention. Informing employees that they will be videotaped to ensure that they aren’t thieves can signal that you don’t trust them to handle their jobs. This is especially true for workplaces that try to foster creativity and free thinking. If an employee has to be concerned about having every motion monitored, she is less likely to be thinking out of the box or coming up with creative solutions. The ultimate result may be less productivity.

About Angie Mohr

Angie Mohr is a Chartered Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and financial consultant. She has worked with thousands of clients over the years from mom and pop startups to rock bands and celebrity chefs. She is the author of the best-selling Numbers 101 for Small Business series of books and writes for Forbes, MSNBC, the Globe & Mail, Yahoo! Finance, Investopedia, and Motley Fool, among other financial publications. Her new book, Piggy Banks to Paychecks, helps parents teach their children how to be money smart. She splits her time between Canada and the United States and currently lives by the ocean with her husband and two children, who have finally learned that money doesn’t grow on trees. For more, go to www.piggybanks2paychecks.com.
This entry was posted in Employees and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.
14 comments
mranggendemak
mranggendemak

good camera.. thank's for posting,are u know that Camera.co.id Toko Kamera Murah di Indonesia adalah Toko Kamera di Indonesia yg Murah dan berijin resmi dr Indonesia & Camera.co.id Toko Kamera di Indonesia yg terpercaya http://www.mranggendemak.blogspot.com/2013/11/cameracoid-toko-kamera-murah-di.html Camera.co.id Toko Kamera Murah di Indonesia www.mranggendemak.blogspot.com/2013/11/cameracoid-toko-kamera-murah-di.html Toko Kamera di Indonesia Murah Camera.co.id Toko Kamera resmi berijin di Indonesia mranggendemak.blogspot.com/2013/11/cameracoid-toko-kamera-murah-di.html berijin resmi dari dept dagang Indonesia mranggendemak Toko Kamera di Indonesia yg Murah dan berijin resmi di Indonesia

camera geek
camera geek

Surveillance cams have its pros and cons but one thing's for sure, it's for everybody's security! I mean if your dishonest, up to no good, employee/client then seeing surveillance cams wired to a monitor can give you a second thought to do the "deed"! We've seen too many police reports that could not have gone from bad to worst if only there is security cam installed, right? Good article.

john wilson
john wilson

interesting read & have listed out the benefits, disadvantages of cameras at work place.

Swansea Photographer
Swansea Photographer

I'm a business owner and I think cameras on your workers is an invasion of privacy personally, sure have them for security to monitor theft but anything else shows a lack of trust in your workforce etc.. its bad for business full stop!

tomkabra
tomkabra

Yes. This is because we are all humans. There will, therefore, be lazy employees or even thieves among employees. I think it is still a good idea to do so...but not to overdo it. Try to leave some places unmonitored to give room for some privacy.

masonhawdon08
masonhawdon08

Yes! They’re great to catch employees who are just loafing around

 

8 camera dvrs
8 camera dvrs

CCTV systems and monitoring methods have developed recently, and today systems incorporate many techniques from infra red cameras with motion sensors to alarms as well as electronic tracking devices.So I think its a good idea.

CCTV
CCTV

www,.cctv.com

CCTV
CCTV

Excellent post!

Whitney Wells
Whitney Wells

Well for me, I want to install cameras so that my worker will work. Able to stop procrastination and mentioned in the article to help prevent illegal activities in my company. Thank you for sharing the article now I know what's the advantage and disadvantage in installing a camera in your workspace.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] security camera can give you valuable information about the way that your staff interacts with your customers or clients on the job. This can be extremely useful in training and improving your business and your customer service. [...]

  2. [...] out that 48 percent of employers use video monitoring in the workplace. If used effectively, video surveillance helps curb thefts in office, checks inappropriate behavior, and provides insights into the ways [...]