bosses are panic-buying spy software to monitor remote workers

Well, this is a terrible indictment of employers’ utter lack of understanding about how to manage remote workers:

I’m quoted (in part, questioning how these managers are getting any work done themselves).

Also, note it’s by Polly Mosendz, the reporter I’ve asked people to contact if their employers are behaving badly in relation to coronavirus.

{ 127 comments… read them below }

  1. Observer*

    “It’s not because we don’t trust them”. Uh huh! Oh, and I have this nice bridge to sell you!

    1. RC Rascal*

      It’s about prudence! Workers can use it to their advantage!

      Excuse me while I wipe the incredulity off my face….

      1. Elenna*

        You know how else workers could prove that they can work autonomously? By working autonomously! While not being spied on!

        *infinite facepalming*

      2. SenatorMeathooks*

        it’s baffling to me why employers are panicking about it. Presumably if someone is remotely working, their deliverables are not going substantially change because they’re at home. Measure them with the same metrics as before.

        1. Wired Wolf*

          Butbut…people will only do what you want them to if you’re there to monitor them donchaknow *rolls eyes so hard I have to chase them down before they roll under the bed again*

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Have you seen the Dow? Prices are down! Bridges going for a song! (And you thought those Italians were singing on balconies just to keep their spirits up!)

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I’ll trade you your bridge for some beachfront property I’ve got in Arizona…

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Oh, is it in the habitat of the aquatic gila monster? I’ve heard that the aquatic gila can breach up to three feet from the waves! I’ve always wanted to see a pod of aquatic gilas.

        (This is a joke. There is a second, more sneaky joke, which is that gila monsters are absolute garbage at jumping.)

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          It makes me so happy to know this last fact! Now I’m just imagining a school of gilas trying to jump and failing! Cute lizard flails!! <3

      2. Candi*

        How about some real estate in Florida? Don’t worry about the swampland -you can totally build a resort here!

      3. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I think I get the point you are trying to make, but even though Arizona is not on an ocean coast, surely they have lake beaches with property? Does Arizona not allow the building of property on beach front land?

    3. willow for now*

      “It’s not because of lack of trust,” Miller said, who compared the software to banks using security cameras. “It’s because it’s imprudent not to do it.”
      I once read where the Governor of Alaska said, “We can be patient, but not for a long time.: This reminds me of that.

      1. MM*

        Right, because banks use security cameras to deter and track criminals in the act of being trusted. Wild, the things people open their human mouths and just say.

    4. Mookie*

      The actual reason—they’re doing it just because they can—is equally ghoulish to me. They’ve identified an opportunity to fulfill another unscrupulous anti-labor goal, hoping the public is too distracted to care or too busy to put a stop to it. When we lack leadership, when there is too little government regulation and oversight, when we make it our national motto and point of pride to cede control and guidance to private industry and for the good of private industry, we shouldn’t be too surprised our coffers are raided and our rights and dignity erode and may not ever be restored.

  2. Just a lowly temp*

    I’ve been paranoid that the place I work for (which is already a super conservative industry to begin with) has been watching me, too. It was good to read that they have to tell you if they do that.

    1. Dancing Otter*

      No, they are *supposed* to tell you.

      I’ve heard that some company managements have been known to break rules sometimes. Who’d have guessed?

      1. Just a lowly temp*

        As a lowly temp, all I have to say is: what a shocker! LOL.. you can see temp work has jaded me more than a little.

  3. Crivens!*

    This whole thing is not only showing how cruel, short-sighted, and mean many businesses are, it’s also showing how plain old STUPID many of them are.

    1. Mookie*

      Same pattern holds true for official powers that be, as well. Greed, mistaking money and power for merit and competence, frequently shoots itself in the foot to pursue self-defeating but long-held ideological goals.

  4. James*

    “We trust you with our reputation, we trust you to make multi-million dollar decisions, but we don’t trust you to work without us constantly monitoring you.” Do they not see the contradiction here?

  5. Elizabeth West*

    I’m just gonna repeat my retweet:

    Adults are capable of managing their own time.

    If you don’t treat your employees like adults, then when all this is over, THEY WILL LEAVE.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      In my experience, if you treat them as children, most of them will act like children.

      It’s a self perpetuating cycle. Best to avoid it from the outset.

      1. Tinker*

        The frustrating thing I find is that when I feel as if I’m being treated or perceived as deficient in adult/professional responsibility and in need of constant supervision, it’s a struggle to keep from behaving that way even when I’m aware of the problem and know that acting that way isn’t in line with my values.

        I think it’s a bit of a “don’t think about the purple elephant” type problem, plus which the problem of “how do I roleplay working in a way that is acceptably satisfying to an outside observer” is not quite the same problem as “how do I actually get done things that the company needs to get done”, and cognitive resources dedicated to the former problem, particularly if I am stressing about it, are then not available to be used for the latter.

      2. Legal Beagle*

        Yes! Before your best employees quit, they will lower their level of work to meet your level of trust.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      If my ex-boss Umbridge hadn’t resigned, I can see her doing this. And she couldn’t understand why so many people left her team and it got to the point where her whole team job hunted at once…

      1. Magenta Sky*

        The real failure is that grandboss who watches that happen, and does nothing about it.

        And so on up the food chain. Many things roll downhill.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          The grand boss in this situation was unfortunately her neighbour and friend, and didn’t quite know how to manage her.

    3. Mookie*

      Some will leave, especially those with the privilege of other options. Some lack that and always have. The difference is, the middle-class is now beginning to experience what working people have long had to put up with.

  6. goinganon*

    I don’t know what’s with these people! I’m already nervous because I know my boss is gonna know I was committing presenteeism all week when she sees how little I’ve gotten done*. She doesn’t need babysitter software for it.

    *My anxiety levels are so high I’m constantly distracted, and I don’t want to use up my sick leave because then what’ll I do if/when I get the virus?

    1. hayling*

      Hopefully your boss will be empathetic, I think it’s insane to expect 100% productivity at this time.

      1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

        Yes it is. I’ll admit I haven’t been anywhere near my best the last couple of weeks, I’ve just been lucky in that it’s a slow time so I have been able to complete my deliverables anyway. If this had happened during an ordinary or (heaven forfend) busy time, I would have blown due dates.

      2. goinganon*

        I’m really hoping so. I’m pretty new here so don’t know how my immediate boss feels, and she hasn’t communicated much. I work for a large company that dragged its feet about letting everyone work from home and then sent us a patronizing message about making sure our productivity isn’t affected.

    2. Elenna*

      This – can’t bosses tell when their employees are getting their work done by seeing if, uh, work gets done???

  7. NotAnotherManager!*

    Who is looking through these logs?? I don’t have time for that and neither do my managers! We’re assessing people based on responsiveness, project/task completion, and quality of work, just like we always do. My managers have their own work and project and could not possible review audit logs of people’s days (nor keep them all on camera all the time as came up yesterday).

    Like a lot of my peers, I have kids who are not in school and adapting to varying degrees and formats of distance learning, so I’m helping them with that – yes, sometimes during the work day. But I’m also exempt, have hit all my deadlines, and work past “closing time” if I have other stuff that needs to be done. I’m lucky that works for my job, and my boss is fully aware that I’m doing it – we’ve extended the same grace to people who have child/elder care responsibilities or even people who need to do midday walks for their pets. Or even just don’t want to go nuts in their house for hours at a time and take an appropriately-distanced walk around the neighborhood.

    1. Managing to Get By*

      Exactly! I’m a manager and I have no time to go through monitoring logs. We do, however, know exactly who is working hard and who is not, just like in normal times.

      We have 2 days per week work from home in normal times so have had practice with the workflow and communication when we’re not all on site. It’s not that difficult to tell who is productive and who is goofing off.

    2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      My old manager back at ToxicJob would have had plenty of time. Neither I nor any of my fellow direct reports had any clue what she did all day – it sure as heck wasn’t managing. She was once gone for a month on vacation and we barely noticed any difference.

  8. Elitist Semicolon*

    This is kind of like some of the dickish discussions that have happened in academia: professors whose first question isn’t, “how can we best support our students as they try to figure all this out?” but rather, “how do we make sure they don’t cheat on assignments?” But again, it’s not that we don’t trust them… *sigh*

    1. Tim Diaz*

      I’ve always been of the opinion that any assignment or test that can be defeated by a google search is a bad one.

      We don’t live in a society where it’s important to remember random factoids anymore. Information technology takes care of that. What’s more important is productivity, decision making, and critical thinking. But very few classes test any of those things.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        Plus, in the real world, being able to find an answer on google is good. Vanishingly few people can remember every single detail about something, and why reinvent the wheel? The real skill test is whether you know what to do with it once you’ve got it.

        1. Bryce*

          My dad was a physicist and had a large wall full of textbooks. I once asked if he knew everything in them. “No, but I know where everything is in them and enough about it to not have to start from square one when referencing things.”

        2. Elitist Semicolon*

          My undergrad advisor used to tell us, “Don’t memorize anything you can look up.” I still follow this tenet.

        3. willow for now*

          You mean like the 14 year old today on Hints from Heloise who wondered about the difference between brass and bronze? This poor kid never heard of Google?

        4. Candi*

          I’m of the belief you don’t have to know the right answer to everything the first time, right on the spot.

          But you should have enough learning/information/knowledge under your belt for educated intuition to be able to jump up and down and yell, “That’s wrong! That’s wrong!” bouncing all over your head and gut.

          Which should then send you to research why your intuition is playing monkey on the bed.

    2. Candi*

      I think it says something that my college’s Canvas classrooms have something called “HonorLock” available….

      …and NO online course I’ve taken so far has it active. Not even (especially) the calculus teacher. He’s a big “show your work” guy (in the entry space or emailed scans/photos), but trusts the students to behave. Like, you know, adults.

    3. Mookie*

      The annoying thing about these new “concerns” over academic integrity is that they can be allayed the same way they always could have, if there was institutional (faculty and admin, both) will to do so. Pre-covid, there already were substantive, results-driven methods and best practices guides to eliminating a reliable portion of plagiarism and cheating, on-line or otherwise, before they could happen. Again, the solution is not technocratic, more and better software to “catch” cheaters, but faculty and peer mentorship and academic counseling, expanded and equal access to on- and off-campus research and technology, and access to more substantial financial aid and resources to help working students achieve a school/work/life balance. Adjuncts also need more of that kind of support, of course. Those unaddressed needs have not gone away because of any virus.

    4. Libervermis*

      I have been supporting my colleagues during this sudden move to online teaching (because I’m one of a handful of people who have ever taught online before) and “academic honesty” is THE question every week. It’s so frustrating. Many want the school to buy spy software so they don’t have to rewrite their exams to be something other than easily Googled. Thank goodness my institution has said no to that, though for budgetary and time-to-implement reasons rather than a principled stance against Panopticonism.

  9. Zuban*

    Irony: People (like me) spent years in the military longing to leave because they think this sort of babysitting doesn’t exist in “the real world.” Surprise; it’s just part of American work-cult culture!

    Here’s the bottom line, “bosses.” The work needs to get done. That’s it. If it’s done in the manner expected and by the deadline you’ve set, it doesn’t matter at what time the work was done and how much time it took to do. People are cooking meals, chasing children, and trying to keep their lives together during what normally are “work hour.” Guess what: we’re not in normal times.

    (Yes, I know no one guilty of this behavior will ever read this. I just needed to vent)

    1. James*

      It can matter how much time it took to do, in terms of billable hours. If you budgeted the project at 10 hours and it took 15, you’re going to kill your margins.

      But if the work is done on time, at or under budget, and to the quality expected, yeah, how those hours are spread out simply isn’t relevant. I know one person who loves to work 8 pm to midnight, and another that works best from 3 am to noon. Whatever works, works.

      1. Zuban*

        You’re correct about billable hours of course. My underlying assumption is that the work gets done within programmed limits.

        1. James*

          Ideally, yes. But as a consultant it’s been drilled into my head to watch my billable hours, and those of the people working on my projects.

          1. Candi*

            I’m a night owl. For college last quarter, I only had to have my tush in seat two days a week.

            I got a lot of work done between 6 pm and 2 am on the days I didn’t have anywhere to be the next morning.

  10. OG Karyn*

    I’m hearing so many horror stories about this type of thing that sometimes I wonder if companies aren’t using this virus as a way to do all sorts of stuff that they know is wrong but that they also know they can do because their employees are now trapped with them due to job insecurity.

    I know that’s conspiracy theorist of me, but it’s just becoming utterly distressing.

    (I work for myself, so I spy on myself all day).

  11. many bells down*

    My boss just texted me today telling me to make sure I’m not working TOO MUCH. I offered to send her the spreadsheet I’ve been keeping of my hours but she said “nah”. The problem has been that because we’re a religious organization our busiest days are on the weekends, which isn’t when I personally usually work. Also, I have to babysit the minister because he’s not good with technology.

    1. Candi*

      I’m curious: Is this baby-sit because he’s too worried to push any buttons, or baby-sit because he tries too hard and pushes all the wrong buttons?

  12. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    It just seems so passive-aggressive. If there are a few employees that aren’t getting their work done, a good manager will know why and deal with those individuals accordingly. Monitoring employees in such an intrusive way and treating them like criminals won’t solve anything.

    1. London Calling*

      Good job my company isn’t (or had better not be) doing this. We were booted out of the office with a couple of hours notice, I took home a laptop and about 20 pounds of paperwork plus assorted stationery (‘what do I need? staples, stapler, folders, post its, pens, procedures folder….’) and my tech took 3 days to set up and get working with a lot of frustrated phonecalls and Workplace messages between me and IT.

    2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      The operative term being “GOOD manager.” There are a lot of ineffective ones out there, unfortunately. A lot who don’t know the first thing about people, or how to manage them. (I shamelessly lump Boss before my current one into that category. She was awful.)

  13. Palliser*

    It’s such a shame because honestly I think in some ways it’s easier to evaluate employees remotely. You just look at their results. Those can’t be fudged for very long anyway, and people can’t fool you by looking busy.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      This is so true. But a whole lot of managers have exactly one metric they understand: is your butt in the chair on time/early in the morning, and still there after 5:00.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        You get what you measure. If all you measure is how long someone’s butt in in their chair, all you get is their butt in the chair.

    2. Amethystmoon*

      It depends on the job, but yeah, what I do is totally transparent to everyone with access in the system. You can’t lie about getting your work done. It’s either done, or it isn’t, and they can see what you have assigned to you.

  14. lazuli*

    Yeah, I’ve been telling my staff that of course I don’t expect them to be at full productivity right now. Do what they can, and we’ll figure it out over the next few weeks as people settle in better. There’s a pandemic, people; productivity is not the most important thing right now.

  15. Anji*

    If employees haven’t exhibited signs of being careless and directionless, their decision to implement this is nonsense. I’ve worked under a veil of heavy micromanagement, and I fled as soon as opportunity arised.

  16. Anonymouse*

    To Boss:
    You know this spyware works both ways. It says so right in the field manual.
    – – –
    Boss freaks out. Yells at IT. Gets no work done.

    1. James*


      I’ve heard that our webcams have a backdoor program that, when left running for long periods of time, allow malicious actors access to the files on our computers. Something about hard-wired programming embedded in the circuits associated with the webcam. Should we be concerned about this?


      Just plausible enough to cause panic!

        1. Candi*

          Bonus points is you can likely find somewhere official-looking on the net with a post that backs it up, the net being what it is.

      1. Duvie*

        Hmmmm… devious and sneaky, especially when accompanied by a sincere, caring face. I like it!

  17. Batgirl*

    My grandboss was spying on me in the workplace and making complaints to my boss. My boss easily shot it down because she knows what I’m up to.
    However grandboss kept whining “but I can’t see what she’s actually doing!” Yeah no shit Sherlock- that’s not how you do it!

  18. nnn*

    What I’m interested in that the article didn’t mention is the logistics of installing this software on all the computers. I know some large organizations have systems that can push software onto computers, but what’s involved in getting the software into the software-pushing system (which I’m sure has an actual name but I don’t know what it is)? Are they unduly burdening IT during this high-pressure time?

    I’m also wondering, do these jobs not have deliverables?

    1. Not a cat*

      Most enterprise software can be installed at the server level. It either auto-installs or users then access it from a drive or they get a Windows notification with an executable.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      Pushing out software install through a group policy with Active Directory is pretty trivial if the IT people are even minimally competent. Doing it *right* is a bit more challenging, but still pretty easy. And a *lot* of companies use Active Directory to control their networks.

      It isn’t even that hard to do it silently, unless you’re foolish enough to have it reboot while someone is using their computer (and most people won’t realize what’s going on then, especially with the way Windows Updates is screwed up these days).

      1. Candi*

        If IT had any brains, work computers will also have it locked down that stuff from the company is always allowed in, minus malware. -_-

        So you can’t keep it at bay the way I do on my personal computer: EVERYTHING coming in requires permission to download/install. Stuff that tries anyway gets blocked by antivirus. (In the choice between pains, I decided this pain was more acceptable.)

  19. Reality Check*

    I’m not very tech-savvy so bear with me. We’re in the process of switching over to WFH and my boss is getting me a laptop. I will use it for work stuff only, of course, but are they able to tap into my personal devices that are in the home?

    1. Legal Beagle*

      Not a tech expert but I don’t believe that’s possible (absent *actual* hacking which presumably an employer is not doing). If you used your personal devices for work purposes and installed work-owned software, that would be a different story. But your personal devices should be safe as long as you reserve them strictly for personal use.

    2. HelloHello*

      The only way you’d be at risk is if your work has a virtual network you have to access (through a VPN, most likely) and if you connect a private device to that network (for instance, if you connect to your work internet VPN using your personal phone or laptop.) Outside of actually hacking your internet/personal devices or making you to install something directly on your personal internet modom, that’s the only way they’d be able to see or access anything outside your work device.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      If you can’t use your personal devices to contact work computers, then those work computers likewise can’t touch your devices. Don’t connect your personal devices to that laptop, not even to transfer pictures. (Email them to yourself instead.)

      1. Marla*

        If you have, say, connected once already to your work computer, is it already too late? Do they already have my personal files? Can they access them now?

        1. Candi*

          Depends on the program. If you regularly backup your device, it couldn’t hurt to roll it back to the last one before you connected.

          People who know more than my half-done (half-baked) CS Bachelor’s will likely have more advice. Maybe ask again in the non-work open thread so more people see it?

  20. Free Meercats*

    Most of the work I’ve been doing while at home is rewriting a couple of ordinances and our Program Manual. It’s brain work, mostly marking up the current ones with a pencil and not on my computer. So iv they were to take a screenshot every X minutes, they’d get blank screen after blank screen while it blissfully sleeps except for the regular checks of Teams and email.

  21. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    My boss does this and makes all employees use HubStaff to track all activity and take regular screenshots.

    He has had nearly half of his staff quit in the past 18 months (including the entire HR department which is currently empty) and has had several of his star employees say they hate being tracked like this but he laughs it off. Says all those people quit just because “they don’t want to work hard.” No self awareness whatsoever.

    1. HS Teacher*

      He sounds insufferable. Do you have any plans to move on from there when able?

      I worked for a micromanager recently (she finally retired last spring). Our staff still has PTSD from the way we were treated under her. Our new boss is so laid back and trusting, but I think there’s a part of us that are still waiting for her to morph into our former boss (shudder).

    2. Professor Space Cadet*

      My boss from hell during grad school used to say things like this (minus the tracking software). Something I would say now is “it’s a shame you didn’t have the guts to fire me; you would been doing me a major favor.”

      1. Candi*

        Right now, people being on hiatus, unemployed or on unemployment for all the reasons goes under “pretty understandable”. Firing just doesn’t look as bad when society’s undergoing an upheaval like this.

  22. Heffalump*

    I’m sure the commenter earlier today whose mother makes her reports stay on video isn’t going to tell her about this. It wouldn’t do for her to get ideas!

  23. Aggretsuko*

    And I thought it was bad that I now have to write down literally EVERY SINGLE THING I WORK ON, and write down in detail every single email I have to respond to. It’s pages and pages of emails per day, y’all.

    1. Terrie*

      Just found out from an email that my boss wants me to write down the time spent on each thing I do each day. Obviously there is no trust. Out of the seven of us that we’re not furloughed due to the virus I have been there the longest of all. It just makes me feel like they think I am a child.

      1. Candi*

        What is it Alison says about measuring production levels and amount of product made as an assessment of worker performance, rather than treating workers as though they couldn’t draw a straight line without the manager standing over them?

      2. Random IT person*

        Malicious compliance time?
        Write down all details of what you did.
        Every action – every attachment to every email
        Every reply..
        And note that you wrote down the report oo.
        Make them detailed – detailed and detail the details.

    2. Candi*

      ….If they want to know that badly, screenshots and forwarding the emails should suffice. That is a serious case of illogic.

      Windows 10 has a built-in program called Snip & Sketch for selective screenshots, fer pete’s sake.

      (I had to use it for turning in programming assignments the last two quarters. I think so she didn’t have to unpack a couple dozen plus Java programs every week.)

    3. Mookie*

      Between this and war-reporting from the Silicon front, where emperors with no clothes enriched with private equity lead their unicorns and start-ups to spectacular failure, are we ready to concede that the rather all-encompassing abuse and surveillance of the managerial/circumlocution set has become a singular and formidable albatross for the private sector? If you can perform your role to par and actually put to use, rather than just file away, these kinds of emails, you are surplus to requirements, not pulling your weight, and overpaid. I don’t blame the individuals mandated to do this, but lard above. What a waste of resources, talent, training, and education. Not to mention the paycut workers ostensibly take in order to furnish the kind of salaries these roles net.

    4. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      That is so far beyond ridiculous I can’t even think of it. I keep notes on everything I do (and have done since I joined my firm) because sometimes questions arise about events from weeks, months, or even years ago that involve people’s money. But if I had to keep notes to your extent, I wouldn’t get a damn thing done.

  24. Dragon_dreamer*

    I just have to be making reasonable updates to a Microsoft Teams drive of files I created, I control access to, and if I need to do something offline, I just notate it. My boss trusts me, and I’m so happy they do. This is my very first non-toxic job, and it has taught me so much more than the rest combined!

  25. Darury*

    Another stupid feature of this, after waiting for a week for an application to be installed on my work computer I finally gave up and spent each day using the copy on my home computer. So my “work computer” has been sitting mostly idle all day while I’m busy with the application on my home computer. Of course, we work from home on a regular basis so I don’t think my company would bother with something like this anyway.

  26. Candi*

    I’m snickering at her calling it spy software. Love it, cutting right to the chase, call a spade a spade!

  27. Mark*

    I see no problem with this at all. What is wrong with an employer verifying that an employee is actually working while they are getting paid?

    1. Snark no more!*

      You don’t see what’s wrong with watching over your employees’ shoulders? Is that really what you’re asking? Maybe you’re one of those people who think “if you’re not doing anything wrong, why not let them search my car/go through my locker” but it’s a matter of privacy in this particular case. Your spouse or children don’t work for the company, so why should they be on camera all day?

    2. Ruby*

      Nothing, but this isn’t how you actually achieve that effectively. You do that by being a decent manager and evaluating people’s output and productivity rather than trying to police butts in seats. That’s true under normal circumstances too.

      If you don’t understand that, you are not a good manager.

    3. WMM*

      If your only way to verify work was done was to WATCH it be done, then you don’t have very good relationships with your team. You are either watching them all the time, or you happen to come check in when they’re away for a moment to use the bathroom, and you don’t get a real feel for how much time they’re working. If your metrics are based on butt-in-seat times rather than accomplishing goals, what are you really paying for?

    4. Wintermute*

      I’m partially with you. Accountability is important, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If your employees are being productive, you should SEE it, you should be able to see what they are producing.

      Honestly I think this is a problem of modern corporate org structures rather than lack of trust– there are just so many jobs without any tangible deliverable items that can be analyzed and a lot of very nebulous job descriptions that don’t describe much, so it can be hard for managers in some organizations to figure out just how to evaluate if someone is producing anything at all.

      1. Mongrel*

        “Honestly I think this is a problem of modern corporate org structures rather than lack of trust– there are just so many jobs without any tangible deliverable items that can be analyzed and a lot of very nebulous job descriptions that don’t describe much”

        Personally I think part of the problem is that the lower tiers of staff are the ones producing ‘stuff’ but there are whole swathes of mid-to-high level management who are being caught out as they’re the ones with ‘intangible’ product and are projecting their mediocrity to the workers, thus monitoring software.

        A good manager will know their team, what they do at a broad level and what the end goal is for their work. Most of the crappy stuff we’re seeing (again IMO) is from crappy management who think the staff are children or would rather micromanage a whole team rather than deal with the problem members.

    5. Observer*

      If you think this is about verifying that work is getting done, then I have a bridge to sell you.

      For one thing, it doesn’t really work. And even in the narrow slice of cases where you can actually tell what people are doing this way, the amount of work it takes to actually get useful information out of all of this is enormous and totally not time and cost effective.

      If you, as a manager, know what you are doing, there are generally better ways to know if someone is being productive.

    6. Random IT person*

      How many reasons do you want?
      If you do not trust your employees – why did you hire them? Why not replace the untrustworthy buggers?
      How do you do your work? After all, someone needs to read the reports, watch the screenshots, view the camera feed? (perving much with current WFH situation?)
      Or are you a micromanager that needs to control just HOW the employee staples the TPS reports?

      If you have not yet read the links Alison posted about these things, I would really recommend you to do this.
      It will explain why this is a bad idea.

      Now – AV software, encryption and VPN software is fine (and should be present).
      But a software that makes screenshots / camshots .. or requiring to have cameras on at all times?

      Verifying that someone works is in what the employee produces, the mails replied to, the reports created.
      How much more do you need?

  28. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    I always work from the premise that my employer could be watching my work via the computer, ever since it became known that they could do that.

    However… We once had a temp “Susie” who Boss hired after a year. Susie routinely came very late, stayed late “to make up the time” although she had absolutely no authorization to do so. Boss kept saying to me incredulously “I don’t know what she’s doing after 5:00” (when incoming calls shut down and all transactions had been handled for the day). Susie was engaged and she left about 6 months after being hired full-time. Boss had to call IT to get into Susie’s computer because we needed some documentation she was supposed to be keeping. Turned out she hadn’t been doing it, or much of anything else; almost all the files on her computer were her wedding plans. Boss just lo-o-oved Susie and everybody else in the office thought she was the greatest thing since sliced bread. (snicker snicker snicker). Don’t know if we’ve gotten that spyware since then, but my snarky opinion is that we sure could have used it then.

    1. Sacred Ground*

      Spy software wouldnt have made a difference if management doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with her performance. They could have, at any time and without resorting to spyware, simply looked at what she was producing before 6 mon the had passed. They didn’t because they didn’t want to bother managing, assuming everything was just fine. Spyware won’t replace managers doing their damned jobs.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon*

        Yeah, Boss and I interviewed Susie together and it was obvious Boss was instantly smitten with her. Boss acted so impressed with her, even though obvious things didn’t seem to register–like, Susie is supposed to be at her desk because that’s where her work is, but she has plenty of time to hang out with the folks at the next level up (who all loved her too). But after Susie left and Boss had to figure out what she’d done and take care of the things she hadn’t done, Boss seemed very dismayed and even a little lost.

    2. Observer*

      If you have this many red flags and use this kind of software to make SURE SURE before firing, I understand it. But, if you are ignoring all these red flags what is the spy software going to do for you? And if someone is doing their job, who really cares if they had a picture of their wedding venue on the computer.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Good point. Boss would come in past Susie’s desk, but she wouldn’t be there, she’d be in the back office schmoozing with the next-higher-ups, and Boss had to walk past them to get to her office with windowed walls. So, like, how could you NOT SEE THAT? With your back turned and your eyes shut, I imagine.

  29. Raindrop*

    I am not surprised at all. Our HR director at a toxic organization that I left swore up and down that working remotely would never work because employees would hurt themselves at home and try to claim workman’s comp!!! This kind of software was created for this type of paranoid, ill-thinking administrator.

  30. Mary*

    who has the bandwidth for this?! literally! If my laptop camera was on all the time every single thing I tried to do would take three times as long!

  31. Biscuits!*

    On Monday, our company sent out instructions over Slack for us to download a similar program. You were given until the end of day before they started following up on who hadn’t done it. On Friday, they laid off a third of the company in a 10 minute group conference call and then used the software sent out on Monday to turn the laid off employees’ computers into bricks. It really doesn’t inspire confidence for those of us still standing.

  32. Sharon*

    I work for a global organization and most of my colleagues are in other cities if not in other countries. I’ve had bosses based in other cities in the past. I have conference calls and emails and things to read and provide input on. If I didn’t do these things, people would notice. Working at home for me is exactly the same as going to the office, except more productive.

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