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Monitoring employees - what's ok, what's too much?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Should employers be allowed to view text messages and called phone numbers on cell phones given to employees for company business?

Should an employer monitor how much time an employee leaves her desk to go smoke? (or whatever, if it's outside the 15 min. breaktime, just so as not to be prejudicial against smoking). Should excessive leaving the desk be considered time theft? How about personal phone calls - how many per hour should be allowed?

I am asking in the context of a minimum wage employee working for a husband/wife team that currently assists lower income people needing legal help. To me, too much snooping would cause tension (bad for the harmony of a business that is dealing with lives in chaos) however, the lack of dedication and performance limits the ability of the business to give quality work .

Also, if you were making minimum wage, is it okay to resent doing the menial tasks, such as the endless filing of papers; vacuuming & emptying trash? Or should the wife do those things, since the business pays her more??
post #2 of 14
For me were all there to do a job not to get freebies, but the majority of us do, i do

Our salesmen don't get charged because we have quite a good contract with the network were with and theres quite a lot of hours free along with free texts.

With regards to smoking, because it's now a no smoking rule in the UK, but it really annoys us who don't smoke at work, because the ones that do step outside the premises for a quick cigarette that lasts 10-15 minutes. Weve argued that they should clock their time cards everytime they step out, but management have never forced the issue

The menial tasks, i've done those as well even though we have a cleaner. I like to clean my own desk because i know it'll get done properly, and although she empties my bin, if it needs emptied before she comes in then i'll do it because i hate clutter.

Theres too many people who say "That's not my job!". And it's like i always say "If your not happy then you know where the door is!"
post #3 of 14
Quote:
Should employers be allowed to view text messages and called phone numbers on cell phones given to employees for company business?
It depends. Is this phone for business use only? If so, yes they should. They are paying for the service on that phone for business use and not the personal use of the employee. Texting and personal phone calls can add a great deal to that phone bill if they are excessive. Remember, it is a company owned phone for company business. Would you allow that same company to use your personal cell phone for texting and business calls??
Quote:
Should an employer monitor how much time an employee leaves her desk to go smoke? (or whatever, if it's outside the 15 min. breaktime, just so as not to be prejudicial against smoking). Should excessive leaving the desk be considered time theft? How about personal phone calls - how many per hour should be allowed?
Again yes. An employee is being paid to work, not take excessive breaks or to sit and talk to friends or family on the phone. Personal phone calls are ok, as long as you are getting the work done that is expected of you.
Quote:
Also, if you were making minimum wage, is it okay to resent doing the menial tasks, such as the endless filing of papers; vacuuming & emptying trash? Or should the wife do those things, since the business pays her more??
You can resent it, but the employeer is paying you to work and this includes doing these tasks you may find as being menial. Being paid minimum wage doesn't mean you do a minimum amout of work. However, if you are doing the majority of the work, that is a different story. Hope this helps
post #4 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by catsknowme View Post
Should employers be allowed to view text messages and called phone numbers on cell phones given to employees for company business?
The company is responsible for the equipment and therefore has the right to inspect the phone for any usage. The company needs to make sure that the phone is being used according to its needs and requirements.

Quote:
Originally Posted by catsknowme View Post
Should an employer monitor how much time an employee leaves her desk to go smoke? (or whatever, if it's outside the 15 min. breaktime, just so as not to be prejudicial against smoking). Should excessive leaving the desk be considered time theft? How about personal phone calls - how many per hour should be allowed?

I am asking in the context of a minimum wage employee working for a husband/wife team that currently assists lower income people needing legal help. To me, too much snooping would cause tension (bad for the harmony of a business that is dealing with lives in chaos) however, the lack of dedication and performance limits the ability of the business to give quality work .
The company is paying the employee for his/her labor. The company has every right to make sure that it is getting its money's worth. But also, one doesn't want to be so draconian as to treat an employee who is trustworthy as one that is not trustworthy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by catsknowme View Post
Also, if you were making minimum wage, is it okay to resent doing the menial tasks, such as the endless filing of papers; vacuuming & emptying trash? Or should the wife do those things, since the business pays her more??
Menial tasks are the types of tasks one finds in a minimum wage job. More pay usually means that there are skills the person has which makes her more valuable to the company. The company would be better utilizing those advanced skills and pass the more menial tasks to the lesser paid employees. She may be doing budgeting activities or other things to manage the company. It would be wasteful to have her emptying the trash.
post #5 of 14
Every employer I have had detests the kind of employee that says "That's not by job"

Employers like employees who are willing to get in there and do what needs to be done.

I do filing, I also have been known to sweep the warehouse, pull material for customers and empty the trash. I would not want the kind of employee described in the OP.

And darn straight, if it is the companies phone they sure do have the "right"
post #6 of 14
speaking from a smoker's POV:
a. if the company pays for the phone, they have the right to limit usage if they so choose - & take the phone back for use outside of that which they allow.
b. no 'extra' breaks should be given for smokers. period. if they need to smoke, they should make time for that on regular breaks.
c. there are no 'menial' tasks. if work needs to be done, it needs to be done. now, if i'm doing work someone else should be doing but isn't [maybe because they're taking an extra 'smoking' break?] that's different. if it's because that person isn't there due to illness - again, that's different.
at my school, we have a custodial staff that does things like empty trash cans, clean bathrooms, mops/vacuums floors, etc. at the beginning of this year, the one that had my room assigned to her was awful - she rarely emptied my trash [i actually created a litte 'trash trail' from the can to the door, adding a piece a day to see how long it would take... i think about 4-6 days], never vacuumed or mopped, never cleaned the bathroom. she was eventually let go, & i got a good person - she checked my trash every day, cleaned the toilet every day.
at 1st, i was emptying my own trash when i had the poor custodian... but i grew resentful - she's there 8 hours a day & can't find the time to empty it herself? ridiculous - that's her job, she's there - she's just not doing it!
ok, no more novel!
post #7 of 14
If the cell phones are provided by the employer they have every right to monitor what calls and text messages come in. They are paying the cell bill, not the employee so they shouldn't abuse the privledge.

As for monitoring time off the job, absolutely. At my job, we are given 2 15 minute paid breaks, and 1 30 minute lunch off the clock. I'm a smoker and that is enough time for me to get my "fix". I work in a call center and we do have an "off the phone log" where we have to keep track of time off the phone for potty breaks, computer problems, etc. We are allowed so much time off for person reasons (ie, potty) per week. Computer problems is another thing and a supervisor has to sign off for that to not count against our personal time. It's a pain, but I think it is fair. I'm being paid to do a job but sometimes mother nature does call and break is 45 minutes away so at least they allow for that.

Menial tasks need to be done. And, the job usually goes to the lowest paid person. Honestly, this is the first job I've had in 15 years where I'm NOT expected to cleaning the bathrooms was not part of my repsonibilites. Even when I was a purchasing manager, I was still reponsible for cleaning my office, which was fine with me, since I was the one that used it! I didn't see it as degrading, I just saw it as part of my job. I actually enjoy filing (except for the papercuts I somehow always get) and I have no problem with emptying trash. Personally, I think everything the employers are doing is fine and within their rights.
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your answers It is VERY hard for me to be a "boss" and my background is in waiting tables, where poor job performance typically means lower tips, so the nature of the work quickly weeds out weaker employees.
I was worried that I was maybe holding the standard of performance too high, because I am not a smoker and because I was raised by strict parents and in an area where being a hard worker is right up there with being honest and reliable.
I do the books so I know that once I have the kind of help that allows me to do a better job of billing and collections, then we will have the cash flow to give payraises!
post #9 of 14
Quote:
Should employers be allowed to view text messages and called phone numbers on cell phones given to employees for company business?
With ours, we only monitor them if the phone goes over the minutes we have set for it - and within reason, if the employee was travelling on company business and called home a few times while away, I don't sweat it - employees are more productive if they are not worrying what is going on at home. But if they are based locally and doing it, we have an agreement that overages will come out of their wages (subcontractors so easier to do that). Sometimes however, they do go over minutes because of calls to customers so I have on occasion sat there checking all of the phone numbers. We had one who would make calls to datelines for 2 hours a day, at premium rate while we are paying him too.

Quote:
Should an employer monitor how much time an employee leaves her desk to go smoke? (or whatever, if it's outside the 15 min. breaktime, just so as not to be prejudicial against smoking). Should excessive leaving the desk be considered time theft? How about personal phone calls - how many per hour should be allowed?
My boss rarely cares, but I have the kind of job that as long as I get my work done, it doesn't matter. However, I often take work home with me to do because their software doesn't allow for desktop publishing etc so it evens out and we are ok with our agreement that I can take time off as I want and will ensure that work like that does get done.

As far as our company, the workers are paid piecework (construction) so they tend to work fast anyway - if they slack, they get paid less for the day but if it makes us get behind in contracts, we will talk to them about it.

Quote:
I am asking in the context of a minimum wage employee working for a husband/wife team that currently assists lower income people needing legal help. To me, too much snooping would cause tension (bad for the harmony of a business that is dealing with lives in chaos) however, the lack of dedication and performance limits the ability of the business to give quality work .
I love the relationship I have with my boss. We deal mostly through email, he is rarely in the office. I don't mind taking work home to get it done on a timely basis when I have a whole week's worth of work to do (I work part time) and then take time off as I want in half days or full days. I would hate to work somewhere that was watching my every move. I have always had my own office and done my own thing. It would definitely cause tension for me personally as you would feel guilty even going to the washroom if it was too much snooping / overseeing. However, I do agree with performance related raises etc.

Quote:
Also, if you were making minimum wage, is it okay to resent doing the menial tasks, such as the endless filing of papers; vacuuming & emptying trash? Or should the wife do those things, since the business pays her more??
For us, everyone pulls their weight. If I see the garbage can is full I will empty it. Typically I do that stuff because I am the only girl (and we work from home). We have cleaners at work but I still tidy up, I hate a messy office. Occasionally I have the interns do filing but most of the time I prefer to ensure it is done properly the first time.

However, the person being paid more is generally paid more because they have additional skills they can utilise in the business (in your case billing) which have to be done in order to have money to pay the workers. Therefore the other employee should be ok doing the menial tasks because without the other work getting done she would not be paid.

Cindy, as much as employers might like an employee that will do anything - I do agree that employees have rights and the job description should be set out so they know what they are expected to do. I would not do all of the jobs needed because someone else is slacking off (taking a smoke break or whatever) regardless of what my employer wanted me to do. If it is a 'everyone does it' kind of thing that is fine - but if it takes away from my actual job duties I am not doing it.
post #10 of 14
I'm just going to ramble

I believe that when you are at work, you ar there to work, period! That means no personal business on company time. If you have to make a personal phone call or attend to personal business, do it on your coffee and lunch breaks. I also don't believe in personal phone calls unless it's a dire emergency. "Mom where are my shoes." or "Hi Honey. How is your day going" do not qualify as emergencies.

So far as business equipment on personal loan to you, yes I think an employer has every right to monitor it's usage. It is after all given to you for business purposes, not for pleasure.

So far as who does what in the office, I feel that should be determined at the start of hiring and tweaked as time goes on with more or less responsibility given if warranted.

Personally emptrying trash cans should be up to the cleaning personel, but if there is no cleaning personel, then each person should be responsible for emptying their own trash cans. So far as vacuuming and major cleaning like the bathrooms etc. The owner should be making arrangements for that to be done and not depend on his employees to do that as part of their work time, unless of course it was decided upon hiring that that would be part of the job.

I get so mad when I'm at work and I see someone who is sitting around making or taking personal phone calls or going off on "5 minute" smoke breaks and then taking their regular breaks too.

I actually reported a group of nurses to the nursing supervisor, on a particular ward I worked because most of them smoked and every 45 minutes to 1 hour they were going outside for a 5 minute smoke break which were more like 10 or 15 minutes by the time they get downstairs and outside and back inside again. I was left alone on the ward looking after 6 step down patients as well as up to 20 other cardiac patients.

Plus they took their regular 2 hour break. When we work 12 hours we get a total of 2 hours for our break. On nights we often take it all at once so that we can go and sleep. Their smoke breaks added up to 2 hours or more per 12 hour shift. Add that to their regular 2 hour break and that was 4 hours they were goofing off for and getting paid for, while I was on the ward covering for them. If they wanted to use their break time to smoke, fine, go every 1 hour for 10 minutes and have your smoke, but consider that your break!!!

There was another woman on the gyne ward that claimed she couldn't leave the ward when I was there because I was a "float nurse" and didn't have the mega experience that a gyne nurse would have I told her that I'm not a new grad and have worked a great deal with gyne patients and ante partum patients and in the unlikely event that something went wrong, I am quite adept at picking up the phone and paging or calling a doctor. But she insisted that she couldn't take a break so she always put in for overtime. I thought it was just when I was there that she did that, but she said it to other nurses too, even the maternity float nurses. However, while she claimed to not take a break, she would sit in the back room with a pillow and blanket. She would eat, knit and then put her head down on the pillow and sleep for an hour. Then put in overtime saying she didn't get a break. I reported that too and the supervisor put a stop to that in short order after talking to others who verified what I said.

There was also another time when I worked on a particular ward. I run a tight shift. I get out of report, go and get my morning or dinner time pills ready. Then I go off to see my patients. I take in a blood pressure machine with me and while I'm doing their blood pressure I listen to their chest, question them about bowel habits and anything else I need to do, and I chart it right then and there. That takes me about 10 minutes and by the time I leave that room I have done 90% or more of my charting. All that I have left to chart is any further blood pressures, or dressing changes or anything out of the ordinary like a request for pain medication or something. And I chart that as I do them instead of leaving it to the end of the shift to do. I always, always got out of work on time when I worked on that ward because I would sometimes cut my break short if I knew I would be busier than usual and I would rather miss a break than end up staying after shift at midnight.

However, there were a great deal of young, lazy nurses who would prefer to socialize, chat on the phone, talk on forums, or download computer games instead of doing their job. So while I was out there busting my butt for my patients and getting all of my work done and going home on time, they were sitting around socializing, take extended breaks and then putting in for over time because they hadn't done any of their charting.

The manager called me in and told me that there were complaints about me always getting off work on time and that everyone else was staying behind and doing my work! I laughed at her. I told her exactly how I run my shift and that if anyone was staying behind putting in for overtime it's because they sat around most of the shift socializing, talking on the phone or playing computer games and then having to put in for overtime because they ran out of time on their shift to get their work done. I told her that she called in the wrong person and that she should have been calling in those who always have to put in overtime on their shifts, not the one person who seems to be able to get their work done and rarely has to pull over time to do it.

My parents instilled an excellent work ethic in me, and I know that as a boss I am a tough person to work for because I expect the same dedication to the job as I am prepared to put in myself. In fact when I'm in charge at work, if someone gets a personal phone call I take a message and when I see the person I pass it along...usually on their break. I don't run around looking for them to tell them they have a phone call. I'm there to work, not play secretary for my co-workers.
post #11 of 14
Company-owned cell phones are just that. Presumably, this person isn't paying to use the phone, so he/she can go buy a cell phone if he/she feels one is necessary to conduct personal business. There are millions of people in this country who do not get company phones, and yet, they still somehow manage to afford a personal cell phone.

If a person is taking excessive breaks, that is unacceptable. Whether they're smoking, tap dancing, plucking their eyebrows, or anything else.

There is no minimum acceptable number of personal phone calls an employer should feel obligated to allow. Use your cell phone on your breaks. If there is an emergency, no one is going to have a problem with someone contacting an employee. There are a lot of jobs (like call centers) where it's pretty much impossible for employees to take personal calls that are not emergencies. Last I checked, no one managed to drop dead from the practice. If the nature of your business is one in which a personal call here and there isn't that big of a deal, that's your call.

As for "menial tasks"...I've known plenty of small business owners who will take out the trash, wash dishes, vacuum, etc. If this hypothetical employee isn't so hypothetical, maybe he/she should go try out other types of minimum wage employment. It sounds like maybe this person just isn't a good fit.

Oh, and for the record, Natalie and I would get along just fine in the workplace.
post #12 of 14
I have been a boss, a worker and have owned a large business with my husband and my inlaws. We owned different businesses, commercial property and investments.
No job is beneath anyone. My ex would fix a toilet in one of the restaurants if he needed to, cover a server's shift and I would hostess or do whatever needed doing.
Smokers don't get extra breaks because they smoke. It is unfair.
Company equipment is company equipment. Period. We did allow personal use of company cars but had mileage limits.

You are the boss, its your business and you get to make the rules. You are reasonable person with reasonable requests.
People can feel free to work elsewhere if they don't like your policies.
I have never asked an employee to do something I would not do. I treated my employees with respect and understanding.
post #13 of 14
When I did office work we had a floating cell phone (actually 2)that we took with us when we traveled out of the office. I would call Neil to tell him where I was I if I was going to be late coming home, or use it vs the hotel room phones when out overnite. Not call everyone in the phone book.

I always had a peeve about smokers as we didn't get "breaks" but one of the smokers must have used a hour/day outside smoking.

Many times I heard not my job and I admit I said it too. But if filing, putting away supplies or other tasks needed to be done-well someone has to do them.
post #14 of 14
The law is, what the company owns it has a right to oversee, and the law even says that the company has an obligation to oversee such things as e-mail, which can be used for illegal purposes.

Minimum wage jobs are often menial, and just because someone doesn't like doing something (like filing, which I personally hate), that doesn't mean they have a right to refuse to do it if they think it's below them, or if they think they aren't being paid enough.
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