Working remotely? Your boss may still be looking over your shoulder

Digital.com’s survey found the top reasons for companies using monitoring software are understanding how employees are spending their time and ensuring employees work a full day.

As remote working becomes more common, so does company use of monitoring software that tracks employee activity on company-owned IT gear.

Small business software and services review site Digital.com surveyed almost 1,300 employers at companies with some or all of their staffs working remotely, and found 60% of them use monitoring software to track employee activity and productivity, and 14% of employees being monitored aren’t aware of it.

Is that even legal?

“There are no federal laws preventing monitoring or requiring notification. There is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, but that only covers hard-wired communications over telephones, and not really Internet communications,” said Dennis Consorte, small business consultant with Digital.com

The majority of companies using remote employee monitoring software — 81% — say they saw an increase in productivity when implementing it.



That increase in productivity may be for the wrong reasons.

“When you decide to use monitoring software and when you monitor peoples’ behavior, it creates a level of anxiety. It makes a really negative environment because they are not being more productive because they want to be. They are being more productive because they’re fearful of the repercussions,” Consorte said.

Consorte said for those 14% being monitored who don’t know it, finding out will create distrust. It is much better to be upfront and transparent about it.

“You want to want to be upfront about it and you want to frame it in the most positive way possible. A good way to frame it if you were to do that would be something like you want to understand productivity and processes so that you can make them better, and the only way to do that is to collect measurable data,” Consorte said.

Digital.com’s survey found the top reasons for companies using monitoring software are understanding how employees are spending their time, ensuring employees work a full day and ensuring employees aren’t using company equipment for personal use.

What are employers finding? Digital.com’s survey found half of employees being monitored spend three or more hours per day on non-work activities

Digital.com’s full report on employee software monitoring is available online.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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