So, is “Big Boss” watching you?

Quite possibly - and also …

  • taking screenshots
  • checking which websites you visit
  • logging your keyboard activity
  • analysing keywords you may use
  • noting what time you start work and how long your breaks are
  • snapping photos of you with your laptop camera

Be aware that in theory bosses (of whatever size) shouldn’t be doing this without your knowledge, but they do have the capability.

Since the arrival of Covid and greater home working, an increasing number of organisations have been turning to monitoring software like ActivTrak, Hubstaff, Time Doctor, Teramind, Veriato 360, VeriClock, and Work Examiner... the list is extensive.

These applications will gather information about staff’s computer activity and report back. Essentially the organisations who use these apps are not trusting staff to maintain levels of productivity while working remotely and are seeking to control their behaviour.

Are organisations allowed to do this in the UK? Under EU legislation, as long as the member of staff has given their consent, the organisation is free to install and operate the monitoring software. And if the job is conditional on that consent, there’s not a lot the staff member can do.

So should organisations install monitoring software and what are the downsides?

  • A culture of mistrust.
    Obviously you’d be making a big statement about the organisation’s culture along the lines of “We don’t trust you to do what we ask.” The directors may or may not care about this statement – but any bad feelings about “us and them” can certainly be reduced by senior managers and board agreeing to be monitored as well.
  • Managing the volume of data
    Depending on the number of staff and what is being monitored, this could be a huge amount of data for someone to sift through.
  • Setting boundaries
    Clear boundaries need to be set. What is going to be monitored? Who gets to see what other staff are doing? What sanctions should be applied for infringements? Making policy up on the hoof will lead to inconsistencies and potential disasters.
  • Managing the unexpected
    Organisations should give some thought to dealing with the unexpected. Suppose personal web-based emails are monitored and you discover a member of staff has a serious but non-obvious medical condition? Or they are applying for an internal promotion at the same time as going for an external job?

Is it possible to get staff working from home productively without developing a snooping culture with its associated expenses and downsides? Of course!

There’s a whole range of tips and techniques in our programme New Order Working (promo HERE and tasters HERE). But first and foremost, let’s go back to the basics of good management techniques: SMART goals. If you task someone to achieve something Specific and Measurable then you can judge if they are meeting their targets without a tech-fix. Moreover, you will establish a nicer and healthier culture to work within.

And where would you rather work?

Other blog posts

Cat's pyjamas or dog's breakfast?

The importance of transitions when working from home

Healthy home working