Three days in the office, two days remote, and two days off. This would be the scheme of the new working week proposed by some academics in the Harvard Business Review. According to the researchers, with the 3-2-2 model, employees will be incentivized to choose the workweek configuration that works best for them, and thus shape personal schedules around it. But how does the company keep tabs on them when they’re not in the office?
The pandemic has profoundly changed work management, starting with remote working – which is destined to continue, but under certain conditions: For example, remote employee monitoring software is on the rise, with non-negligible effects on those who have chosen to work at a distance.
Employee monitoring software and tools already existed before remote working became a common practice for many workers, but it is with the end of the pandemic that their use has increased, to keep under control the work of the many who have chosen – or who have had the opportunity – to continue working remotely.
The more advanced work time tracking programs go even further, allowing those on the “other side” to take control of the active device remotely, as well as view the content of sent emails or monitor the movements of the mouse pointer on the screen.
In the first months of the health emergency, the monitoring software market experienced an economic surge never seen before; and according to an analysis by Market Research Future, this is a sector that will continue to grow, like that of remote working platforms.
The consequences for workers
In the United States, programs of this type are spreading faster than in other countries, and it is very common for a worker to receive company devices with pre-installed surveillance programs – without the possibility of disabling them.
The purpose of the monitoring software is clear: some companies fear that remote working reduces the consistency in the production process of employees, therefore they choose to exercise as much control as possible over the agile worker. This is one of the effects of the climate of digital transformation which, unfortunately, or fortunately, has inevitably triggered the experience of the pandemic.
Remote working is appreciated by employees above all because it promotes work-life balance, among other things. On the contrary, the awareness of being monitored leads to greater stress for workers, damaging their self-esteem and organizational skills, and making them less independent in their work.
Systematic control is interpreted by workers as a lack of reliability and reduces the self-determination that would push professionals to perform better. In summary, the use of monitoring software can therefore transform remote working into a paradoxically more stressful and inconvenient choice for the employees themselves.
Reactions to employee monitoring
The debate on the limits and benefits of these tools is still ongoing, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries, which have a work ethic particularly focused on productivity: Some see monitoring software as a useful tool for the survival of traditional business schemes in an increasingly full remote world of work, and those who question their legal validity, arguing that in this way the privacy of the staff is invaded.
To cope with the rise of remote monitoring, several users have started using anti-surveillance software, which has led to the emergence of small communities on Reddit committed to recommending tools and tricks to deceive monitoring software employees.
However, employee monitoring software cannot be stopped. They continue to evolve to the point where not a single worker’s digital activity goes unnoticed. Perhaps it is regulation that can restrain them from being used inappropriately.
Lynn Martelli is an editor at Readability. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University and has worked as an editor for over 10 years. Lynn has edited a wide variety of books, including fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, and more. In her free time, Lynn enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her family and friends.