During a pandemic that's led to unprecedented levels of remote working, digital tools to monitor employees in real time are gaining popularity among companies looking for new ways to track employee productivity.
At the same time, the trend raises concerns about employee privacy and how far companies should be allowed to go to keep tabs on their workers
In some cases, the tracking tools can be installed without the knowledge of employees. Companies say they're focused on transparency and productivity, but privacy groups decry draconian ˜Big Brother' moves made possible by technology.
As COVID-19 has spread, workers have been forced out of the office and into ad hoc work-from-home setups, the installation of tracking software on employee devices dramatically accelerated.
More recently, there has been an uptick in the use of apps that monitor behaviour proactively and much more precisely.
It has been dubbed ˜bossware' by critics, the software has drawn criticism this year as being overly invasive. Once installed on an employee's computer, these tools can continuously monitor and record activity at a granular level and record the screens of users.
In some cases, it's possible to do this without an employee's knowledge.
"It has been dubbed ˜bossware'"
Productivity tracking is just one rationale for using monitoring software. Software vendors also argue that their tools can be used for insider threat detection, with the ability to automatically notify admins or managers about potentially malicious activity and anomalous behaviour.
But measuring productivity is a key priority.
With so many employees required to work from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, monitoring tools have seen a significant increase in adoption.
Interest in these tools was reflected in search queries this spring about remote worker monitoring: Research by Top10VPN showed a 108% increase in searches for ˜employee monitoring software' in April compared with the previous year ”and queries for ˜work from home monitoring' were up 5,000%.
Monitoring the employees who work from home may not be the new Orwellian tactic that some may have stated, but it is a reality that workers and employers alike will have to deal with as the future progresses in these torrid times.