Why Remote Worker Surveillance Is On the Rise

Employers are increasingly relying on surveillance software, or what has come to be known as "bossware", to keep tabs on their remote workers.

By Trista Sobeck | Updated

Micromanagement has always been in existence. And now, as remote work is at an all-time high, upper management has again found a way to keep a typical remote worker under his or her thumb. This year has been fraught with companies flip-flopping their policies to force workers back in the office, and for now, it seems like companies and workers have come to a somewhat uneasy compromise–the hybrid model. 

What Is The Hybrid Model?

The hybrid model–as many remote workers have been following for years even pre-pandemic, consists of allowing employees to work remotely part of the week, while they work from the office for the remaining days. So, for a typical five-day work week, a worker may work remotely for two days and then spend the remaining three working at the office. 

Although many remote workers prefer working from the safety, and yes, the convenience of working from home (or from a cozy coffee shop or friendly co-working space), many companies are still unsure that they are getting the best from their employees. 

What’s a company to do? Too bad you can’t spy on remote workers to make sure they are working. Well, you can. To a degree.

Surveillance software has always been a thing to make sure all employees are following safe data policies and to make sure employees turn up for shifts on time, but now, it appearance the use of this surveillance software for remote workers is on the rise. 

Tell Me Best recently reported that a battle to end remote work was being waged in offices throughout the country. Because of the number of zoom accounts, it may take to get all the employees gathered together, or because managers have to schedule around work-from-home days, remote workers may or may not be numbered. 

Here Comes the Boss(ware)

Critics of the increasing instances of technology used to check on workers from a remote location are calling the surveillance software, “bossware.” A term that just smacks of detest and fear.

Work should not be a fear-based place. Research shows that when workers are happier, they perform better. So, what’s up?

According to Axios, supervisor paranoia has increased as work from home has stuck around–probably a lot longer than past the two years of “lockdown” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone became a remote worker. As the pandemic surged on and fears increased, behavior and values changed, some say they were altered forever. 

remote worker internet creative resume

The surveillance software that companies can install on their employees’ computers can do things like track keystrokes, take screenshots, and track mouse clicks. Website visits can be tracked as well. This is true for remote and in-office workers.

So, whether you’re working or browsing Facebook, or logging the new TikTok dance that you perfected, your boss is going to end up knowing. Unfair? Maybe, but workers are being paid to perform a task for their jobs so they can get compensated. That’s the way it’s always been, but maybe we’re working more than ever.

Because of the ease of being able to work remotely, some remote workers will end up working way more than their allotted shifts. It’s just too easy to log back in on the weekends or even at night to just “catch up.” This comes back to the idea that a salary means you get paid, no matter what. You’re not paid “per widget,” “per call,” or “per click on a mouse.” Salary workers get paid to think and solve problems. 

Historically used in lower-paying jobs, work surveillance software is now making its way to many industries and upper-level career fields. Some companies have threatened remote workers with less pay if they continue to work from home. So, perhaps this software is again, another compromise. 

Where’s The Trust?

Many employers do trust their employees to continue to perform even while they are working from home. Some companies just want their employees to be happy. Because a happy employee is a productive employee. 

And those companies will be able to navigate change with their remote workers well. An employee/employer relationship does require trust, from both sides. If that trust is broken, it ends up in disaster for both sides of the table. Human Resources experts agree that if spyware is being used, it should be communicated clearly. They also agree that mutual respect is something that just can’t be hacked.