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Workers have been tracked in their jobs for decades. From surveillance on shop floors to monitoring in call centres, bosses have long used technology to help monitor employees – whether it’s for security or performance-related reasons.
As remote and hybrid working patterns are increasingly becoming the norm, employers are seeking to manage output and teams through monitoring software in response. While this can help enable out-of-office collaboration, in some cases, such surveillance tools can also be implemented through the paranoia that workers won’t do their job away from the boss’s gaze.
Surveillance software has been installed on work computers, with or without employee knowledge. Dubbed by some as ‘bossware’, various programs can log keystrokes, take screenshots and surreptitiously activate employees’ webcams while working from home. Often, this technology runs undetected, meaning workers can be unaware that their boss is effectively spying on them.
And as remote work has flourished, so too has surveillance. For example, employees at investment banks have complained that return-to-office policies are being covertly enforced through their card swipes and attendance data.
Employee monitoring has existed for a while in various guises, from timekeeping on factory floors to the collection of worker data in heavily regulated industries, such as finance. However, surveillance software, often clandestine in nature, has begun to creep further into white-collar jobs amid the pandemic – and it’s spread to sectors that traditionally haven’t required the scrupulous tracking of workers.
The pandemic has triggered a widespread surge in employee monitoring. As teams began working from home, some bosses leveraged surveillance software to keep tabs on productivity. A December 2021 survey of more than 2,209 workers in the UK showed that 60% believed they had been subject to some form of surveillance and monitoring at their current or most recent job, compared to 53% in 2020.
Such monitoring tools have only grown in prevalence – even as large swaths of the workforce have returned to the office on a full- or part-time basis.
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