Over at any2any we’ve been having a debate both internally and with clients about workspace monitoring. It’s a fine balance between complying with COVID and Fire & Safety regulations by knowing how many people are in a building and where they are, providing management information about efficient use of a workspace / meeting room / car park etc., and invading the privacy of staff and visitors. It’s very easy to destroy trust by being too intrusive.
Translating that debate to hybrid or fully WFH gets even more tricky. There might be good business reasons for tracking activity (example: monitoring email and messaging platform use to ensure there’s no data leakage), but it’s still an exercise in trust management…:
One year ago, as countless employees settled into new routines for working from home (WFH), a Reddit user shared a video online of a strange contraption: A wire coat hanger bent out of shape, one side gripping an external USB mouse, the other side latched onto an oscillating fan. As the fan swished left and then right, so, too, did the USB mouse.
What was the point? The device, the Reddit user suggested, was a low-tech defense against workplace surveillance.
“WFH Tip #2: How to always appear online,” read the video’s title.
This laughable attempt to subvert digital workplace monitoring was a bit of a joke, but the video spotlighted an unfortunate reality facing WFH employees today. Rather than being trusted to accomplish their jobs out of physical view, a startling number of employees are being tracked and measured through privacy-invasive software which can surveil their web browsing habits, track their app usage, monitor their screen time—periodically capturing screen images—and even transcribe their phone calls.
The fascination with digital workplace surveillance software—sometimes called “bossware”—is increasing, according to a recent survey funded by ExpressVPN, in collaboration with Pollfish. Of the 2,000 employers surveyed, 57 percent “implemented employee monitoring software in the past six months.” Of those that had not deployed such software, 59 percent said they were “very or somewhat likely” to do so in the future.
But employers should caution themselves against likely pushback, as employees in the survey repeatedly expressed contempt for the tools and the behavior it enabled.