May 14, 2021

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Working from home: 24% of workers spied on by bosses – here’s the technology firms use to monitor employees

3 min read

Almost a quarter of workers say they have been spied on by their bosses during the pandemic, a shocking new poll has revealed.

Research carried out by Opinium on behalf of the Prospect trade union found that workers are now more keen to get back into the office than before.

It also found that 24 per cent of people work for firms who have used technology to monitor them, according to The Times.

So what are the methods for monitoring employees and how do they work?

Keystroke loggers

Keystroke logging is software which runs in the background of a computer and literally records every key you press and every click of the mouse.

Often installed on company computers, the technology means employers can record everything from the content of emails you write to any personal chats you are having.

Search history and websites visited will also be visible as well as data showing how active you have been.

Five per cent of workers surveyed by Opinium believe they are subject to keystroke monitoring.

Screenshot monitoring

More sophisticated keystroke loggers also allow the employer to take screenshots of a worker’s computer screen. 

Employers can use the software to take regular screenshots of an employees screen at an interval set by them.

The screenshots are taken without the employee being aware and are automatically saved using Cloud software so bosses can check them later.

Response time monitoring

Many of the tools used by firms for day-to-day communication include features which allow them to see how quickly their employees respond to messages.

Some software even has the ability to measure things such as what, and how fast, people are typing.

One such programme is Microsoft 365, which was released in 2019, and tracks how many emails people are sending and who they are communicating with.

It is also possible to see how much people are taking part in group chats, and how much they contribute to shared documents. 

More widely used tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams report when an employee is “active” on their computer.

Eight per cent of those polled by Opinium said they have their emails or chats monitored.

Video monitoring

A more crude form of monitoring employed by some companies is carried out by video monitoring.

Many workers have reported being asked to join a videoconference every morning, with their webcams switched on and they’re required to leave them on all day.

A total of nine per cent of employees say their employers use cameras to track their movements during the average working day.

Is it legal?

The use of employee monitoring technology is controversial but is actually permissible in UK law.

Workers are entitled to a right to privacy, however, and employers also have an implied duty of trust to their staff. 

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office, employers must tell employees if they’re being monitored and why.

This is usually outlined in a company’s internal privacy notice that informs employees of how their personal data is being processed.

If you think you are being monitored without consent or without the reasons being made clear, you are within your rights to challenge your bosses.

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