Employers keeping tabs on employees working from home

Employers might want to plug in to keep closer tabs on employees working from home. Picture: Shutterstock.
Employers might want to plug in to keep closer tabs on employees working from home. Picture: Shutterstock.

You can't have your cake and eat it too, but that doesn't stop us from wanting it both ways.

COVID-19 has changed the way we deal with technology in so many aspects of our daily lives.

From learning what a "Quick Response" code is to becoming videocall experts and working in pyjama pants sitting in our home office (otherwise known as the kitchen).

It is that last area I want to focus on. Not the kitchen, but working from home.

The ABS released data that showed 41 per cent of people were working from home at least once a week.

Somewhat surprisingly, other research shows that remote workers are 35 per cent more productive than in-office counterparts.

Whilst the initial thought from an employer may be that remote workers get to play on their PlayStation all day, workers cited various advantages for higher productivity such as fewer interruptions; a quieter work environment and a more comfortable workplace.

As much as the data shows the advantages, the reality is that employers may want to monitor some activities of their remote workers to ensure they are still receiving their pound of flesh from each employee.

And this is where the employee might need to compromise.

Checking in on employee productivity

As much as you may want to work remotely, the employer may want to track some activities.

Technology allows an employer to track remote activities in so many ways - and given the fact that you are probably using a work-issued notebook, all of these tools can be pre-installed before you take that notebook home.

Your employer may simply log how much time you are on your computer each day.

They may then compare that to your number of hours on a computer in the workplace.

A simple time comparison will give your employer an indication of your activities in front of a computer.

If the employer is not happy with just the time spent at the computer - and if we are real then you could spend the entire day down a rabbit hole of social media - then the next option available is to monitor your various activities.

Most employees are using a work-managed e-mail system, so it is already very easy to track e-mails in and out of that system.

Initially just the volume of e-mails but then, if necessary, the content of e-mails.

Monitoring websites

Monitoring websites is another key metric to track employee productivity. Just a list of the top ten website domains with time spent on each is usually enough for most employers.

The occasional check on Facebook - sure, that sounds OK.

When Netflix, Facebook and Instagram are your top three sites, then an employer may have good reasons to be concerned.

I had one employee where their web browsing report showed the number one site was a domain that I had never heard of.

A quick visit to that site showed way too much bare skin.

When shown the report and the time spent on that site, the employee as good as handed his keys in on the spot.

Most employers are not that keen to pay an employee to spend most of their time watching naked people.

Further tools available for the employer include logging keystrokes where both the sheer quantity of keystrokes and the actual sequence of keystrokes is recorded.

They can also monitor your web cam or send a series of random screenshots taken throughout the day.

The work from home revolution is definitely here, but it is not all beer and skittles.

The additional flexibility comes with additional responsibilities and don't be surprised if it comes with additional monitoring.

  • Mathew Dickerson is a technologist, futurist and host of the Tech Talk podcast.

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This story Employers keeping tabs on employees working from home first appeared on The Canberra Times.