Most of us want to believe the best about other people, especially our bosses. We can’t imagine our supervisors spying on us without our knowledge. Yet, that exact thing happens worldwide, and it’s legal, too.
Yes, your boss could be keeping tabs on you in many ways. Cameras placed strategically in the office may be monitoring your movements, for example. And the software on your computer could be recording everything you do throughout the day and reporting it to the person in charge.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to go virtual, many employers want to know what their employees are doing when they’re not under their thumb. It’s true that some managers are trying to be “helicopter bosses” from a distance, but others monitor data with the intent of using it for performance evaluations.
Spying or Smart Work Sense?
Here’s where the topic becomes sensitive. If your boss is giving you the heads-up that your info and movements are being tracked, you’ve been warned. Anything you do while connected to your work device is on your shoulders.
But the problem stems from the fact that a lot of businesses aren’t telling their employees what they’re doing. They’re just installing software from the remote network and using it as covert surveillance.
This has raised the hackles of privacy advocates everywhere. Is workplace spying the new normal? And even more concerning is the question of whether this digital surveillance will be so commonplace that it will continue when remote workers re-enter the office.
How Surveillance Software Works
There are lots of different types of software that can be used to run in the background of a network of computers. It’s really not a new idea. Businesses have been using these programs for years. If you work on a government computer or device, you’re being tracked, and you are made aware of it from the start.
The major difference is in the type of programs available and popular since the pandemic. For instance, you can invest in a program that will take videos of the computers connected to the network. The owner chooses the times and intervals when they want videos of their employees’ screens, and those videos are then stored in a file on the cloud or network.
Another option is for the program to use the device’s camera to take pictures at set intervals. If you want to make sure your employee is where they’re supposed to be and not sleeping on the job or on the phone, this software can do the trick for you. The webcam takes pictures of the person in front of the screen, and these images are stored or sent to the owner.
What about the software that monitors your movements? If you’re idle for “too long,” the employer can say, “Never mind, we’re not paying you for that time because you weren’t working.”
The surveillance could be good for the business’s pocket, but when your employees feel like you are micromanaging them, you’re not going to build loyalty or long-term staff.
Are these programs going too far?
Is There a Compromise?
We get it that businesses need to know that the people they’re paying are doing their job, especially in a remote workforce. But business intelligence solutions don’t have to be controversial.
In fact, when it’s done right, it can be beneficial for the employee and the owners. Programs that keep records of their employee’s work for certain tasks help promote productivity.
This way, if an employee does take a “brain break” and switch over to their social media account, it’s not going to be a cause for a scolding. But it will reduce their ranking for that day. If there’s a goal for the most productive, this is enough of an incentive not to slack off.
Will This Trend Continue?
Right now, there are, of course, companies who are taking this surveillance monitoring to extreme levels. Employees are required to log into a video stream, and they have to be actively engaged all day while being observed. If the employer happens to look on the video and the worker isn’t doing their job, it’s an “aha, gotcha!” moment.
It may be a hassle and feel like a violation, but it’s not illegal. You have the right to find another job where you don’t feel micromanaged or disrespected. And the employer has the right to track their workers’ movement on the clock with company software.
Depending on the state you’re working in, your employer could be legally obligated to let you know that you’re being tracked. However, this varies from state to state.
When your job does make the switch back to in-person work, expect that the software will continue to be a regular part of the position. Since the company went to the expense of buying it and having it installed, they’ll want to continue using it.
It’s a Fine Line Between Privacy and Security
Yes, your privacy is on the line – kinda. The reality is that you’re always monitored in some form or another anyway if you’re on the internet. There isn’t such a thing as a true incognito or invisible mode, especially when you’re using someone else’s internet connection.
Most of us ignore the little fine print when we connect to a public WiFI server, too. If you’re in the airport, a grocery store, a fast food place, or anywhere where there’s a free connection, it’s easy to agree to the terms and go about your business.
But you’re being monitored. In fact, it’s possible that all of your personal data, including your sensitive information, is evaluated, scanned, and violated. And you’re okay with that.
When it comes to the surveillance software for your work computer, there’s a framework that your boss has to abide by. They have to have firewalls, privacy protection, and other security measures to keep anyone else from hacking into your computer.
So, while your boss may be keeping tabs on you, you can rest assured that they are the only one doing so. And if the paycheck isn’t worth the privacy infringement (and it might not be, if your boss is taking it to the extreme), you can use your personal computer to look for a job where you feel more comfortable.