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Last year, a business that provides landscaping services to homes and workplaces, hired the services of a Private Investigator to keep watch over employees who work mostly outside the office.  She had them track nine of its 16 employees.  A customer recently called to ask if a technician had visited the client. The business owner called her Private investigator who instructed her that the employee was at the site between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

“You feel more confident,” she said. “You want to find out who the troublemakers are.”

Blue-collar workers have always been kept on a tight leash, but there is a new level of surveillance available to bosses these days. Thanks to mobile devices, inexpensive monitoring software and private investigators, managers can now know where workers are, tell if a truck driver is wearing his seat belt, track driving patterns and intervene if there is any employee misconduct.

Office workers have come to expect that their every keystroke is tracked on a server somewhere, but monitoring for hourly and wage workers has long been limited to video cameras in the break room and GPS on delivery trucks. Companies are now watching a wider swath of blue-collar workers more closely to ensure work is getting done with the help of Private Investigators.

A 2012 report from research firm Aberdeen Group found that 37% of companies that send employees out on service calls track the real-time location of workers.  High-tech monitoring feels like a violation of privacy to some workers, but employers say such measures improve workplace safety and productivity while also helping to reduce theft, protect secrets and investigate harassment or discrimination claims, among other things.

“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 set procedures for monitoring of workers suspected of misdeeds.  Though companies say monitoring isn’t solely used for discipline, that is often exactly what they are doing, Mr. Maltby added. “Employers suspect that some of their field service workers are goofing off and they want to catch them,” he said.

A pest-control company suspected that workers were spending too much time on personal issues during the workday. So the general manager installed a piece of GPS tracking software on the company-issued smartphones of five of its 18 drivers.

The software allowed the company to log into his computer to see a map displaying the location and movement of his staff. One employee, he discovered, was visiting the same address a few times a week for a few hours during the workday. At that point, he told the driver he was being tracked.  The employee confessed he was meeting a woman during work hours. Another driver admitted he was blowing off work. Both men were let go.

Companies that keep quiet about tracking efforts may miss out on the benefits of deterrence. A 2013 academic study of NCR Corp.’s NCR -1.11% theft-monitoring used in 392 restaurants found a 22% reduction in server theft after software, or a private investigator were hired, and staffers were told about it. Drink sales, meanwhile, rose 10%. Being watched, researchers found, made waitstaff work harder.

One business owner found that since hiring a Private Detective, he was able to cut back the monitoring to a monthly review of a handful of employees.While he terminated two additional workers this summer, he said overall the detective services employeed has made drivers more productive and prompted more honesty, he said.  “Now; If guys have to veer off, they call us and say we are taking a little personal time,” he said. “It is changing their behavior in a positive way.”

If you feel an employee is doing things on work hours that they shouldn’t be, contact Precise Investigation today for descreet surveilance options and reportings.

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