- Most employers with employees who work from home use monitoring software to track their employees, according to the results of an online survey conducted in September by business review platform Digital.com.
- Respondents frequently cited productivity as the primary reason for the surveillance, Digital.com said, and only 14% had not notified staff about monitoring activities. More than half of employers in the survey, 52%, had workers who spent one to four hours per day away from their workstations or off-task on the internet, while 27% had employees who did so for more than five hours a day.
- Advertising and information technology employers were most likely to employ tracking software, and 81% of respondents said productivity increased after installing such software, Digital.com said.
Though not a viable option for all occupations, remote work is driving significant change in HR policies and practices. It is also causing shifts affecting entire industries; recent reports documented an exodus of tech workers who, thanks to flexible work options, opted to live and work outside of the Bay Area and other hotspots.
But both remote work and employee surveillance are concepts that predate the COVID-19 pandemic, even if employees may be more aware of them because of the changes of the past year and a half. Productivity is not the only reason employers might track employee activity; others have cited the use of technology for contact tracing purposes or for securing intellectual property.
Still, compliance experts in previous interviews with HR Dive cautioned employers about the patchwork of laws governing remote employee tracing as well as the additional benefits and risks associated with it, such as allowing surveillance to take the place of good leadership practices.
There’s also perspective of employees: In a 2018 survey of anonymous users of technology worker platform Blind, about one quarter of respondents said their employers went to “unreasonable lengths” to monitor employees. Other commentators note that worker tracking can clash with employee electronic privacy protections, according to CIO Dive.