How employers spy on remote employees?

by Marcus Andrews in TechieJobs Employer Work From Home

Posted on February 02, 2022

How employers spy on remote employees?

With the Covid-19 pandemic still affecting our lives the remote work becomes more and more standard. Companies from small to large have adapted their policies and needs to the culture of remote work. Many companies are not even planning on having their employees back to the traditional offices, and some companies allow employees to choose whether they want to work from home (or from anywhere), or come back to the office at some point. It's safe to say that Covid-19 has changed the way companies work and will work even after the pandemic is over. Especially, it applies to the tech companies.

Modern software tools allow effective collaboration between co-workers, teams, suppliers and clients. Web cameras, online meetings and conferences, virtual whiteboards, collaborative design tools - all this have made effective remote work possible. And despite the initial discomfort at the beginning of the pandemic many employees got used to it and many even changed their mind and are willing to stay on the remote work even when the offices will be open again.

Many employers seem happy too. They can now keep the money they used to spend to rent office spaces, office cleaning, buy high-speed internet, pay for electricity bills, snacks and drinks for employees, etc. However, many managers have concerns about what their employees do during work hours. And with the realization that their staff will not return to the offices companies adapt to the new reality in different ways. Some act with a stick (for example spying on the employees), some with a carrot (for example bonuses for high performance), and some combine both.

Remote work may become a serious worry for some managers. Especially for those who used to micro manage their reportees. As a result some companies started spying on their employees using different methods and technologies, including relatively new tracking of workers inside their own homes. Some companies do not hide the fact that they spy on their workers but some do it secretly. Especially, if the computers that employees use for work are provided by the employer. According to Top10VPN employee surveillance software demand up 54% since the Covid-19 pandemic started. This has been recently reported as "bossware" or "tattleware", essentially spyware that enables managers to monitor their employees working from home.

So, how exactly employers spy on their remote workers?

Daily reports

Probably, the easiest and most common way to track employee performance is to track ongoing tasks on a daily basis. This can be done with the software designed for project tracking such as JIRA, or daily emails from the employee to a manager, or quick progress updates during daily team video meetings. This is quite standard across the tech industry and most of employees are not worried about such methods.

Time and attendance trackers

Some companies ask their employees to install time and attendance trackers on their computers to allow employers to see how much time the computer screen is not locked during the day, for how long the employee is active when the computer is not locked - this is done by tracking mouse and keyboard activity. This may seem reasonable. However, some employees may find this annoying and can experience some sense of spying.

Screen captures

Another method that allows managers to know what their employees do during work hours (and even outside work hours) is to secretly make screenshots of the computer screen that employees use for work. Some employee may be well aware that this is company's standard practice, or may suspect this, but some employees may be caught off guard. This can become a serious issue because some employee open their personal emails or online banking on work computers.

Cameras and microphones

A relatively new method is to use cameras and microphones integrated into laptops to see and hear what the employee is doing. For example a new program called Sneek, which uses your webcam to regularly take a photo of you to prove that you are not away from your desk.

Key loggers and web traffic sniffers

Other method may include key loggers to track what you type when you use your computer. Do you type a programming code or you type a message to your friend? Also, employers can use web traffic sniffers to see what website you visit during your work hours. Especially, if you use a VPN provided by your employer.

Does your employer spy on you when you work from home? Let us know in the comments. ;)


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