8 Ways to Find the Truth in a Workplace Investigation

8 Ways to Find the Truth in a Workplace Investigation

Finding the truth in a workplace investigation is incredibly important in ensuring that all parties involved are treated fairly and any malpractice is addressed effectively. The last thing you want to achieve is a false accusation against an innocent person but navigating all the different opinions, arguments and evidence can be difficult. 

finding the truth in a workplace investigation

However, there are some practices that you can incorporate that will help you find the truth in the most effective way possible and as an employer, it’s not only necessary to be aware of what these are but to actively implement them during workplace investigations. There are a number of methods available and what you decide to utilise in a particular investigation will depend on the dynamics of the situation, your purpose and who you’re working with.

What methods can you use to find the truth?

1. Be prepared and plan in advance

The first step should always be to have a plan in place for how you and any other relevant authorities have decided to approach the investigation. This includes collating all the information and evidence you already have, for example, any initial complaints, relevant emails, reports or warnings.  

There are a number of other decisions you will also need to make such as:

All of these considerations will influence what questions you ask and whether you are successful in finding the truth in a workplace investigation.

2. Make sure the person knows why they’re being interviewed 


Remember that open communication is an important aspect of a fair workplace investigation and that the interview is not meant to be secretive or intimidating. Often there are more than just one or two parties that need to be interviewed and many of them may be confused or a little scared and unsure of what’s going on. To make sure that everyone feels as comfortable and open to honestly discussing the circumstances, it’s important that they all know why they’re being asked to interview. They should also be assured of their rights and confidentiality, not only because this is best practice but also because it allows them to feel more secure in sharing information they may initially be hesitant to.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to inform the interviewee of details like:

    • The time, location, and date of the interview as soon as possible
    • Where they can seek extra support and information 
    • Their responsibility to maintain confidentiality 
    • Whether or not there will be any recording devices present
    • What they can expect to occur after the interview and any follow up procedures 

3. Asking the right questions to the right person

The questions you ask and how you ask them will shape the outcome of the overall workplace investigation. It’s best to have a draft version of the questions prepared but it’s simultaneously just as important to not treat the draft like a strict script.  Part of having a conducive interview will be using what you’re learning during the conversation itself to influence what you discuss – perhaps some planned questions become obsolete, or a need arises to ask additional questions that were not considered necessary beforehand

The questions should be open and encourage the interviewee to respond in detail. For example instead of starting with “Didn’t you….”, be more open with your phrasing by using language such as “Describe…” or “Explain…”.If you feel there could be more elaboration, gently prompt them to expand with follow up questions. Make sure not to ask multiple questions in a single instance because this often leads to one being forgotten, or important details to be excluded.

Finding the truth in a workplace investigation is also often a matter of questioning the right people so another aspect that must be considered is whether all the relevant parties are being included and tailoring your questions to each person and their particular involvement. For example, asking someone who was not present what they thought of a certain event will not necessarily aid you in the workplace investigation process.

4. Keep it professional

Your behaviour during the interview will set the tone for how it proceeds and will also influence what is gained from the session. Ensure that you are not overly casual or too cold in demeanour, stay polite and friendly but professional in reflection of your role. It’s also important that as the interviewer, you take control and guide the interview effectively. Keep the focus on the interviewee and their role and prevent the conversation from deviating into irrelevant topics. If the other party becomes visibly upset or aggressive, keep calm and remind them of their responsibility, what their rights and options are and offer a small break.

remaining professional when finding the truth in an investigation

5. Avoid casting judgement or implying blame

The interviewee may have to delve into actions or behaviour that they may not be proud of or that you find personally unsavoury or unprofessional. As the interviewer, it is critical that you do not engage with your personal feelings and remain neutral. The interview session’s purpose is not to assign blame and it is absolutely critical to avoid behaving as if you’re judging the interviewee based on what they say. Doing so can make them defensive and reluctant to share more which will be detrimental to the workplace investigation.

6. Take note of visual communication

The interviewee’s body language can also say a lot about what they’re actually saying. This doesn’t mean you should start drawing conclusions based on a body movement or their tone but being aware of this can aid in gaining a general understanding of how the person feels about a subject. Are they becoming more defensive, passive, or aggressive based on the questions? Are they raising their voice or perhaps mumbling or stammering? These visual cues are important because they can ascertain the emotional response of the interviewee and hence aid in finding the truth of what occurred.

Being mindful of your own body language will also be helpful in encouraging open communication. Show that you are actively listening and engaging with the interviewee and make them feel heard. Try to keep your own movements open and avoid gestures like crossing your arms as it can denote a negative visual cue. 

7. Implement positive confrontation

Positive confrontation refers to the discussion of subjects that may be sensitive but in a manner that is respectful to the person and conducive to the investigation. There is a high chance that you may need to bring up issues or events that are delicate or confront the person with something they did (only in the scenario you are certain of their actions). Using a positive confrontation model will allow you to gather the information you need for the workplace investigation and give the other person a chance to discuss their view of what occurred without the interaction becoming unprofessional.

8. Document the investigation process and findings 


Your findings during the interview will likely need to be reviewed by other people with authority that are involved in the workplace investigation. Making sure that you document the workplace investigation correctly and comprehensively will allow the investigation to proceed towards finding the truth as soon as possible. There may be a number of documentations you need to complete based on your company policies so ensuring that you’re aware of what you need to do in the follow up is a key responsibility. Adequate written records are also very helpful in the scenario that any legal proceedings occur and in future cases of misconduct or malpractice. 


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There are hence many considerations for employers when seeking the truth in a workplace investigation. Each employer must decide what methods and means to incorporate in their investigation processes, and this can change depending on the particulars of the case that arises. However, the above eight methods are ones that should be thought about carefully as they will prove to be important factors regardless of the nature of the situation.

How conflict of interest could affect your organisation

How conflict of interest could affect your organisation

Conflict of interest

 Conflict of interest occurs when an individual may have or may be seen to have reasons to prioritise their own personal gain over the company’s interest. The individual cannot be trusted as their focus is on their wealth, status and networks over the business they work for. In doing so, they ignore the responsibilities they have as an employee and exploit their position for their benefit. 

 Anyone in an organisation can have a conflict of interest regardless of their position. However, the problem is more serious when senior management chooses their own personal interest over those of the company. Depending on the situation and its severity there are different actions that can address this issue. 


Examples of conflict of interest

There are many examples but the most common ones are:

-Competitor business

 An employee might use the knowledge they acquired from work to start their own business. They might become a competitor. On top of that, the employee might choose to use the company’s resources to help their own business grow. They might be using program subscriptions for their own business. They could potentially redirect customers to their startup instead of the one they work for. It shows that the staff member is not loyal to the company.



 Nepotism is the act of hiring an individual because of personal relations rather than their skills. An example of that is an unqualified employee being hired by having their uncle who already works in that company. Influencing the recruitment process is unfair and could damage the business in the long term due to the person not having the adequate qualifications required. Relationships between staff members, romantic or otherwise, can cause more issues as bias can affect decision making. Nepotism does not occur if the selection process is based on an individual having the right skills and experience.



 Financial conflict of interest means that the employee’s finances are affected by decisions they need to make in relation to the business. It can include bribery and fraud. For example, if the employee is the co-owner for another company the business is dealing with. It could also include an employee getting paid to disclose information about the company they are working for to competitors. This is also a breach of confidentiality. 


Difference between actual, potential and perceived conflict of interest

 An actual conflict of interest describes a real personal interest that might influence a person’s decisions as an employee. There is a direct conflict between the commitment to themselves and the commitment to the company. They might not be aware that they are not being objective and are neglecting their duties to the organisation. 

 A potential conflict of interest occurs when the personal interests of an employee might affect their actions in the future. An example of this could be if two employees within the business start a romantic relationship and one of the parties is a supervisor. 

 Perceived conflict of interest is a situation where there could be no actual or potential conflict of interest. Stakeholders or the public might make a reasonable observation that there could be personal interests influencing decisions when in fact it is not clear that this is the case. The public might think that the employee is making decisions based on a current or future personal gain.

Conflict of interest

How to prevent conflicts of interest

 Preventing conflicts of interest is advantageous for a company as it reduces the likelihood of unpredictable issues materialising. It also ensures that employees are always working towards the company’s goals instead of other goals. Some steps employers can take are:


-Requiring employees to disclose relevant information

-Developing policies 


-Encouraging reporting


Requiring employees to disclose relevant information

 One of the strategies management can take to prevent conflict of interest is requiring employees to provide a statement where they disclose any information that could affect their responsibility as a staff member. Employers can include this condition in the contract to increase the chances of admission. As an example, most people do not read the terms and conditions of competitions or giveaways. So in order to avoid conflict of interest in competitions, businesses stipulate in the terms and conditions that they do not allow employees or their relatives to join. Employees can disclose this information online, through a management tool, or by submitting a written form. 


Developing policies

 The policy can outline the degree to which an employee can act depending on their position. It can outline the actions they can take for the company and the limitations. The policy can also inform employees on the types of conflicts and how to identify them and manage them. This can be beneficial for employees who are unaware that their actions or relations might constitute a potential conflict of interest. It can also discourage people from acting on their personal interests as they are aware of the consequences. A policy sets expectations that all employees have to follow. The business should also develop a procedure that highlights how the conflicts of interest and relevant parties will be managed. 


 All employees should be trained to recognise what conflicts of interest are and how it can affect the company. They should be given examples that help them determine if they are participating in activities against the company’s interests. Staff should be given guidance on how to avoid these situations, not hiring family members is an example. The management should clearly outline what someone should do if they find themselves in that position. 


Encouraging reporting

 Employees that might observe wrongful actions might feel unjustified in reporting it to the management. They might think that it is not their problem or that reporting it might cause issues for them. For this reason, the management needs to encourage employees to come forward by creating a safe environment. Investigation tools might also help in detecting and reporting conflicts of interest based on business activities such as the lack of provision of disclosure statements. 



 Conflicts of interest can have negative consequences for all parties involved. If an employee redirects customers to their business it harms the company as it will most likely result in revenue losses for the organisation and loss of clientele. If the conflict is financial in nature then it can be detrimental as it can hurt the reputation of the company and its financial resources.

 The employees involved might lose their position, be terminated or even be found of breaking the law. They might struggle to find work in the same industry and they might need to pay fines or provide compensation for the damage they caused. Many times the consequences vary depending on the position of the individual in the company and whether their actions were intentional or unintentional. It was recently found that Andrew Grieger from Southern Mallee breached many conflict of interest rules




 Conflict of interest might seem beneficial in the short term for the employee but it can be harmful in the long term. There are many instances where conflict of interest can arise and the company needs to be prepared to deal with the parties involved. A comprehensive policy that covers all areas in detail should be in place to assist in protecting the organisation. Training and encouragement of reporting are also helpful in avoiding the potential consequences.

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Stress testing as a risk management supplement tool

Stress testing as a risk management supplement tool

Stress testing

 Stress testing involves the analysis of the impact a hypothetical event can have on an organisation’s financial statements. It is usually conducted using a computer simulation. Stress testing is used in many sectors but primarily in the financial sector as it can determine the risk of investments and portfolios. Stress testing is for internal or external purposes, including internal risk control and regulatory requirements. It has been proven to be especially useful after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. 

 Communication is important when undertaking a stress test. The purpose of the test needs to be outlined, as well as the responsibilities for those involved. Staff need to understand the procedure and how to document data, outcomes and changes in tracking. 


Why is stress testing important? 

 Stress testing can be customised to meet the specific needs of a business. For example, the organisation may need to keep up with changing regulatory requirements. Adapting stress testing to each situation is important as it highlights any risk exposure the company might be vulnerable to. It shows whether changes need to be made in investment strategies or if the business can continue with its plan. Stress testing can be used as a proactive or reactive tool and the frequency and quality of tests highly affect the approach a business can take. 

 The market is affected by many events such as current events, inflation and interest rates. All of these contribute to deteriorating, maintaining or improving the financial health of an organisation. This is why management needs to identify weaknesses early so that they are able to manage them and ensure the survival of a business. Stress testing can show how a range of different scenarios can impact different areas which is essential during a period of growth as threats might be underestimated. 

 Stress testing can detect risk correlation which means how risks react to one another and shows the probability of one event affecting another which could cause multiple losses. Stress testing is a supplement to other risk management tools. It highlights why an event is a threat and why it needs to be managed. It can reduce risk damage and assist the management in creating their strategies. During a period of stability, it can serve as a wake-up call. 

 The main benefit is the prevention of poor risk management and excessive risk-taking. Stress testing can be adaptable to different occurrences. Even though stress tests were particularly popular during the financial crisis in 2008, they were widely used during the COVID-19 pandemic as well. Regardless of the circumstances, stress testing can provide a great insight into the exposure the business might face. 

Stress testing

Why are scenarios necessary?

 Stress testing needs to be realistic and adjustable. Different variables will need to be adapted depending on the scenario to determine the likelihood of an occurrence and the level of impact it will have. Hypothetical events that a company might experience need to be created, even those that do not seem meaningful. How would the organisation’s health react to an increase in interest rates or a decline in the GDP? Multiple figures can be used to test various severity levels.  

 Developing realistic scenarios prevents or reduces the possibility of obtaining results that are misrepresenting risks. By creating a variety of scenarios, greater aspects of a business can be covered. An example of a hypothetical scenario could be the rise in unemployment and the simultaneous rise of house prices. The company can also choose to test historical events, such as stock crashes and financial crises. Historical events can show how evolving business practices can prevent future losses. These extreme conditions serve as the worst-case scenario and how would an organisation survive against those conditions. 

Scenarios might not directly affect the organisation. There might be side effects that threaten its financial health. 

How can the management help?

 It is not enough to only undertake stress testing. The board of directors, the employer and managerial staff need to be involved in acquiring more knowledge about the state of the economy and the nature of stress tests. They need to be educated on how to interpret the results and what actions to take following those results. Regularly conducting stress tests is also essential as a wider range of scenarios can be used and greater evaluations of strategies can take place. 

 Management can include their personal experiences and predictions to compare how the changing variables can affect the organisation. However, they should not underestimate an event simply because they do not predict that it will materialise. They need to take the results of the stress tests into consideration during decision making. It is crucial for management to always be cautious when making high-risk decisions. Even though stress testing is a useful tool for the business just like every other risk management tool, it has its flaws and limitations.

 Aligning the stress tests with the company’s goals is their responsibility as every part of the business needs to work to achieve the same mission. Continuous reporting of results can help highlight weaknesses in testing and in assumptions. They need to determine the level of risk the organisation can handle based on various factors such as its size and its sector. 

Limitations of stress testing

 Stress testing cannot be used as a sole risk management tool. It can act as a supplement that assists the organisation in making its decisions but it needs to be supported by other procedures. It cannot show the probability of an event happening, the probability is based on previous risk analyses. 

 Stress testing relies on the quality of information. Poor preparation and planning can cause mistakes that can incur unpredictable costs. If inadequate data is assigned to a test then the results will be lacking and will not provide a clear and accurate outcome. Actual risks could be overlooked or undervalued and could cause improper planning. 

 If there is not enough information on scenarios, it can be hard to estimate the impact a variable change can have on a business. Moreover, results can be affected by the quality of communication, both internal and external. If management does not understand the purpose of the test and the severity of the outcome then that could be a sign of lack of education on the risk. It will be challenging for them to include the outcomes in their decision making if they cannot perceive how the results affect the business. 


Stress testing requires a high degree of transparency. It is a useful risk management tool with many benefits but it can only be successful as a supplement. Management needs to engage in the stress testing process and educate staff on how to use the tool correctly. Stress testing is more effective if the scenarios are realistic and well analysed. The organisation needs to be aware of its limitations and the areas in which it can use it to obtain a favourable outcome. A business’s ability to adapt to various situations will ultimately determine its survival.

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How to Document a Workplace Investigation Interview

How to Document a Workplace Investigation Interview

All employers should be committed to the documentation of any and all workplace investigations that occur within the workplace. How else can decisions regarding any potential action be made if the details of the preceding events are not noted in a credible format? Due to their typically verbal nature, interviews in particular need to have records that represent the conversation accurately and to the level of detail in which they occurred. 

workplace investigation interview

Why is it important to document a workplace investigation interview?

Adequate record keeping of workplace incidents and any workplace investigation interviews undertaken serves as an investment for the company. It provides a documented record of the occurrence that can be examined and referred to as many times over whilst maintaining credibility. In the case of any legal proceedings or claims, this allows far greater ability for defence especially in comparison to verbal statements provided long after the situation occurred. This way, any conflictual information that arises, details that are forgotten or statement of events can be cross checked with the interview records at later points in the investigation, minimising any confusion or attempts to mislead.

Thorough documentation also bolsters employee confidence by promoting a culture of policy adherence within the company, one that provides a sense of security in the scenario they’re asked or want to participate in an interview themselves.  In such situations, documentation is also a much more comfortable route for employees to take, as opposed to video or audio recording devices, and allows them to feel more at ease and discuss the circumstances more comprehensively.


What ways can a workplace investigation interview be documented?

There are a number of methods through which a workplace investigation interview can be documented. It is not always necessary to employ all possible means at every occurrence that requires a workplace investigation interview. As an employer, what you choose to document as well as the extent of detail you employ, will depend on the nature of the event and the risk it poses to the company.

The higher you perceive the risk to be, the more important it becomes to have the workplace investigation interview documented in a manner that represents the interview as accurately as possible. You can do this by following the below steps:

1. Interview Notes

The interview notes can be made by either the interviewer themselves or by an additional note taker that is present in the room. The latter is more preferable as it allows the conversation between the parties to flow better and occur without the interruption of jotting notes down which can also make the other individual nervous and their answers consequently less thorough.

These notes are generally only for the person taking them and should not be referred to after they have been used to produce the interview memorandum. This is largely because the notes taken in real time are very subjective and often abbreviated for time purposes and as a result, only truly comprehensible by the person who wrote them.

2. Witness Interview Memorandum

The witness interview memorandum is one of the most important pieces of documentation in the entire workplace investigation process. It is a written record of the interview that depicts the spoken conversation, not necessarily as a completely verbatim account but in a cohesive and logical manner. It should include a brief background of the interviewee including their position, their work history and relationship with any relevant employees.

Following this should be a chronological account of the questions and answers as near to their original speech. Any edits to the account should only be permissible to those that were present at the interview and have the relevant authority to do so.

Having these memorandums on hand for each witness that is relevant to a workplace incident allows the authorised counsel to put together the different perspectives of the incident until there is a consolidated understanding of the event that matches the statements of the witnesses and allows for any inconsistencies to be identified and addressed. The memorandum should also be signed by the witness to certify their acknowledgment of the facts of the interview and to ensure that there are no discrepancies in what was spoken versus what was written.


The interview memorandum can also contain the counsel’s opinions about the interviewee’s responses in accordance with their perception of:

  • the individual’s body language
  • the tonal quality of their responses
  • the manner in which they responded 
  • the consistency of their responses

This can be used to offer additional insight into the interview but can also be excluded if there is an expectation that the memorandum will be provided to external authorities such as the Fair Work Ombudsman

3. Workplace Investigation Report

A summary of all the workplace investigation interviews that occurred during the investigative proceedings of an incident is also included in the final report. References to the interviews can be made to support the conclusions that are reached by the report but typically the interview summaries are concise and limited to the most important revelations. This is because the investigation report is a document that combines the findings of all the other documentation and procedures that occurred to reach a recommendation of possible action or inaction. The workplace investigation interviews themselves are important but not the only piece of the puzzle required to conclude an investigation. 


conducting a workplace investigation interview

What else is important about conducting workplace investigation interviews?


Besides the documentation of a workplace investigation interview, there are a number of other considerations that an employer should take into account to ensure that an interview is as conducive to the investigation as possible.

The interview location is an important decision that can play a part in how effective the session with the witness is. The right interview setting should be in a private space; a public place can cause unnecessary distractions and pose risks to the confidentiality of the interview itself. It should also be a comfortable setting, whilst maintaining a necessary degree of formality, to allow the witness to feel at ease and share their experiences freely and openly.

The witness should be made aware of their rights in undertaking the interview as well during and after the session itself. They should feel free to pause or end the interview at any point if they no longer feel comfortable,  be welcomed to take their time in responding and be provided an explanation as to why the interview is taking place. Similarly, they should also be informed of their responsibility to share the truth as they see it and refrain from misleading answers.

Another consideration is the approach to the interview itself. It’s advisable to avoid being confrontational and to ask questions that focus on fact gathering, the witness and their experiences regarding the incident. Taking on a confrontational tone or asking questions in a manner that insinuates blame can seem threatening to the witness and prevent them from being as open as they could be otherwise. 

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Workplace investigation interviews are an important part of the entire investigative process and the manner in which they are conducted and documented should be an important consideration for employers. Adequate documentation can mean all the difference when it comes to ensuring the best possible outcome for the company at the conclusion of an investigation.

What is an SOP?

What is an SOP?


 SOP stands for standard operating procedure, a document that provides guidance to employees on how to carry out routine complex tasks. It is a really important document so the individuals who are writing it need to be familiar with the steps involved in the process. They might need to make important decisions, such as deciding if the SOP is right for the procedure it is prepared for. 

 Regardless of how complex a task is, it can be broken down into smaller parts that are easy to understand. Some industries that use SOPs include hospitality, healthcare, education and manufacturing.


Benefits of SOP

There are many benefits attached to a standard operating procedure. Some of the main ones are:






Following the instructions detailed in the standard operating procedure maintains consistency and ensures that employees are compliant with the quality standards of the business. It is especially helpful when hiring new people. Employees will receive the same training which allows for adjustments if errors are found and will enable them to get used to the position faster. The framework aims to maintain reliability and allow the business to run smoothly without worrying about the outcomes. 



Fewer mistakes will be made during the task as employees will have all the information they need and they will not be expected to come up with ideas. They will be able to gain knowledge from performing the same steps and the repetition of actions will make it easy for them to complete the task. In the case that an employee is absent, another one can take over the task as the instructions are already provided. SOP can make the procedure more efficient while increasing productivity. 



It can increase the level of safety as the steps provided in the document are in agreement with work health and safety requirements. As someone familiar with the procedure has created the document, it is expected that they have researched the safest way to complete the task. It will also protect employees and the organisation from any potential legal issues that might arise. 


Types of SOPs

SOP can be used as a tool to measure employee performance as everyone has to follow the same instructions. It makes it easier to review performance and provide feedback when all employees follow the same document. This is why it is important to choose the right type depending on the business. Management can choose from:

-Step-by-step SOP

-Hierarchical SOP

-Flowchart SOP


Step-by-step SOP

This type of SOP includes bullet points or numbered points. It is usually used for straightforward processes with a short time frame. Each point gives instructions that do not need a great amount of detail.

Hierarchical SOP

Hierarchical standard operating proceduress are necessary when the task requires a lot of information so steps need to have substeps and provide more instructions. It can look similar to a step-by-step SOP as it can be presented using numbered directions9


Flowchart SOP

Flowcharts can provide solutions if outcomes are hard to predict. They have more visual elements than the other SOP types. They give instructions on what employees need to do based on a task they performed. It could be a health inspection during which a doctor needs to determine what issue the patient is facing. 


How to write an SOP

 The business needs to determine whether a standard operating procedure will be beneficial. It needs to outline the goals it will achieve and what will count as a successful document. The management might also need to think about the ways they will measure its effectiveness.

 An individual will not be able to create an SOP by themselves. It is a complicated process that requires a team. After the team has been appointed they will need to collect all relevant information and details on the procedure. They can then choose the right type of SOP based on the task that will be performed. After writing the SOP they will need to review it carefully to detect inconsistencies or errors. They might need to test certain tasks, edit the document and test the new changes.

They can also ask for recommendations from other managers or staff members. After they decide on the final edits, they can implement and train employees on how to use the SOP correctly. Evaluations of the SOP might take place after it has been published as employees might not complete the task similar to the team that created the file. There is always space for improvement. 


What is included in an SOP

Every standard operating procedure has its own structure and it heavily relies on the type that has been chosen. The most common structure includes:

-Title page with the name of the business, name of the procedure and date of creation

-Table of contents which shows the main titles 

-Purpose of SOP


-Roles and responsibilities 

-Procedure (Instructions)

-Additional details or documents


-Approval signatures

 Definitions and references might also be included.


Potential problems with SOPs

 A standard operating procedure is not the perfect solution. It needs to be updated regularly as equipment and procedures are updated to ensure it does not provide employees with incorrect and outdated information. Some employees might struggle to use one as they want to incorporate their own ideas into their work. Their creativity and individuality will be lost as they have to apply preplanned actions to their tasks.

 If the team who created made it hard to read it will be difficult for employees to follow it. This is why the focus should not only be on grammar and language but on layout and readability. Short paragraphs will be necessary and information should be conveyed in simple terms. 

 Contrary to management belief the standard operating procedure might not suit the task as it has many components. In that case, the company could have wasted resources on creating a document that possesses no value. It might also not be suitable if the task requires a flexible approach that consists of more decisions. The standard operating procedure might not be enough, which is what Governor Philip Lowe believed in the case of Reserve Bank Australia. 



A standard operating procedure can be a very beneficial document if used correctly. Communication between the team, management and employees is necessary to ensure that it is implemented properly and achieves the purpose it was created for. The organisation needs to be flexible and understand that not all tasks require an SOP.

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Workplace Surveillance vs an Invasion of Privacy

Workplace Surveillance vs an Invasion of Privacy

In a recent interview, Swinburne University professor Peter Holland stated that research indicates “up to 80 per cent of organisations around the world have put what they call spyware or ‘tattleware’ on their equipment”. The debate on where to draw the line on employee surveillance is not a new one but the massive shift to working from home, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has sparked the conversation again with new concerns about boundaries. 
Workplace surveillance cctv
An employee’s right to privacy is protected by legislation; in Australia this is primarily the Privacy Act of 1988 as well as, if applicable, the workplace surveillance laws of the state in which they work (for example the Workplace Surveillance Act in NSW). However, an employer is also legally recognised to have the right to monitor the workplace for collective safety, employee performance and property protection. 

So as an employer, how do you know what’s okay and what’s not? The balance can be tricky to navigate, and lines can often become blurry depending on the case, but there is some general consensus on what boundaries must be maintained and it’s important as an employer to know what they are.


What are the different forms of workplace surveillance that can be utilised?

As an employer, surveillance is an important means through which you can work to protect the assets of the company, prevent loss, improve productivity, and even protect employees. How you choose to incorporate surveillance varies on what your purpose is and there are several different routes you can take as long as they stay within what’s considered legal and ethical workplace monitoring. Some of the possible methods that are available include:

  • CCTV cameras installed in various areas of the workplace
  • Internet, email and social media usage at work (this includes the websites, downloads made, or data input)
  • Keylogging software which records the characters typed on work devices
  • Audio recording of calls made and received
  • Data trackers used to monitor productivity 
  • Geolocation tracking (through devices like workplace provided phones)

This doesn’t necessarily mean that all these forms of surveillance are or should always be used, and if they are, the contexts in which they are legal can vary depending on the particular case, the place and type of work as well as the extent of the surveillance.

What type of workplace surveillance is okay and what’s not?

The regulations on surveillance can be a little murky to navigate, especially since most laws are written in general terms and the ever advancement of technology can create uncertainty on what certain kinds of monitoring are classified as.

Generally speaking, optical surveillance in spaces considered private such as bathrooms, change rooms and lactation rooms is an offence. In some states like Victoria this also extends to listening devices. Outside of private spaces at work, employers are typically required to inform their employees before introducing any surveillance technology. This falls under overt surveillance and the time length can vary but normally at least 14 days’ notice is necessary, and any cameras must be visible and/or have signs that inform employees they may be recorded.

Workplace surveillance through digital logs
For any surveillance that is covert, where employers monitor employees without notice, an employer must first be granted authority to do so by the courts. They must have adequate reason for doing so, such as having reason to suspect that unlawful conduct is occurring and in this situation the courts can have certain safeguards in place on the surveillance to ensure that some boundaries are maintained.  Any surveillance outside of work is nearly always against the law and this applies to vehicles that may be provided to an employee by the company.
The legislation when it comes to digital issues like the internet and email is covered only by general privacy laws in most states. Only NSW’s legislation makes specific mention of it by citing that computer surveillance must be conducted under the employer’s policy and with employee notification. This leaves a lot open for interpretation and up to employer discretion and is glaringly outdated when considering the advancement of surveillance technologies in tracking an employee’s digital footprint.


Where does the Line on Workplace Surveillance vs Spying become Blurry?

Surveillance laws are typically general in their terms and due to this, there exists a large grey area to navigate when questioning the surveillance policy of a workplace. For example, who in the workplace is privy to the surveillance data and what can or can’t they do with the information they have? Or how long is the data from surveillance kept? Is it ethical if an employee who departed a company 10 years prior has surveillance footage accessed and used against them? Or for workers who are often operating outside of the physical workplace, what type of surveillance is allowed to monitor their productivity?
There also arises the issue that many workplaces can incorporate surveillance that employees may not be comfortable with but consent regardless as it is a requirement of the job itself.

Furthermore, there exists a clear lack of uniformity in surveillance laws which means there can be discrepancies on what’s considered okay in one place versus another depending on which state you live in. These are generally only minor but can be a source of stress to employees,  particularly those whose work requires them to operate in multiple different states.

Workplace Surveillance in the Era of Remote Work


One particular area that needs special attention, especially in light of recent times, are the surveillance rules regarding remote work. Remote work has shifted the way people complete their tasks from not only where they do their work, but also when and how. For example, the standard nine to five does not necessarily apply at home and workers can choose to operate earlier in the day or later, or even on weekends, making the division of time a more complicated mix of professional and personal tasks.
This understandably has introduced greater confusion for both employees and employers alike and the huge acceleration of the working from home trend, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has had a massive impact on the type and form of surveillance that companies use. In fact, Gartner conducted a survey which found 60% of the companies that responded had adopted and or increased their range of surveillance technologies by the end of 2021 in contrast to the 30% that had beforehand.
 Workplace surveillance can make employees uncomfortable

Issues like these have introduced a greater need for reforms and uniformity in surveillance legislation – in fact, the Australian Law Reform Commission stressed the need for uniformisation in their 2014 report citing that it would enable greater certainty to employees and employers alike on what their rights are.  

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As employers, it’s important to have a clear internal policy that aims to respect the privacy rights of all workers and ensure that any surveillance implemented has a clear purpose and guidelines that restrict its usage on a situational basis. In order to prevent surveillance from becoming invasive on a worker’s right to privacy, it’s also important that law regulators adapt legislation to reflect the new working reality for many people.

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