While working from home has grown in popularity, the practice of employers spying on their employees has too. Weirdly, some are cool with it.
The pandemic, with the lockdowns it has brought, has delivered with it the subsequent mass uptake of (white-collar) working from home.
This, for some, has been an eye-opener and depending on whether you think the ability to do one’s laundry during work hours is a plus (it generally is – it’s the small things you need to embrace), the fact that we’re doing work things from home suggests, on the surface at least, that we’ll be able to achieve more thanks to less of a commute.
But the predilection we have to be easily distracted, by anything from kids & pets, to the vast array of digestible information on the internet (there is, after all, nothing more distracting than every piece of entertainment in the history of the world, ever), means that there is a chance that more than a few of us are doing things we shouldn’t do on the company’s dime.
The company you work for may have a more laissez-faire approach to this; if the work’s being done, you taking time between tasks to fold your socks or watch cat videos on YouTube… so what?
At the same time, other companies are less than gregarious when it comes to how you’re working from home.
The Guardian has reported on an app, Sneek, which totally uncool employers seem to have latched on to as means by which to keep their employees in line while they’re working from home.
This remote surveillance software, as well as other apps of its ilk, has also taken on less than flattering monikers, such as “tattleware” or “bossware”, that give bosses multiple options for monitoring workers’ online activity and assessing their productivity: from screenshotting employees’ screens to logging their keystrokes and tracking their browsing. iNarc, more like.
Sneek co-founder Del Currie told the Guardian that the software is meant to replicate the office. “We know lots of people will find it an invasion of privacy, we 100% get that, and it’s not the solution for those folks,” Currie says. “But there’s also lots of teams out there who are good friends and want to stay connected when they’re working together.”
(Which, strictly speaking, they could do with other apps that don’t take random screenshots of you with an index finger inadvertently up a nostril)
While productivity is likely to be improved if there are constant monitoring efforts being made over the employees, this is a win for the bottom line, but far from it as far as civil liberties and individual freedoms are concerned… that’s another matter.
The Washington Post offered up a story at the genesis of the pandemic last year, painting a less than egalitarian, grey and dystopic portrait of the workplace of the future: “Thousands of companies now use monitoring software to record employees’ Web browsing and active work hours, dispatching the kinds of tools built for corporate offices into workers’ phones, computers and homes. But they have also sought to watch over the workers themselves, mandating always-on webcam rules, scheduling thrice-daily check-ins and inundating workers with not-so-optional company happy hours, game nights and lunchtime chats.”
Would it work, though? Would the Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of remote workers make a difference; would it mean that the stick of Big Brother watching you was more effective than the carrot of doing the monthly reports in your jammies?
The Guardian’s piece cites a recent survey, wherein nearly 75% of workers said their productivity wouldn’t be affected even if they knew their employer was monitoring them.
As a phenomenon, this virtual snitching software has become something of a growth industry, with apps, including Time Doctor, Teramind, and Hubstaff having all seen similar growth from prospective customers.
It makes you think that the return to the office might be something worth looking forward to – at least you’ll get access to better coffee.