I got in trouble for using a mouse jiggler … despite my excellent work

A reader writes:

Trying to figure out if I’m totally off-base here. My position was approved to work from home, along with a lot of other positions, last year.

I am a high performer on my team. I have moved up in the company over the seven years that I’ve been there and have always gotten excellent performance reviews and have done a lot of process improvement.

Recently, our IT department implemented some monitoring that identified which employees might be using mouse movers. I’ve used one since I was sent home at the start of the pandemic to keep my computer from going to sleep and to, yes, occasionally take a longer break than usual. I was called in for a discussion with my manager and supervisor; I explained that I used one, and I got a written warning in my file — my first ever disciplinary action. I was let know in many different ways that I was lucky to not be terminated for “defrauding the company” and “time theft.”

I understand their point, generally. I am, however, a salaried employee and no supervisor or manager of mine has ever, ever expressed any concern about my work — not about its completeness or its pace or meeting deadlines. I have led our team in process improvement and overhauling a lot of outdated systems and practices. I’ve identified policy gaps and have written policies and procedures without being directed to.

This situation has completely demoralized me. I’m used to being treated like an adult and a professional with a handle on their time and projects, and it seems like my company would be okay with a mindless drone as long as they sit at their desk at home for exactly eight hours each day. I had planned on staying with this company longer, but am feeling ready to throw in the towel if they think this is a useful method of managing and monitoring employees. Am I way off-base?

They shouldn’t be tracking down mouse movers in the first place.

If they’re concerned about productivity … they should look at people’s productivity.

There are a bunch of problems with what they’re doing:

* They’re creating problems where there were none — they were happy with your work but now, because of this, you’re being threatened with being fired? That makes no sense.

* They’re signaling a lack of trust in employees, which means employees will in turn become less trusting of them. They’re creating an adversarial culture.

* They’re sending the wrong message about what’s important. Apparently the most important thing is not your work results.

* If the only way a manager knows how to judge a person’s work is by looking at how often their mouse is active — rather than assessing their output and results — that’s a manager who doesn’t know how to do their job. In what other ways is your boss going to fail at managing you and your coworkers?

You’re not wrong to be demoralized.

To be clear, if you’re doing something deliberately designed to deceive your company, it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re unhappy when they find out about it. That part is predictable. But their reaction is over-the-top. (And really, if they discover a highly productive employee is using a mouse jiggler, they should want to understand why, not just chastise the person. The fact that you were using one says that you already sensed your manager might judge you on the wrong metrics. They should want to know how things ended up there.)

I’m curious what your relationship is like with your manager aside from this. Are they the type of person — and do you have the type of relationship — where you could say, “Look, I’m really demoralized by this. I know a mouse mover wasn’t the way to handle this, but your feedback and my performance evaluations say I’m a high performer, you’ve never expressed a concern about my work, and I’ve led our team in X and Y. I’m having trouble understanding why the focus isn’t work output.” If what you know of your manager says this conversation could be constructive, have it.

Otherwise, though, I don’t think it’s wildly off-base to conclude you don’t like what this says about how your company operates. Again, to be clear, it makes sense that they’re not thrilled you were deliberately trying to deceive them. But I question why they were tracking this in the first place, and their handling of it reveals something you’re right to take issue with.

Read an update to this letter

{ 745 comments… read them below }

  1. Lacey*

    I think I’d feel pretty distrustful of a company was tracking my mouse movements at all!

    My output is really good, but there can be long periods of time where my mouse won’t be moving, for one reason or another.

    1. kupo*

      I’m constantly having to wake my computer back up as I read through documentation, colleagues’ work they’ve submitted for peer review, my own work to catch errors, etc. It’s ridiculous to think mouse movement is any indicator of engagement.

      1. HMS Cupcake*

        This! When I’m reading through documents or wading through large spreadsheets, Teams often shows me as inactive because I haven’t been using my mouse. It irritates me that it could lead people to think that I’m not working.

        1. Reply My*

          I CAN’T STAND Teams. Teams shows you as “away” even if you’re in your chair! Teams is basically a Hall Monitor tattling to your boss whenever you use the washroom! Gahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

          1. debbietrash*

            I’ve had recent conversations with my manager about my “perceived availability” largely because of how Teams shows me. If I’m remote and idle for more than 10 minutes I’m shown as “offline”.
            I now refer to Teams as the office narc.

            1. Catalin*

              Teams’ messed up sensors are why I will still message people who are shown as ‘away’. Judge people’s ‘perceived availability’ by their responsiveness, not some colored dot.

            2. DJ Abbott*

              Microsoft has always been full of thoughtless bugs and glitches. This is an especially bad one.

            3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I’ve caught Teams showing me as “away” as I was typing on my computer.

              And, I used to mark my Dr appointments and such as “out of office” on my calendar, so people wouldn’t schedule a meeting with me during that time. Stopped doing it after I came back from an 8AM appointment one day to my managers in the team chat stressing out about how I’m suddenly out for the day and who can cover for me. Damn teams helpfully popped a warning message on every post in the team chat that I was “out of office and may not respond”. I was back from the appointment at 9:15 am… I hate teams for real. We’ve had Jabber, Webex, and now Teams, and Teams is the worst of the three.

              1. Kayem*

                The out of office message drives me nuts. Like, omg we know already!

                My boss once had the out of office status stuck for a month. Nothing she could do would make it stop. Everyone on the team eventually started ignoring it but it still clutters up the chat.

          2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

            My whole team is remote and spread around the country and thankfully we all know Teams status means nothing. No company should be using Teams status as any kind of productivity metric.

            1. Ama*

              No one at my workplace pays attention to your status on Teams either, which can at times be annoying (why did you send me multiple Teams chat messages when you can see I’m in a meeting?) but the alternative, that people are paying close enough attention that they want to know why you’re “away” when you are just busy reading through an important document, is way worse.

              1. BadWolf*

                I send people messages assuming they’ll read them whenever they’re back and ready to read their messages, not because I’m trying to hassle them into answering.

                1. Phryne*

                  Yes this. Also, I know many of my co-workers will block time in their planners for certain tasks so no meetings get scheduled over that time. Teams will show them as in a meeting, when in fact they are just working behind their laptop alone. So I will message or call them if I need them, and if they are busy they will ignore me. They know I will only do that if I have a good reason and I have no problem with being ignored.

            2. Kayem*

              Teams on my phone will show me as active as long as I have the app open, regardless of how long it had been since I last touched it. There’s one manager who is obsessive over Teams statuses and sometimes I open the app in my phone if I’m going to be doing just so he won’t harass me about showing idle.

          3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            When I realized that, I had gotten a call from a friend coworker, alerting me to this design flaw. “Yo, you’ve been yellow for two hours.”
            Um what?
            Oh. Thanks, Teams. Good looking out. I’ll stop what I’m working on to click around my desktop.

            1. Lea*

              I never pay any attention to peoples status unless I get a ‘they have been away for 5 days’ or something

              1. Phryne*

                There is a way to completely turn off that feature, probably depending on your companies settings. I have co-workers on ‘last seen 223 days ago’ when I saw them just yesterday. Whereas I apparently show as just ‘inactive’ and not offline 24/7 as long as my workphone is on. So the only status I do respect is ‘do not disturb’ as that one is generally only triggered manually or when the laptop is in presenter mode.

                1. Zephy*

                  DND isn’t even equivalent to, like, a sign on someone’s office door saying that – it doesn’t depend on you, a human being, “respecting” that the person has set their status as DND. It just means the person you’re messaging won’t see the notification if you send the message now. That’s the thing about written communication, though: it’ll still be there later! It’s asynchronous! I don’t have to stand around and wait until the recipient’s human ears are within range of my human mouth to convey a message! This and Outlook constantly suggesting that I schedule-send emails “during recipient’s work hours” make me nuts. It’s an email! They’ll see it when they see it and get back to me when they can! If I needed real-time synchronous communication with this person, I would call them.

          4. BasketcaseNZ*

            Yes! This drives me bonkers. In the version used at my work, it shows you as “Away” if you are not actively using Teams even.
            I can be hectically writing emails, copying documents to new storage locations, doing mandatory learning, and Teams will show me as “away” because my mouse is not inside Teams…

            1. Joielle*

              Yes, I hate that! I’m fairly overworked right now because of a temporary staffing issue but I feel like Teams undermines that fact if it looks like I’m away from my desk all the time. But I’m right here frantically answering emails. Nobody’s ever said anything but I still don’t like it.

          5. ELS123*

            of my teams goes “away”. I have to click the teams open so it will turn green. Mouse wiggling doesn’t help.

            1. Maglev No Longer to Crazytown*

              This… And I HATE it. I can be vigorously working in Word or Excel, and Teams apparently feels needy and neglected, and shows me as “Away.”

          6. Private_Eye*

            I can’t remember how I used todo this, as my new company uses Google Meet, but I used to be able to create a call in teams, so it would show me as in a call.

            Then it wouldn’t go to “away”.

            Suppose it works if you might have lots of calls. It helped prevent people interrupting me when I needed to concentrate.

        2. Robin*

          I had not realized that is how it Teams determines “away”!! How silly. Glad my managers do not use that as a metric…

          1. Aggretsuko*

            I have not been able to figure out how the stupid thing denotes green, yellow, or red here. Geez, we could be doing anything around here.

            My job is terrible at technology, so happily none of this has become an issue. But I hear the OP on being utterly demoralized after this.

            1. Robin*

              Red means “in a meeting” for us. It links to Outlook so it knows when you have something scheduled. If that block is set to “busy”, then Teams will also show “busy”. Green would apparently mean “has nothing on calendar + mouse is moving”? And then there is grey, which is offline and the purple circle with an arrow that means “out of office” which also links with Outlook.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                It will also show red if you are in a call via teams that isn’t scheduled in outlook. And it shows red with a white bar if presenting.

                Yellow is computer on, but inactive for X time (haven’t been able to figure out X).

                I’m actually not sure if it will still show red if there is something scheduled in outlook but you are not connected to a call. It used to do that and was very confusing (trying to check if latecomers to meetings are online and we can call them in is one of our major uses of the status, and when they just always showed red it was useless). I think they changed it again, because latecomers will again be yellow or green when I check.

                1. HMS Cupcake*

                  For us at least, it does show red if I have a meeting on my Outlook, even if I’m not connected to a Teams meeting or call.

                2. Verthandi*

                  IT can set the timer for how long it turns to yellow and how long before your screen shuts off.

                  Used to be that Teams didn’t turn yellow at all, but then our IT recently set it. I played with a mouse jiggler to find out what the settings were. It turned yellow at 5 min with no mouse jiggler. At ten minutes, the screen would blank, even with a mouse jiggler and I think Teams would show yellow, too.

                3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

                  You used to be able to change the amount of time required before it shifted to yellow/”away”. At least in my organization, that option has been disabled.

            1. Lexi Lynn*

              My Teams only tutns green when I’ve clicked into Teams. It doesn’t consider creating a PowerPoint or working in Excel as active usually. Teams is awful

              1. SomebodyElse*

                That’s my complaint about it… It used to work that once it sensed activity it would turn green. Now it doesn’t turn green unless you are active in Teams.

                So if I go totally idle on my computer for longer than 10 minutes it turns yellow. If I come back to my computer and start working in a spreadsheet for an hour. I’ll have been yellow that entire time.

                The way I see it if ever challenged I can be justified that I just didn’t click Teams to reset my status.

                1. Just a different redhead*

                  Yeah exactly. I can tab between my 3 Visual Studio instances and my 40 Chrome tabs for hours and Teams shows yellow till I go back into it (and sometimes do something in it).

                  Coworkers have had inexplicable offline/out-of-office indicators that had nothing to do with their calendars, too. It could always be worse, but we definitely don’t rely on the status indicator for anything XD

              2. Essess*

                Same here. I am working away on my computer and typing and sending emails but my Teams will claim I’m away because I haven’t put my mouse into the team’s chat bar.

        3. cabbagepants*

          At least in my company’s version, you can click on your status indicator and just set it to show you as always busy.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            yes, you can set the status to whatever you want! I mostly actually use that to set it as “busy” or “away” when I need time to concentrate and don’t want people to call me. My bosses are not insane and have better things to do than track employee’s teams status.

          2. The Rural Juror*

            Well, now I’ve become curious and Googled it. Apparently, Teams will automatically change your status from “Available” if there’s no activity after 5 minutes (only 5 minutes?!?). I’ve never really paid much attention to the “Duration” option, but just set it to 30 minutes instead. I wish 15 or 20 was an option…but, alas, it is not.

            I do often set it to “Busy” or “Be Right Back,” but I’d like it not to rule me out of “Available” so quickly!

            1. Miss Muffet*

              I just looked on the Help on my Teams and it says it sets to “away” after 10 mins of inactivity, and specifically said there’s no way to change that – which is dumb. That’s been a pretty basic feature of chat software for ages and ages.
              But I also have a manager that doesn’t seem to track it because I get my [stuff] done.

              1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

                We used to be able to change it in my org, but that feature is now no longer available :(

            2. WillowSunstar*

              It’s faster than 5 minutes. I’ve been in the bathroom for less than 5 and it showed as away. But then sometimes it’s longer, so it seems to vary randomly. Maybe this is a company-wide setting?

        4. unperformative worker*

          I find I don’t get chat notifications when I’m right in the chair, icon is green, unless I periodically click on the chat icon. Then the notification shows up with whatever time it was sent, so it sometimes looks like I’m ignoring a message when I’m actually right there working & watching. So frustrating.

        5. goducks*

          Every time I start to worry that my Teams status is leading people to believe I’m not working when I’m doing something Teams doesn’t recognize, I remind myself that everyone has the same problem and that I wouldn’t think someone wasn’t working just because their status went to inactive.

          1. Sally*

            This is good to know because, like a commenter above, I have decided not to contact someone when it showed they were away. Now I won’t pay any attention to the status. People can respond when they’re able.

        6. Rainbow*

          Once I was actively text chatting in Teams and it still showed me as Away no matter what I did. I admit I do try to wait till people are green to message them, though. Which also means I feel the need to jiggle the mouse every so often when watching a long webinar. In my industry we must lock our computers when we step away even just for a second – why can’t we set Teams to listen to that instead?!

        7. kiki*

          My org is in the process of migrating from Slack to Teams and this is a huge annoyance of mine! I liked the way Slack would show you as active as long as your computer was running and the Slack app was open– it feels the same as if a coworker were to look over and see that I’m at my desk. With Teams, I’ll be reading documents or on an impromptu call and find out my status has shown as “away” for the last 20 minutes. Our org is still adjusting to what statuses really mean, so sometimes folks will wait until someone’s status is “available” to reach out. I don’t think anyone is micromanaging anyone else, but really folks just want to know “is this person around so I can ask them a question?” Not “is their mouse moving?”

        8. Traswilihar*

          All of this is a very good reason for companies to move people back to the office. For those who are actually working during the day, nobody needs to be convinced that you’re actually working.

          1. tessa*

            I WFH (have been for years) and I am “actually working during the day.” Most of us who WFH are. Besides, in-office doesn’t always mean face-to-face. Anyone could have the Teams problem, whether in-office or WFH. Plenty of letters here report slackers; again, a problem no matter where the work takes place.

            As such, hard disagree that the Teams situation is relevant to the “magic” of butts in seats.

            1. Cookie*

              Tessa, I found that comment from Traswilihar offensive, as I’m thinking you also did. I work harder and more productively at home than I ever do at the office. Do they want me to work, or do they want to watch me be at a specific location where I get less done?

              When I’m there in person I am always inside a small closed-door space set aside for calls, so I can run my air purifier, because my colleagues will not stay home when they’re sick, and I don’t want their microbes, thanks. I find myself thinking more about my health and less about work when I have to be there.

          2. I Need Coffee*

            You need to open your eyes if you think everyone is the office is actually productive all day. I have worked with some people who excelled at looking busy while accomplishing nothing for hours each day.

          3. Fishsticks*

            Yeah, forcing people to stare blankly into space in the office pretending things take longer than they do so they “look busy” is way better than looking at their productivity and quality of work.

        9. Dancing Elaine*

          How did this start all this on TEAMS? The letter is not about that, unless I missed something.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            Apparently LW used a mouse jiggler to make sure they were showing up as Active on Teams instead of Away.

        10. Em*

          Whenever I want to take a break outside of lunchtime, I start a call with myself and make “lofi beats to relax/study to” livestream fullscreen so my pc doesn’t sleep – keeping my status “in a call.” It’s dumb that I feel the need to do that, because when I’m in the office I just lock my pc and go get a coffee/take a walk/have a chat without thinking twice about my status on teams..

        11. Jaid*

          Is this why I keep getting notifications “from” co-workers popping up ALL THE FREAKING TIME? We just started using Teams on the regular in November and it’s super annoying to get these.

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            You can adjust the pop-up notifications. Unless your company has disabled user-access to all settings, you should be able to turn off the pop-ups and just leave the red button with a number in it notification.

            1. Gatomon*

              This is the only way to stay sane. I leave my chat notifications on but I have most Team notifications off unless it’s a reply to me or a @ to me. Certain groups abused the ability to @ a channel or edit messages as important (those both cause another notification by default) and I silenced everything from those teams.

        12. PostalMixup*

          I use away/available to figure out if I can find someone at their desk or in the lab. Green: at desk; yellow: in the lab. Grey: worked the morning at home and now commuting in (or vice versa); will be “back” within an hour, either on site or on Teams.

      2. Constance Lloyd*

        I stare at records all day and have the same problem. I’m an hourly government employee, so my employer is understandably very strict about some policies which are a little more flexible in the public sector, and even they don’t track keystrokes or mouse movement.

        1. Fergus but Not*

          I worked at a company and I thought they were turning on my camera remotely, so I disabled, if it suddenly became enabled I knew they were watching me in my own home, they never but it was an external camera, so I would have definitely pulled the plug on it

          1. Random Bystander*

            I keep my camera (also external) aimed at this little black box (my paperclip holder, which I really haven’t needed for its actual purpose since WFH) unless I am intentionally turning the camera on myself.

          2. Media Monkey*

            my laptop (a dell) has a little slider incorporated that goes over the camera if you need to cover it up.

      3. CR*

        Yes, same! I log in to my work computer remotely and if I don’t move the mouse I will get logged out and have to do a lengthy process to get back in. It’s so annoying! I’ve been considering getting a mouse jiggler so that doesn’t happen

        1. TeamsIgnorer*

          I sometimes put myself deliberately on away, and have a ‘no hello’ status message. I expect people will message and/or mail with the exact issue they need , instead of watching my color on teams.
          This is ridiculous.
          I am a manager and I don’t look at people’s color icon on teams. We announce each other when we need to ‘ be out for 1 h or 2’ , we ask for help if there is a coverage issue and that is that. For everything else we have a shared calendar and use good judgement

      4. learnedthehardway*

        Seriously – especially when you have to repeatedly log into company systems using dual factor authentication, which takes a minute or two every time.

        1. oranges*

          I was going to say this too.
          ::shakes fist at duel factor authentication::

          I often work on things that are 90% paper/book and 10% screen. It drives me bonkers when I have to go through alllll the logins every time I need to jump to the screen parts. I just want to have my computer ready and waiting for me!!

          1. Lenora Rose*

            I don’t mind doing it once a day, which our system requires, though I’d rather do it once a week. I did mind doing it once a day *per computer* when I was doing coverage at other desks – I’d go out of my way sometimes to find things to do while covering that would NOT require me to sign in.

      5. Empress Matilda*

        And on the flip side, here I am reading AAM during work hours, which requires…moving my mouse. I might be able to argue that it’s useful for long-term career development, but there’s no way I could meet any productivity metrics by hanging out here. (Sorry, Alison!)

        So, yeah. Most of us could be working and not moving the mouse, or we could equally well be moving the mouse and not working. Unless your job is – I don’t know, mouse testing or something – there’s not much of a correlation between mouse activity and work product.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          There’s also no way that not hanging out here would improve my productivity, though. If I need a mental break, I’m going to “cyberloaf” somewhere, even if I’m sitting at my desk and moving my mouse.

      6. Inkognyto*

        I have a windows powershell script that hits F15 every 6 minutes.

        The F13-F24 keys are still in windows as valid keys, but no keyboards have them and nothing is programmed to them.

        However the key is pressed, so it keeps it awake, even when I’m working.

        There are things I cannot research at work. I tried, but I got denied and I hate going through the unblock process for a website.

        My field is IT Security. Usually I’m looking at exploits and things we need to be careful of. I’m specifically in data security. I’m not on the IT Security team I’m in the Data Services, and they don’t want to give me a pass to search for vulnerabilities.

        I end up doing much of the research at home on a VPN in a sandboxed browser. It’s a few times a month. Sometimes I’m on TOR also looking for similar things.

        1. Inkognyto*

          er not at home, on my home computer (I work remote) next to my work laptop.

          Since it’s on my machine, I run a VM, sandboxed browser etc just for this. I shouldn’t have too, but it’s not worth the fight. and I’ll be searching for hours sometimes.

          It’s funny when I find something and I tell others because they are like “I cannot look at this it’s blocked” Yep. that’s your issue not mine.

      7. Hats Are Great*

        I put on a youtube video, mute it, and let it play in a tab I can’t see when I have to do detailed document reviews. For whatever reason that keeps my computer awake, while spotify doesn’t.

          1. nnn*

            You can also run a video in Windows Media Player. If you don’t have a video on your computer, you can film 3 seconds of nothing with your onboard camera, then play it on repeat and mute.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Okay, I’m gonna remember that. I use my projector constantly, but sometimes I need to display something on the board while I circulate and observe my students, so I’m not at my desk for up to half an hour at a time and I have to wake up the computer every time it goes to sleep. A mouse jiggler would be useful in this situation, but we can’t install unapproved software, and it’s such a minor thing that it’s not worth going to IT to get it signed off.

          1. Media Monkey*

            if you have an analogue watch with a second hand, sit your mouse on that. apparently the movement of the hand works well to keep it awake!

        2. MassMatt*

          I’d think if a company is searching out mouse jigglers, they’d really bring out the bloodhounds on people watching videos on company time.

          1. Kacihall*

            My sister is supposed to watch training videos when she has time (lol).

            At some point they’re going to realize she ‘watches’ the training videos constantly, but until then if she gets called out for not doing anything she can say she was watching a training video just like she’s supposed to.

            1. WillowSunstar*

              We are suppose to watch Linked In videos, but Teams goes yellow on those.unless you move your mouse.

        3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          We had an in-office VPN that was completely unreliable …. your terminal would be knocked down if you sat idle for more than two minutes. So — I learned that if you connected to some live stream, it would stay up.

          So I connected to a radio station. It just happened to be BBC Radio 2 (RIP, Janice Long, I miss you as the evening DJ). Sometimes I’d listen, sometimes not.

          I got called on the carpet for it. I explained why I listened to the Beeb, I said I’ve gotta keep the connection going. “So, Anon-2, what are we going to do about it?”

          Me = “You mean, you’re gonna get a network connection scheme that actually WORKS and doesn’t (mess) the bed every two minutes? Glad I helped identify the problem here!” (mic drop)

      8. Just Another Tired US Fed*

        I’m with you KUPO. I do lots of reading and analysis and was always having to move the stupid mouse.

      9. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. I have a job where maybe I’m taking the call on Teams or maybe it’s on my phone. If I step away for a bit because I’m on the phone, my computer will go inactive. That’s not an indicator of my work.

        Years ago I had a remote job which used Upwork or something for time tracking. They disabled the software’s ability to take screenshots every x minutes because they thought it was intrusive. It was time only. Coupled with the obvious data trail of number of tickets resolved, they knew when you worked and when you didn’t. I wish more companies were that trusting. IMO the mistrust is about poor management of remote workers and not so much the employees themselves. Box people in or make blanket rules instead of dealing with the true offenders and people who can will leave.

      10. OhNoYouDidn't*

        Yes. I think it’s more about this than trying to “sneak” an extra break in. If I’m salaried, who cares if I’m getting my work done at 3pm or 11pm as long as it doesn’t affect others’ work. Results are what’s important, now what time it is when the work is completed.

      11. Jasper*

        If the screensaver setting are locked down, and this is not that uncommon, mouse jiggler would be the only way to keep the screen active.

    2. Presea*

      Indeed. Goodness forbid someone wants to chart something out on physical paper, or pace, or needs a moment to reorient, or needs a snack/medication, or…

      Frankly, I’m concerned in general that this is the length OP has to go to in order to get the breaks they want. Unless it causes a legitimate business issue in some way, who cares how long they spend on lunch?

      1. cabbagepants*

        There’s a great Dilbert cartoon about this. You can easily be more productive thinking about a work problem while you shower, than you are sitting in a meeting, but only the latter is classified as “work.”

        1. Zweisatz*

          My job acknowledges that and let me tell you, it is pretty great. (The policy is if you thought about work you can write down the time, no matter if you were in front of a computer.)

          They are very strict about time theft, but it is determined by work output and to be investigated for it at all, you need to really fuck up.

          1. Mariana*

            Oh, as a manager trying to fairly measure productivity in my team, I’d love to hear more about how it’s done at your job!

      2. ferrina*

        YES! My job requires a lot of brainstorming, a lot of figuring out how disparate pieces of information fit together. It’s not uncommon that I need to brainstorm for several hours before I put together a single document. I’ve spent hours where I’m just spread out across my living room floor with my scratch paper and my markers, trying to figure out how the pieces connect.
        Those hours away from my computer means that when I do sit down, I’m really productive (all the tough decisions are made, I just need to do the step by step). My boss is delighted with my work and my solutions.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Also, how many “in the office” workers have sidebars with coworkers in the kitchen or let their computers go inactive because they are in a physical meeting? Some of the best solutions come from these impromptu discussions. Makes little sense to judge remote workers so harshly when I bet there’s other people in the office being less productive.

    3. Sloanicota*

      Yeah I was a bit confused – did OP get a mouse mover because they knew the company was monitoring the mouse movements on their device? That was already crappy of the company and I reason I wouldn’t want to stay there, outside of certain types of roles perhaps.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        She may have gotten it just because she did not want the screen to fall asleep if she was doing something else for a little too long. Our password requirements at my agency have led to us having really long passwords with numbers, letters, special characters, etc., and we have to change them every 90 days. It is a pain to type it in more often than necessary! That is reason enough!

        1. Lydia*

          She says in her letter she did it so her computer wouldn’t fall asleep. I assumed it was for when she was working on something that wasn’t on the computer.

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            Yeah, sometimes you have to do things that do not involve actively using the mouse, like reviewing something on paper or taking a phone call. I hate when my screen goes to sleep on me.

          2. Dancing Elaine*

            She also said she wanted to extend breaks. Companies are onto mouse jigglers and can detect them. Maybe not fair, but beware. Accept the discipline and move on. The next job may also be monitoring.

            1. Mid*

              OP is exempt and excellent at her job. She’s not committing time theft by extending breaks. Salary is salary.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          My current job is really insane with making us change passwords every 45 days. My screen goes to sleep after 10 minutes of inactivity, which if I had it set to lock on inactivity would inspire me to get a mouse jiggler.

          But when I’m reading a document, or making notes my screen can time out. I have developed a habit of randomly moving my pointer when I’m reading just so the screen doesn’t blank.

          Still, if I need to go to the bathroom it can take 15 minutes if I have an IBS moment. I would be furious if someone was nitpicking my computer use all day. I know that in my job there is often hours of skull time before I even open an editor to make a new script or document. I do some of my best thinking in the bathroom, FFS. If I was judged on keystrokes or mouse movement or some idiot piece of software deciding whether I was online or not I would rapidly be looking elsewhere.

          Quite frankly, I think this company and manager has shown the OP exactly what they think of them and what they consider a true measure of work. The OP needs to find a new company where people are respected and judged on their actual output, not how long they stare at a screen.

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            Yeah, I am an attorney, and if I have a big hearing coming up, I rehearse opening statements or closing arguments, anticipated legal arguments, etc., away from my computer. I mean, in reality, you have to be able to think on your feet, but it helps to be prepared, to think through your talking points. I get up and away from my computer to do this, but it is still work. And I also have IBS, so I totally feel you there!

            Calling it wage theft is especially ridiculous if she is exempt (which I assume she is). Just like they do not have to pay overtime if she works longer hours, she still gets paid the same if she has less than 40 hours of work to do in that week. She gets paid to perform her job duties, not by the hour, so it cannot be wage theft unless she is salaried and non-exempt, and it does not sound like that is the case.

          2. ZugTheMegasaurus*

            I’ve also developed a habit of just randomly moving/clicking the mouse while reading documents (which is like 90% of my job). Unfortunately, that habit persists when I’m having to do presentations over Zoom and accidentally keep clicking through the slide deck! Nobody’s complained, but I feel embarrassed every time.

            1. Just a different redhead*

              Ah, I just never click. Moving the mouse every so often when reading/staring at something, via touchpad, is pretty much a reflex now. (And tap-clicking on a computer is evil to me so all tapping/gestures are disabled on my laptop touchpads.)

        3. MigraineMonth*

          My org just updated to the newest security procedures (emphasizing password length over complexity, not requiring them to be regularly changed), and it’s made me so happy. Particularly since my last password was so complex I typoed it 30% of the time.

          1. Random Bystander*

            And it is so easy to typo the password unless you have the option of changing the dots/asterisks to allow you to see what you’ve typed … I have the option for about half the things I need passwords for at work, but half, I just have to hope that I didn’t mis-type somewhere in the 14 character conglomeration of uppercase/lowercase/numeral/special character.

            1. Chapeau*

              I have recently resorted to keeping a document on my desktop that’s called Pass. Three guesses what’s in it…
              I started doing it because one my laptop keys can be a bit sticky sometimes, so I occasionally get 3 of that key when I only need one. Which is fine, except that letter occurred twice in my last password to get on the VPN and I couldn’t see what I was typing. In Word, you can see what you type. (That feels like a line from a horror movie…)
              I used to get into the VPN on fewer than 20% of my attempts. I haven’t “typed my password wrong” in weeks.
              Fortunately I can open Word before I go into the VPN. If I couldn’t, I’d be back under 20%.

              1. Jasper*

                Look into whether your org will allow you a password manager (Keepass is open source and strong, there are other options). Because what you’re doing there is making notepad a crappy low security password manager.

    4. Betty Flintstone*

      But surely OP knew they were concerned about her appearing to be working, or she wouldn’t have gotten the mouse jiggler in the first place? That’s what I don’t get – she’s upset that they care that she is fraudulently moving her mouse to appear in active status after buying a mouse mover to make her appear in active status presumably because she thought that was something her company cared about?

      I truly think the company is acting badly, but things like this just add fuel to the argument that remote employees are really just taking naps and watching tv and using mouse jigglers – no one looks good here, in my opinion.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        She may have gotten it just because she did not want the screen to fall asleep if she was doing something else for a little too long. Our password requirements at my agency have led to us having really long passwords with numbers, letters, special characters, etc., and we have to change them every 90 days. It is a pain to type it in more often than necessary! That is reason enough!

        Also, if she is salaried and exempt, and her performance is good, deadlines are met, and productivity is strong, they really have no leg to stand on. Exempt means that you get your salary whether you work 40 hours that week, more than 40 hours that week, or less than 40 hours that week. You don’t get overtime, but you don’t get penalized of pay for not working all the hours. So there is no company time theft for exempt positions, because it is not about time or hours worked. It is about productivity and output.

        And really, unless you need to be in a specific place at a specific time or available very specific hours, employers should be focused on output and not on time. You figure out if your teleworker is doing their job or not by monitoring whether their work is getting done, not their active screen time. So anyone thinking this is a sign that remote employees are taking naps and watching tv should not be saying that it is a sign remote work is a problem, but that it is a sign that the managers of said company do not know how to do their jobs.

        1. Betty Flintstone*

          I don’t think the fact that you find security protocols at your work inconvenient is a good rationale for getting a mouse jiggler.

          1. Sunshine*

            Why not? Having your mouse continue to move so you don’t get logged out while you’re reading something over sounds like a good reason to me.

            1. The Rural Juror*

              Seconding this. I often leave documents open on my screen while I’m reviewing something physical and need to reach up and jiggle my mouse so it won’t go to sleep. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to change the settings so it won’t happen so often.

            2. Emilia Bedelia*

              If the password/screen lock requirements are there for security reasons, it’s not a good idea to subvert them for any reason, even if it seems like it’s harmless… because then they could also be subverted for a bad reason.

              That is like saying “Why can’t I leave the safe unlocked so that I don’t have to waste time with the combination lock?” Just because OP has good intentions doesn’t mean that they can exempt themselves from security measures.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                yes and no. If the lockscreen is set really short and you have to sometimes read physical documents and then occasionally take a note on screen, it can be really annoying to have to do the whole unlock rigamarole every ten minutes (and loose the thought you wanted to take a note of) while sitting right in front of the screen the whole time. The (obviously permissible) alternate solution is just randomly jiggling the mouse yourself every so often.

                To use your analogin – it’s like not locking the safe while sitting in front of it counting the money.

                Now, leaving a mouse jiggler on while taking a nap or leaving the house… that could be a security problem.

              2. John*

                The point of the short time out before locking is so that if your laptop is in a public place and gets stolen, the thief can’t access company information.

                Subverting these features while you’re at home alone with no possibility of theft doesn’t put company info at risk.

                1. Emilia Bedelia*

                  Realistically, yes, the risk is low if OP is still right there and is at home. But the point of having security is that it is secure at all times, and that requires consistency, even if the risk “seems low”. IF the OP is in an industry that requires that level of security (they don’t say if they are, but it is possible), this is just the reality of working in this type of environment. You can’t just decide that rules don’t apply to you.

                  The point of having a security policy like that is so that people are not doing their own risk calculations. What if you are outside of the house at a coffeeshop that you’re a regular at, so someone thinks that it’s just as safe as at home? What if you ask someone to watch your laptop, does that count? These are the considerations that IT departments are trying to remove by implementing these types of rules. Maybe this is not the exact situation that OP is in, but there are many cases where this stuff does matter.

              3. Yorick*

                If you’re sitting at your desk, it’s ok if the screen doesn’t lock. Nobody else is gonna come and start browsing while you’re there.

              4. Daisy*

                When your screen locks because you are sitting in front of you computer reading a text-heavy document, or trying to figure out how to re-word a paragraph, or – heaven forbid – working with actual pencil and paper, it is in no way a security risk. Having to remember to move/click a mouse every 4.5 minutes, or even worse set an alarm that jolts you out of focus is not the way to get high-quality work out of employees that produce creative, logical, or thought-heavy work.

                1. GrooveBat*

                  Or running a webinar where someone asks a detailed question that you have to take time to answer.

              5. somanyquestions*

                But you could leave the safe unlocked if you were standing there in the doorway doing work, and it’s actually illogical to have it automatically lock while someone is right there and needs to have it open. People are talking about bypassing security that locks them out while they are actually at their keyboard.

            3. m2*

              or go to your settings and change how long until you get logged out/ lock screen instead of using a mouse jiggler! If they don’t allow it talk to IT.

              The company might be having productivity issues with people WFH if they are doing this BTW.

              Can you ask them if you are able to extend when your screen locks? I think it is a bit crazy to be written up over it, but you do admit you use it to take longer breaks.

          2. Sparkles McFadden*

            It’s a reason that makes complete sense to me. Many places set up sleep times to a ridiculously short duration which, usually, you’re not allow to change because heaven forbid you have access to change setting on the computer that you use every day for your worklife. If you work offline to do something such as write out a flow chart by hand, you shouldn’t have to log back in. It’s counter productive.

            1. Allonge*

              If this is the only reason though, why not tell your boss that you are planning to install / use a mouse jiggler?

              1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

                Honestly, I had never heard of one before today and I would have no reason to tell my boss because I am exempt, I do some work not on the computer, and I have no reason to assume my boss is tracking it. And if I cannot install something, the IT people will have it blocked. I would certainly not be getting one on the belief that they were going to be monitoring it to see if I am on the computer or what my active screen time is. The idea that they would do that is bizarre to me.

              2. Meganly*

                My boss is aware that I use a mouse jiggler and why (so my computer doesn’t fall asleep and mess up Synergy, which is a pain to fix). I have the mouse jiggler on my personal PC for the same reason.

          3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            If I am sitting there reading a large paper file right by my computer, there is no risk to the computer or its content. I just do not want it to fall asleep while I am working on reading the case because I will want to look up and check the email if it pings. It is no greater security issue than if I were working on the computer in that case.

          4. Happily Retired*

            I used to work as a government contractor. When our screens timed out because we were “skull timing” (I love this term!), the VPN would time out as well. It often took 30 minutes or more to get back on. You’d better believe that if there had been mouse jigglers around then, I’d have had one.

            As it is, I’m fidgety by nature, so I just kept wiggling the mouse.

        2. Divergent*

          Yes, several times I’ve missed an IM or call while I was sitting reading a paper copy of something at my workstation, because my screen had locked. A mouse jiggler would be a good solution to hear those when they come in!

      2. Dona Florinda*

        We don’t know that OP “bought a mouse mover to make her apper active”.

        As other commenters have said, it’s possible to be working on something and still have to wake the computer up.

        1. Betty Flintstone*

          She specially says in the letter that one of the reasons she used it was to sometimes take longer breaks than usual.

          1. 2 Cents*

            Yeah, but is that 5 minutes over, an extra bathroom break, letting in the repair guy, taking the occasional long lunch? All of these things would be fine if you were in the office and your boss could see you. Anyone who’s like “when people are in the office, no one ever wastes time and is 100% focused on work” is delusional.

            1. WiscoKate*

              And if she is salaried – it’s not like she would be compensated for working more. A little time here and there is not the end of the world, especially if she is a high performer. Personally, I prefer working intensely for periods of time and then taking a longer break. The work output is the same, but it works better for me than a sustained medium pace.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                My first professional job had the expectation that “you’re salaried exempt, so we’ll never pay you for the copious overtime we require, but also you’ll get in trouble if you only work 39.75 hours one week.” It was incredibly demoralizing, and they burned through employees so fast.

          2. Dona Florinda*

            But OP is not paid by the hour, so that’s irrelevant here. They might take longer breaks to decompress or whatever and still get the job done, or maybe they work longer hours to make up for those breaks.

            1. ferrina*

              Or the break isn’t a break from work, just from the computer. Sometimes I’ll hit a mental block and take a walk while turning over the problem in my head. This works more often than sitting at my computer, and after my 30 minute break I’m twice as productive than if I’d been staring at my computer the whole time.

          3. wordswords*

            She does, but she also says it was to keep her computer from going to sleep, and it sounds like that was the primary motivation.

          4. Curmudgeon in California*

            The thing about being salaried is that breaks are not measured like they are when you are hourly. If I want to print something out then sit on my couch to read it and make notes it’s not a violation. If I need to take a long lunch and nap I can do that too, as long as I make up the time/work. There is analog stuff that even computer people do!

            Measuring “productivity” as whether the person shows as “online and moving the mouse” or not is like judging programmers by the number of lines of code they write – it’s a false metric and induces bad results. Remember, what you measure and reward/punish is what you get. If you judge productivity by whether the mouse is being moved you get mouse jigglers and employees who check out.

            1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              They can be measured the same way, but that likely means the job will be considered non-exempt, so salaried, but with requirements to pay overtime. It is a thing. My agency had a huge mess to deal with a few years back when they realized they had misclassified a large group of employees who were and are salaried as exempt! It was a crazy time.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                My current job is salaried *and* non-exempt. So I get the best of both worlds: I’m paid for any week I do any work and I’m eligible for overtime.

          5. Yorick*

            My job is flexible, so it’s fine for me to sometimes take a longer break. During those breaks, it’s nice for the computer to stay active so I can hear an email or IM come in.

          6. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            She is salaried, and therefore likely exempt. She does not have to work 40 hours a week to get her salary, and they do not have to pay her overtime if she works more than 40 hours a week. Because she is not paid for her time, but her work product. So there is no wage theft from taking a longer break or any of that. For all we know, she could have IBS and sometimes need longer bathroom breaks, but does not want to have to log back in each time. Or she just needs a longer break after finishing something really complicated and requiring a lot of brain energy. That is one of the reasons exempt roles are exempt.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Brain energy is such a limited resource. Most productivity studies show that the maximum productive time for office workers is just 3 hours a day, yet we’re supposed to have our butts in seats for 8 hours a day.

              I suspect this is why we have so many meetings: they’re a way to fill unproductive time with the illusion of productivity.

          7. Starbuck*

            Which is her right, as a salaried employee. The primary fault here is with the employer for having inappropriate/unreasonable expectations based on their employee’s status. They’re measuring the opposite of what they’re supposed to, time vs. results.

      3. redflagday701*

        I dunno, it sounds like she wanted to avoid a stupid conversation about a non-issue and is quite reasonably annoyed that her employer has chosen to double down on making it an issue. I don’t think mouse movers or deceiving your employer in other ways are ideal, but there is a concept in couples therapy called “lie-inviting behavior” that seems relevant here. And it’s not really on OP or any other perfectly productive remote worker to rebut the myth that remote work encourages laziness.

      4. Princess Leia*

        “But surely OP knew they were concerned about her appearing to be working, or she wouldn’t have gotten the mouse jiggler in the first place?” Well no, not necessarily! When my computer locks me out, I have to put in my password and then change my keyboard language again, and occasionally everything on my second monitor shifts over to the first one. So when I leave at lunch to walk around the block sometimes I log on to a random meeting just to make sure my computer doesn’t lock itself. I am not charging my time for my walk around the block, so I really don’t feel I’m “stealing” from the company for this. It’s really just to make life easier.

      5. Yorick*

        I sometimes use something to keep the computer awake while I’m taking a break but running a big query or something – the fact that it’s processing doesn’t keep the computer awake and it’ll fail if it goes to sleep.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, there’s nothing worse than compiling something, walking away for coffee, getting into a conversation, then coming back to find out that your compile failed because the idiot computer logged you our for inactivity! I remember having to set up screen sessions that would run in the background for compiles, because if I went to a meeting (in office) the stupid thing would log me out!

          1. Yorick*

            I have done some that take hours, so I have to set them up at the end of the day and let them run overnight. A mouse jiggler would have been handy then! (that was a previous job where I could change the settings so it wouldn’t go to sleep at all)

        2. ferrina*

          Oh man, this triggered a random memory. Pre-pandemic. My computer (a laptop) had been running hot all day. I was trying to run analytics on some pretty big data sets, and my computer kept overheating. I wasted a couple hours running analytics that should have taken 10 minutes. Finally I shut down the computer, walked to the office kitchen and put it into the freezer for 5 minutes.

          The IT guy was horrified, but I didn’t have any problem with that computer for months after that.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I left my smartphone in my car before going kayaking one day, and it got so hot it wouldn’t turn on. Since I needed directions to get back, I asked one of the boat rental employees for help. They said “oh, this happens all the time”, took my phone and stuck it in the freezer with the ice cream treats. Five minutes later it was working again.

            1. Nobby Nobbs*

              I had the same problem when the AC in my work truck broke. The ice pack from my lunch worked beautifully! (Phone was for music and GPS, obviously. I’m not endorsing distracted driving.)

          2. Polyhymnia O'Keeffe*

            Part of my job includes producing live performance events. Sometimes, these are outdoors (like festivals, etc). Sound engineers often run these events on an iPad rather than on a console that lives in one place. On a hot day, especially where the shade isn’t in the right place for the house mix to sit in, the iPad can sometimes overheat and has occasionally shut down. We’ve started bringing an ice pack in an insulated lunchbag to these events and attaching it to the back of the iPad case to keep it cool. It helps!

        3. Yorick*

          One time after we started WFH, something happened with the network where nobody could log back in if they got logged out (I don’t remember why). IT gave us a video to play on repeat so the computer wouldn’t go to sleep due to inactivity.

      6. Just Another Tired US Fed*

        BF, you interpretation is totally off an rather insulting to the OP. You can be in the BATHROOM, for heavens sake, or getting coffee, all things folks in the office do several times a day. Those activities don’t take you out of active status, plus OP is EXEMPT.

      7. There You Are*

        I have a mouse jiggler because when my screen goes to sleep, all of my open apps and windows jump to Monitor #3 when I re-log in. So it’s not only the pain of logging in again, but dragging every farking thing back into the place where it needs to be for me to efficiently work.

        I would be so incredibly pissed off if my manager wrote me up for using a jiggler.

      8. Dancing Elaine*

        Agree. She is the one who installed the jiggler. My company does not monitor it but I still would never do it. OP, you got caught. Next job or the job after that may monitor as well. Accept the write up, remove the jiggler and move on.

        1. Jasper*

          No, keep the jiggler, don’t accept the spurious write-up. They didn’t get caught. Somebody spotted them doing something normal and work-appropriate.

    5. Beth*

      No kidding! FFS, there are plenty of times during my busiest days when my mouse isn’t moving at all, because not all my work is on the computer. For that matter, there are times when my mouse is moving constantly and I’m not working at all — for example, when I’m browsing AAM during my lunch!

    6. Samwise*

      Me too. Why, sometimes I stop to write on paper! I make phone calls! I read books and journals that are not online!

    7. Beth*

      Agreed! The fact that you felt a need to use a mouse mover at all is already a problem. It’s such a terrible way to measure productivity–in general, but especially for a salaried role where output is a much more appropriate measure of productivity than time spent at the computer. It really shows that your manager isn’t able or willing to do their job properly.

      I have to admit, in your shoes, if I was called in for questioning about whether I use one, I probably would not have admitted it. I generally think honesty is the best policy (certainly the least complicated!), but by the time you distrust your management enough to use that kind of tool in the first place, it’s probably not in your best interest to tell them things they won’t want to hear.

    8. Lea*

      I would too but I also would not buy a mouse jiggler either.

      Explain why your computer went off, it happens sometimes you’re reading an article or on the phone or something!

      They’re Both a little sketch here

    9. Fishsticks*

      Yeah, my closest coworker is a woman in her 50s who primarily does content and marketing editing work. She does a lot of printing things out and marking them up by hand before making the changes into the document. It’s just a habit of hers, and it’s how she does her best work, but it also means her mouse is full on idle for loooooooong periods of time.

      She’s the best editor at my company! But under micromanaging how often her mouse moves, she’d get in trouble. Ridiculous.

    10. yala*

      When we were still working from home, I’d usually load PDFs of records onto my iPad so I could sit somewhere comfortable and double-check them (putting them on a different kind of screen than the one I’d made them on help sort of jiggle my brain out of autopilot). Granted, the computer I used was also MINE, so I’d’ve been horrified at tracking software anyway.

    1. CheesePlease*

      not on your work computer though!! obviously this is always worth saying but especially if IT is tracking a lot of things.

    2. Random Dice*


      “You’re amazing but we may fire you because we’re stupid managers who assume the worst about you… which is its own form of confession.”

      Um. No.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*


      I would have started composing my resignation the moment I got that write-up.

      That evening I would update my resume and start sending it out.

      OP, you need to leave, this company does not respect or value you.

    4. Your Computer Guy*

      Same. My work is getting nit picky about time and I’m getting ready to look elsewhere.

    5. Fishsticks*

      Yep, this. If they plan to treat you like a child, get out of there, find somewhere that treats you like an adult, and let them know why you’re leaving when you go.

  2. L-squared*

    This company will probably also be one of those wondering why people are leaving and others don’t want to work there after they get bad glassdoor reviews.

    Its weird, it seems some companies have gone backwards in terms of treating employees like adults who can manage their schedule. Hell, my company is one of those. I truly don’t understand it.

    If productivity is fine, this seems like a super petty thing to be upset about. Hell, even the idea of this being deliberately deceptive seems too strong of a word. You aren’t lying about billable hours or anything. Just keeping the mouse active. If the mouse being active is all that really matters and not work output, they are just being jerks.

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      Came here to say this. The company is being ridiculous. I’d start job searching immediately. I would imagine this isn’t going to get any better.

    2. LoJo*

      …and I’ve worked with some really lazy people that really weren’t that productive. Just sitting at your desk (WFH or in the office) doesn’t make you a contributing member of a company.

      1. Starbuck*

        Then they must have also had lazy or inattentive managers to let them get away with having such minimal productivity. Employers that refuse to actually assess results are going to run into these problems.

      2. Fishsticks*

        One of the weirder aspects of working in an office as opposed to home, for me, was that I routinely could finish my work around lunchtime about twice a week (day to day isn’t consistent – some days require more than others), but had to pretend to be focusing real hard on… my nothing to do. But I didn’t ask for more work, because then I would be buried on the busier days when I NEEDED all that time.

        Working from home really fixed that problem, because I could maintain high productivity and still get things done at home, take a ten minute walk, etc.

        I’m back in the office now at this latest job, but I made a choice to be in the office BECAUSE I have a private office and more consistent work through the day.

      3. aebhel*

        So? Those people should be let go. There’s no reason to treat an entire company’s worth of adults like untrustworthy children off the bat just because some people are unmotivated or bad at their jobs.

    3. Mill Miker*

      Some people don’t seem to understand that people can be more productive when they’re well-rested and calm and feeling good.

      “Yeah, they’re productive enough to meet our goals, but imagine how much higher we could set the goals if they stopped being so lazy and actually tried”

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Which is such a flawed way of thinking about rest and productivity. Giving your brain a break isn’t taking away from productivity/creativity/etc, it’s what allows it in the first place.

  3. DrSalty*

    You know what really keeps a mouse moving is online shopping. This is so dumb. I’d start job searching too.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I know. Before we went digital with our cases, I got them printed out and read them on paper. My computer screen staying on all the time would have meant I was not reading my cases. Sure, that could be because I was emailing, researching, or drafting something, but it could just as easily be me watching youtube videos or browsing reddit!

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Or playing games. When I’m doing my work as I’m supposed to, I’m both clicking and typing. Is this company also keeping track of employees’ typing?

      1. Random Dice*

        Every company has that ability, to watch your screen while you’re working.

        It wouldn’t at all surprise me if they were watching OP’s computer very carefully, along with the other dastardly jugglers that are exempt but also somehow committing time fraud.

        1. NotBatman*

          Every company *potentially* has that ability, but I agree with the chorus of voices saying that no self-respecting company *uses* that ability. Unless OP’s job hinges on always being 100% alert every second of the work day (if she was watching for nuclear missiles, I guess?) then this should not ever be a performance metric.

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        When I am doing work I am supposed to do, I am sometimes not doing clicking or typing. Sometimes I am scrolling. Sometimes I am reading something on good old fashioned paper. Sometimes I am preparing an opening or closing argument (which I do in my head). Honestly, if I am always clicking and typing, I am not doing some major key parts of my job!

      1. Smithy*

        Was just going to say this….but all this type of “watching” does is divert behavior to other performance markers. As opposed to actual performance.

        This is no different than marking performance with a “butts in seats” metric as somehow showing dedication or hard work. I used to work in an office where the CEO would show up early and leave by 5pm. If you were in the office early, that was indicative of positive/dedicated work traits. If you showed up by 9am or later, it was irrelevant when you left the office – as she’d been around for HOURS, and where on earth were YOU. There was one staff member in particular who regularly would arrive around 10:30am and rarely left before 8/9pm. She burned through all of her capital to have that schedule, and another colleague who arrived at 7am and left at 2pm – and was praised for dedication of showing up earlier than the CEO.

        Being demoralized by these dynamics is 100% normal. Because people do end up just playing to the system they’re in. Not necessarily doing work that’s any better.

        1. Just Another Tired US Fed*

          I hated that. As a later-arriving person, I used to tell those smug early birds (who often finished their grooming and ate breakfast at work) that they were digesting their dinner while I was still in the office. So very stupid.

          1. Fishsticks*

            I arrive around 7 am and my officemate arrives around 9 am, the other two members of our team start between 830 and 9. I am the go-to for anything anyone needs before like noon on a rush job, my closest coworker handles the afternoon stuff that happens up until she leaves at 5 pm. It works SO WELL for us to have the staggered schedules that I wonder why so few places are happy to accommodate like this. I do my best work in the morning, my coworker does her best in the afternoon. The company only benefits from the staggering.

    3. Just Another Tired US Fed*

      Or Facebook browsing, which many folks did a lot of in the office. Who cares if they did their work?

    4. NYWeasel*

      I found out accidentally that if you are in a Teams meeting with someone else and they leave but you don’t, your screen won’t go blank if you’re inactive AND will show you are in a meeting. So if one wants to keep the screen active but be doing things offline or just appear fully booked, you can always set a meeting with a throwaway email account and just log into it or hang out in a previous meeting after everyone leaves. I now do that after certain meetings bc it cuts down on the expectation that I’ll answer a chat thread immediately if people think I’m in a meeting. If you just set the meeting with yourself it shows as “busy” which in my office is code for “free to interrupt”.

    5. Pink Candyfloss*

      Ask A Manager is a good way to keep your mouse moving. I also consider it “professional development time”

    6. Luanne Platter*

      Exactly, this punishes the wrong people while overlooking folks spending their time on social media instead of work.

  4. Purely Allegorical*

    This type of tracking also incentivizes employees to put in the bare minimum — if you’re tracking my every move, literally by tracking my mouse, then as soon as I reach 8 hours I will be signing off. If I’m a salaried role, the company may be expecting me to put in additional hours for strategic thinking, big projects, etc — but when there is no flexibility for me to take it easy when things are slow, I’m not going to bend over backwards when things are busy. Mouse trackers ignore the ebb and flow of normal work patterns.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I am usually emphatic about clocking off on time; this week something small came up just before I would normally leave and it was important – I knew my boss could really do with having it straight away. It was still a bit of a coin toss, but fact that my employers have been very flexible recently made it go in their favour. Also, because I work with children, there’s always the (remote) chance I could get stuck working late because a child is upset, hurt or making a disclosure. I would never leave a distressed child, but I would also feel less resentment if my employer is not deliberately milking my effort in general. They have pastoral staff to avoid the burden of that usually falling on me, so if it happened as a one off I wouldn’t mind.

    1. Lacey*

      YUP. My company is really flexible with me, so I’m flexible with them. But I’ve worked places that weren’t and man was I stickler for only working those 40 hours.

    2. Subdivisions*

      As an exempt worker who shamelessly makes use of a mouse juggler and who would already be updating my resume if I were in OP’s shoes, I fully agree. I use slower weeks at my job to take things easy and refresh and recharge from all the other weeks where I have to work late or log in on a Sunday to meet important deadlines. I’d burn out in a month if I didn’t do that.

  5. I should really pick a name*

    First: Your company is ridiculous to be expending resources to track this sort of thing.

    But I do wonder why you felt the need to get the mouse jiggler in the first place. Were they already tracking mouse mover? Had they complained about the lengths of your breaks?
    I’m wondering if you were trying to solve a problem that didn’t exist.

    1. sacados*

      That honestly was my first thought– LW never mentions them monitoring computer activity in the first place…
      Although given that they were having IT search out mouse movers I suppose that is a sign it’s also the kind of company that would drive someone to use one.

    2. Antilles*

      The fact that the company immediately jumped to defrauding the company over the mouse movement makes it pretty clear this company is ridiculous – and presumably OP was aware of that which is why they got the mouse program in the first place.

    3. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

      It sounds to me like this was a company-wide shift and that they weren’t necessarily just tracking her. But the software found that she uses a mouse wiggler.

      1. Me ... Just Me*

        That’s my thought. It probably was a routine scan to see if anyone was using a mouse mover and OP was one of many. I do think it odd that, as a salaried employee, they’d be writing her up for it — but I also think it’s a little iffy that she’s using one in the first place. Though, in my current job, we are contracted to provide so many hours of “my job role” weekly/monthly and can be penalized for lapses (big lapses) and so I am required to clock in and out. I get paid the same no matter what, though. My husband works for the government and they have to attribute their hours to specific “jobs” or “contracts” that they’re working on. I wonder if there is something like that going on here?

        1. scandi*

          For my job, the primary issue would be security. Our screens lock after ten minutes as a security measure, because we handle very sensitive, confidential documents (we are also supposed to lock our computers any time we get up, but the short time to screen lock is an additional measure). I would likely get in trouble, but a firing threat seems very extreme. Calling it time theft is ridiculous when LW is neither hourly nor under-performing.

        2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          Now that this question has taught me they exist, I kind of want one for my personal computer, which is always resetting its own sleep timer. I want to use it to display cross stitch patterns or read passively, or light my desk a bit more while working at something at my desk, and the screen is always turning off. I have to pull up long YouTube videos, put them in the foreground, and work around them.

          On the other hand, my friend also just quit a job where the high level management liked to take time out of their day to yell at everyone for two minutes of slip coming back from their lunch breaks whilst they were doing 3-4 hours of mandatory overtime every day, so I have a lot of sympathy for anyone tricking productivity trackers, regardless of context.

    4. Clobberin' Time*

      This sounds like one of those vicious cycles – management has draconian measures for productivity and to punish ‘slacking’, employees are resentful and figure they might as well game the system, management sees that and cracks down harder.

        1. Fishsticks*

          Treat someone like a criminal unjustly, and often they’ll see no reason to prove you wrong, since they know you’re already prone to clinging to assumptions against all reason and evidence.

    5. scooter34*

      My screen locks after a short period of time (safety precaution due to nature of my work). A mouse jiggler prevents that. There are a lot of reasons for one that aren’t nefarious in nature.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, if you are running a process that interferes with other stuff, but breaks if the screen locks, then a mouse jiggler is the proper solution.

        I’m not getting paid to move the mouse, I’m getting paid for my work output.

    6. Llama Lover*

      If I’m reading something off screen and have to type something into a spreadsheet or document intermittently based on that reading, I might get a mouse jiggler too. When my work computer goes to sleep while I’m reading, it takes FOREVER to get it back up and logged in. It sounds like that’s what OP was using it for, and that could actually save them some time and make them more productive. Not every use of these kinds of tools is nefarious.

    7. Mill Miker*

      If you know your company is tracking idle computer time, flagging it, and having managers discipline people, and you think the company is reasonable, and maybe figure it makes sense for the hourly employees, but don’t want your boss (who you assume has your back) to have to keep defending why their salaried employee (who is working fine) keeps getting flagged as AWOL…

      It kind of makes sense from a “Just let me and my boss do our jobs” perspective. I guess?

    8. Yada*

      I actually read this as being a ‘too-short window of time that leads to the computer locking itself after 3 minutes or less’ style problem. I’ve had this exact issue at two of my old jobs, and it drove everyone who worked in computer-based roles to distraction.

      When you’re writing either copy of code, you often need to stop and either think or read stuff for ages. A 3-minute window is not conducive to anything other than irritation and disruption. Because upper management wouldn’t let IT fix the issue, IT actully advised us all that we get mouse jigglers.

  6. DomaneSL5*

    You knew it was wrong when you used the mouse mover. You used the mouse mover so people thought you were working and probably so some program like MS Teams or similar program that tracks when people are “away.” So yes you deceived your company. Using devices like this is why companies are resistent to WFH.

    Now is this worth a write-up to the degree you got, that might be a different question. But if your company is now tracking this, my guess is that you were not the only one using this device and management was seeing performance issues across the board.

    1. Rain's Small Hands*

      I spent several years in eSecurity – and its still stupid. She’s working from home. Is someone going to go to her desk and steal corporate secrets? Send out emails that are jokes? Delete data? Maybe if she’s working with kids at home, that’s something to insist screens are locked, but really, I’m not worried that my cat is going to decide to download company secrets and it takes more than a random cat walk to do damage. Mandatory screen locks are a one sized fits all security solution that really doesn’t fit a lot of the workforce.

      And making this why companies are resistant to WFH is also stupid. I worked with a woman we will call Beth who would disappear for hours every day when in the office. “Meetings” that didn’t exist all over her calendar so she could go chit chat with someone over in Purchasing. But she was salaried AND her output was good from her manager’s perspective. It doesn’t make any difference if you are in the office or out of it, if you are working, you are working – measure productivity. (The manager should have found other things for Beth to do, but that would have likely involved promoting her and she’d made it pretty clear she wasn’t taking on additional responsibilities without additional compensation….so hours away from her desk).

      1. Sangamo Girl*

        THIS. Thank you.

        When I work remotely, the system not only locks my screen, but will close my connection after a few more minutes. It is so annoying to be on a long call, have my connection closed, and then have to find something relevant to the call.

        Not all working is pounding away on a keyboard and there are plenty of legit reasons to ensure that your computer stays awake.

        1. BasketcaseNZ*

          Yeah, my VDI does this too sometimes!
          Or (even more entertaining) my laptop intermittently doesn’t recognise activity within the VDI as activity, and it will sometimes put itself to sleep while I am in a meeting.

      2. I don't have a clever name*

        I agree with you, but I also feel that you are underestimating the amount of damage my cat can do with his butt.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          A friend of mine wrote a long document of some kind, saved it, went to the bathroom.

          When he returned, his cat was CONFIRMING a “delete this file?” command.

        2. Prob too late w reply*

          My new euphamism for my cat poopping is “sharing coroprate secrets”. Thank you!!!!!

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        Mandatory screen locks are a base-level security feature that are often required for certain security certifications and/or business insurance policies. They aren’t intended to gotcha WFHers, they are intended to automatically lock the machines so that company materials are not accessible for instance, to someone who steals the machine. Of course organizations are concerned that someone who lives with an employee (family member, roommate, visitor) is going to steal their data or that the data even being available to a non-employee violates some sort of professional code of ethics or a law.

        The answer is not to penalize the employee based on technical metrics – screen locks, mouse movement, whatever – and by their performance, not to remove a base-level security feature that any professional organization with reasonable security protocols has enabled. Most computer exploits are not sophisticated jobs – they are far more likely to be caused by an end-user letting the hacker/malware in the front door. Security is can be an inconvenience; data breaches can be far more costly.

        The cat is not allowed near electronics. Last time he sat on something electronic, it took us days to figure out how to set the language back to English or something that at least used a similar alphabet without a full factory reset.

      4. WillowSunstar*

        I worked in-office before COVID with a woman who was constantly on her phone making Dr. appointments. Our job was not in a medical office. She also was out frequently, said she would be back at a certain time, and was not. Just because an employee is in the office does not mean they are productive. She was eventually fired.

      5. Actual IT Specialist*

        I’m sorry, but there’s no way you spent any amount of time in “eSecurity” (do you mean cybersecurity?) if you think there aren’t tons of security issues working from home. Unless WFH employees are connecting to their office’s network via VPN, home WiFi is just as susceptible to cybersecurity attacks, even with a password requirement. Hacking is only getting more sophisticated and I guarantee you WFH employees aren’t taking any additional precautions that aren’t directly mandated by their company’s IT department (provided that IT isn’t just some lone HR person in charge of setting up email addresses for new employees).

        Don’t get me wrong, I love WFH as an IT person, but I’m not going to pretend for a second that there aren’t cybersecurity issues that crop up as a result.

      6. TeamsIgnorern*

        I have seen multiple cases of people whose spouses committed fraud by looking at their computers ( like raising an insurance claim and approving it themselves)
        There are a lot of security issues in wfh too, since you reasonably can trust your employees but not all their spouses , kids, roommates etc,
        You would not want the bank you keep your savings on to allow mouse jigglers , and the admin who leaves a database session open, and has a nosy partner who also checks your savings account while he is in the bathroom with ibs.
        The rules are rules for everyone. If you have a badly designed system that stops you from doing your work, you should bring it up to IT and management for them to find a solution that is both useful and safe.
        My lock screen doesn’t come automatically ever for example but I religiously lock my screen even if going to the bathroom. I used to do the same in the office.
        Dishonesty is always bad. The company should never monitor performance based on teams status and should have clear rules for engagement. But security is security and most people do not have the training and know-how to make security decision about their company.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      LW is salaried. Their employer has no business tracking minute-by-minute work time.

      If, as one would expect with a micromanaging control freak company, the computer goes to sleep after a very small number of minutes, and requires logging back in to wake it up, with a long, complicated password that has to be changed frequently, and because they’ve spent all their money on spyware to micromanage with (and I’ll beat you steak dinner that’s all the case), the letting it go to sleep very likely wastes far, far more time logging back in than the occasional (or even frequent) extra long break.

      For someone who isn’t paid by the hour, meaning “defrauding the company” on work time isn’t actually *possible.*

      Honestly, IMO, no it wasn’t wrong.

      1. Sunshine*

        Yeah, I agree. I don’t have admin access to change how quickly my computer goes to sleep. It would be nice to not have to log back in every time I go to the bathroom. I don’t think I would go out and buy a mouse jiggler just for that, but if I already had one for some reason I’d totally use it.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, my computer keeps going to sleep when I go to the bathroom. Fortunately it doesn’t lock, or I’d be investing in a mouse jiggler too.

      2. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Never mind that my computer screws up the waking up/logging back in/gives me a bluescreen of death about every fifth sleep cycle at this point. Yes, it needs replacing. I need it to limp along another six months.

      3. Kate2.5*

        What are you talking about? There are plenty of jobs that require precise time tracking that are salaried. My partner is an architect and has to do this all the time because each client only wants to pay for the time on their project.

        1. Batgirl*

          I don’t think they are talking about billing time though, just “am I getting my money’s worth” time from a salaried post employer.

        2. I don't have a clever name*

          Billable hours are for tracking how much to charge the client, not for tracking how much to pay the employees. Big difference.

      4. Yada*

        I completely agree with you, Magenta Sky.

        At two of my old jobs, we had a 3-minute window before the computers would lock themselves, log you out, and then demand that you entered the extremely long, complicated password they insist you have and change every 4 weeks. It was a stupid, unneccessary policy that drove everyone who worked in computer-based roles to distraction.

        A 3-minute window is not conducive to anything other than irritation and disruption. Because upper management wouldn’t let IT fix the issue, IT actually advised us all that we get mouse jigglers.

    3. Fily*

      Absolutely not.

      Companies are resistant to work from home because they default to treating adults like criminals and infants. Being treated this way drives adults to this type of behavior, because if they are treated this way regardless of how they behave, there is no incentive to behave well.

      There’s zero evidence in the letter of performance issues, anywhere. There is, in fact, evidence of the opposite.

      Stop being a victim blamer.

      1. DomaneSL5*

        Absolutely TRUE!

        Everyone cries victim when they don’t want to be accountable for their actions!

        You know she was using a mouse mover because she knew that people check her online status… WHY ELSE USE ONE!

        People like the LW is who ruin WFH for the rest of us.

        1. I Need Coffee*

          People use them for the reason others have stated; to keep the screen saver from coming on while working on other tasks (reading documents, writing, etc). And by definition a salaried person is paid for the work they produce, not the minutes they work.

        2. kupo*

          It says right in the letter why else: to keep the computer from going to sleep. Mine is set to 5 minutes. It’s ridiculous. I haven’t taken any steps to work around that but if had to do MFA every time I woke my computer up or if I was connecting to a remote desktop, which I’ve always had issues trying to reconnect from sleep mode, I’d be tempted.

        3. Properlike*

          She was so accountable she said she occasionally uses it to take a slightly longer break, but it was primarily to keep her screen from going to sleep. She was so accountable she explained this to the company when they asked.

          Many others have added that they need the technology for the same reason, because the computer goes to sleep mid-task (that doesn’t involve mousing) and they have to log back in, etc.

          That’s more of a time theft than an actual couple of minutes in the bathroom.

          Meanwhile, it’s odd how accusatory and judgmental your reaction is. The LW is not responsible for the downfall of WFH everywhere. I doubt your work is personally affected by this. What gives? You sound like someone who argues against unions because your pay is bad and your hours insane, so no one else should have job protections either.

        4. I don't have a clever name*

          You sound like one of those people who is fond of saying “Well, if you’re following all the rules and doing what you’re supposed to, you don’t have anything to worry about!” and ignoring inconvenient things like the fact that not all rule structures are good, reasonable, valid, or appropriate.

          I’d argue that it’s people who default to “Anyone who does anything outside The Rules is wrong and immoral and we’ll all be punished for their actions” who are spearheading the movement not to allow anyone to work from home where The Rules cannot be rigidly enforced, whether The Rules are reasonable rules or not.

        5. Curmudgeon in California*

          Oh, please! You are being very uncharitable. Just because YOU can’t conceive of a “legitimate” use for a mouse jiggler doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist.

          And blaming people who use things like mouse jigglers for why the bigwigs don’t like WFH? You are seriously off base. The brass who likes to see butts in seats aren’t worried about productivity, they are worried about power and control. Monitoring keystrokes, mouse movement or web browsing is just an extension of that.

        6. Mill Miker*

          I’ve definitely had jobs where the choice is get in trouble for not being at the computer typing 100% of your 8 hours, or get in trouble for not getting the work done, because those are often conflicting directives. And trying to flag that just gets you in trouble for both of those and insubordination.

        7. Me ... Just Me*

          I absolutely agree. The reason that the company is even tracking this is because once folks moved to WFH, they started slacking off. Now, the productive employees are being watched more closely than they need to be. Let’s not all pretend that everyone working from home is putting in a solid 8 hours (or even 6), because we all know that it’s not happening like that. It’s a shame, because there’s lots of folks who would love to work from home but aren’t offered it.

          1. I don't have a clever name*

            Maybe, while we’re not pretending things, we should stop pretending that everyone working from an office is putting in a solid 8 hours.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            The way to determine if someone is slacking off while working from home is the same way to determine if someone is slacking off while working from the office. In both cases, you need to actually manage: set goals, track progress, bring up issues, etc.

            Anyone who was managing by just making sure their employees were on the premises for 8 hours was managing badly, just as someone who is managing by forcing employees to be on 8-hour Zoom calls or always active is managing badly.

            The definition of non-exempt is that you are paying someone to get a certain amount of work done, not for the hours they spend on it. So it’s a particularly egregious example of how not to manage.

          3. Yada*

            The reason that the company is even tracking this is because once folks moved to WFH, they started slacking off.

            I’m sorry, but no. Stuff like productivity paranoia, incompetent management, and a desire for power and control are behind this sort of nonsense. And we know that because even organisations that have been seen sky-high increases in productivity with WFH have fallen into this trap, whether is be company-wide, or just with certain teams where the managers need to be replaced with people who can actually lead and manage.

            1. Traswilihar*

              I’m sorry, but yes. And I think these so-called “sky high increases in productivity” are less common than you think and cited by people who have a pro-WFH agenda.

          4. WillowSunstar*

            Of course not, but the very fact people can’t be 100% honest about it without getting written up or something means 100% productivity is a pipe dream.

            There are days where I got 3 things to do thaf took 15 minutes and I had to go watch training videos because they track our time. Do you really think my time card said 7 hours and 45 minutes of training videos? Nope. Maybe like 2. More than that and I would have gotten talked to. Still not my fault I had no work.

            Companies need to stop penalizing workers for slow days.

          5. StressedButOkay*

            Most likely the company got paranoid, not because of real data that their employees were slacking. A study done by Stanford showed that productivity can increase by 13% because of WFH. Does everyone increase their output at home or even maintain? No, but good workers are good workers regardless of butts in seats mentality.

          6. Fishsticks*

            The point isn’t an exact number of hours, but how much work is getting done. And, to be frank, I have never been in an office where every single person was productive for eight hours straight. Because that’s physically impossible.

        8. aebhel*

          Companies ruin WFH with draconian and pointless rules that treat their employees like children or inmates because the managers are too lazy or incompetent to actually evaluate performance on metrics beyond ‘butt-in-the-seat’ time, and all the overwrought CAPSLOCK meltdowns in the world won’t change that. :)

          1. Traswilihar*

            I am sorry, but there are a lot of positions where all these sophisticated metrics are not as easy to define as you might think.

            What about lawyers? If it were so easy to define metrics to asess the performance of lawyers, the billable hour and lockstep compensation would have disappeared long ago in favor of some kind of performance-based compensation. Yes, some firms do “creative billing”, but the billable hour persists to this day.

            1. Here for the Insurance*

              It’s not about an inability to measure productivity any other way; it’s because billable hours measure what’s most important to the firm – charging their clients as much as they can get away with before the client balks. They’re measuring how much money the attorney is bringing into the firm because that’s what they value. If the firm’s priority was number of clients or number of settlements or speed of resolution, they’d measure that.

              1. Traswilihar*

                it’s because billable hours measure what’s most important to the firm – charging their clients as much as they can get away with before the client balks.

                But firms could easily maximize charges to clients in other ways — charging them a percentage of deal sizes, or a percentage of settlement awards, or what not. Indeed, there are law firms that do this. But most do not.

        9. StressedButOkay*

          She literally said why she got one – we believe the letter writers here.

          No, she’s not ruining WFH for the rest of us. Companies ruin WFH plenty without any help from their employees.

        10. Fishsticks*

          I feel, charitably, like you are having a rough time with the transition to a remote workforce in general and are purposefully choosing to read every choice someone who WFH makes in a terribly uncharitable fashion.

          I hope things improve for you from here.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        I have managed employees who were remote and who were in the office and guess what? Performance was the same or better when the employee was remote. People who had tasks that required concentration were able to concentrate when they weren’t in the noisy sea of cubicles.

        My one problem staff member who required constant monitoring required that same monitoring when he was in person. I monitored him by his results or lack thereof.

        Managers who are most resistant to remote work are managers who don’t manage effectively. (There. I said it.)

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Managers who are most resistant to remote work are managers who don’t manage effectively. (There. I said it.)


          This has been the issue with remote work since long before Covid.

          One company I was at banned remote work for everyone because some remote employees were not doing their work. So they screwed over a couple thousand people from even being able to WFH when they had a need, all because they didn’t want to be bothered to train their managers on how to manage for results instead of presence in an office.

          1. Me ... Just Me*

            Do you know how much time and effort is required to “coach” or “discipline” even one wayward employee? It’s a huge time suck. Managers aren’t just there to simply monitor others’ output, they actually have deliverables they need to produce, as well. If you can’t expect your employees to, I don’t know, even show up to attempt the job, then there’s something wrong in the world. Managers shouldn’t be expected to babysit their employees. What ever happened to personal pride and accountability?

            1. I don't have a clever name*

              I’ve had to “coach” and “discipline” an employee. It was indeed a huge time suck, and I had other things to do.

              Guess what? It was still my job to do it. It wasn’t about me babysitting him, it was about him not being able to perform at the standard I needed in his position. And this employee did not work from home. He had the same hybrid schedule as everyone else, including my other reports who thrived and were highly productive.

              You seem very angry because you don’t want to have to micromanage. Maybe you should try not micromanaging, and assuming that your employees are competent adults who like to do well in their jobs. Sure, that assumption won’t always be correct, but I think you’ll be surprised how often it is when you don’t set up a hostile relationship and accuse them of all sorts of assaults against the moral order just because they see no reason to give a manager like you their best work.

              1. Me ... Just Me*

                Hmm. Seeing as you know nothing about my management style, my job, or my employees … yeah, not really worried about your feedback, thank you very much. I expect my employees to behave professionally and to work independently. Part of that professionalism is accountability and an extremely high level of integrity. It’s kind of what we’re known for.

                1. I don't have a clever name*

                  You’re right – all I know about you is what you’ve told us about your management style here. And if half of it is true I’d never work for you. You don’t seem to understand the difference between “integrity and accountability” and servitude.

                2. pieces_of_flair*

                  Based on your comments, I think we know exactly what kind of manager you are – one who doesn’t want to do a large part of their job because it is a “time suck” and would rather treat their employees like wayward schoolchildren or criminals. I have plenty of independence, professionalism, accountability, and integrity in my job, but someone like you would never get the benefit of my labor because I have options and won’t tolerate inflexible and lazy management.

                3. Traswilihar*

                  @I don’t have a clever name, based on what you have written, I would not want to work for you (or more likely, have you work for me) because you are under the impression that organizations function well when employees are atomized and never interact with each other face to face.

                  If remote learning was so awful for kids, what makes anyone think it’s really any better for adults?

                4. Eyes Kiwami*

                  Traswilihar, there is almost no correlation between (1) teachers suddenly having to adapt their lesson styles for children who are learning and developing, with parents trying to work and equally distracted siblings as their only social interaction; and (2) fully grown adults who spend most of the day working on a computer. Who cares whether the computer is in an office or a home?

                  You seem really against WFH–you know you don’t have to do it, right? There are plenty of workplaces that would love to have you in their office.

                5. Traswilihar*

                  @Eyes Kiwami, I disagree. I think that (1) we all engage in lifelong learning, (2) students in classrooms learn from each other, and (3) the same is true of adults in offices. I think that people learn much more from interacting with each other than by “spending most of the day interacting a computer.”

                  In fact, I would argue that in a lot of cases, “spending most of the day interacting with a computer” is a problem. Not all, obviously, but for anyone engaged in “creative class” work, that’s a way to kill innovation and creativity. A team innovating together behind a whiteboard, or bouncing ideas off each other in-person, or meeting with clients for feedback — these are all a thing.

                  Sure, no one “has” to work at home. But organizational behavior is more than the sum of preferences of all individual employees. Organizations *qua organizations* are well-advised to begin bringing people back to the office more often than not.

                  Look at Disney, which last week required all employees to come to the office four days a week, or Starbucks, which today required them to return to the office three days a week. I applaud these moves. They still allow for some time at home to greet repairpeople or what not, but they also take into account the good of the organization.

            2. Ashley*

              Coaching and discipline is literally a manager’s job. Painting all employees with the same brush and punishing them all because of the actions of the few is a terrible way to lead.

              1. Splendid Colors*

                And unless a company has absolutely abysmal hiring practices (and/or compensation), why would all their employees be incompetent slackers who won’t work unless you’re standing over their shoulder all day?

                Yes, every company probably has a few hires who turned out to be substandard, but if they’re at all competent at hiring and management, most people will do their jobs without being babysat. In the office or elsewhere.

            3. Batgirl*

              How on earth do you do accurate appraisals if your employees aren’t assessed individually? If you’re having to take mass measures to solve poor output, make rough guesses as to who is a low performer and treating the employee body as one big lump to be tamed then you need to go to your own boss and say you’re being too stretched to do your job effectively. Maybe you do have a great way to oversee everyone at once, and your type of work is very en masse, but if you’re in a system where the only “managing” going on is spy gear that ignores output and whole team “don’t do x” emails that your conscientious employees fret over and the lazy ones ignore… then it’s a bad system.

            4. Fishsticks*

              Okay, but you realize “managing employees” is an actual function of your job as a manager? What you are describing is not wanting to manage employees as part of a management job.

            5. Giant Kitty*

              “ If you can’t expect your employees to, I don’t know, even show up to attempt the job, then there’s something wrong in the world. ”

              I’m sorry, this is just so overly dramatic that I laughed out loud. People have been slacking off at work since work was invented, no need to hand:staple:forehead over that fact.

              And yes, managing your employees individually and effectively is literally what your primary job as a manager is.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I went from an open office to quiet apartment where the only distraction is my cat occasionally trying to sit on the keyboard. The productivity improvement was immense, not only for me but for my entire department.

    4. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

      To Be honnest Teams is horrible and often shows people away when they are sitting at their desk. Both my work and where a family member works has teams. My family member is WFH and she will be sitting on her computer, doing work, and it puts her in away status and people will message her. She has actually been working with a client on the phone, when this has happened. THe phone is VOIP and uses the computer so she is active but for some reason teams doesnt show.

      I myself have messaged a co worker about an immediate concern and it shows they have not seen it. after 5 minutes I go down to their office and they have seen it and replied, but Teams still says they are away. They do not have the setting changed.

      1. Alias Sydney*

        I agree, Teams is awful. Our old messaging system you used to be able to adjust the time when it would go to “away.” But even more annoying is that Teams does go to away at times when you are active. It goes to away even sometimes when I’m on a meeting.
        I understand LW’s frustration.
        It’s also annoying when your computer locks after such a short period of time. I’ve found launching VLC media player and playing a video, and then pausing it, can keep your computer from closing down. It doesn’t help with the away message, but at least I don’t have to keep moving my mouse when I am working on something away from keyboard.

        1. WillowSunstar*

          We aren’t allowed to set the time on Teams at all. One thing I found was you can open notepad, put a heavy rock on your keyboard, and take your bathroom break in peace. The typing of a random letter makes it stay open.

    5. L-squared*

      I was waiting how far I’d have to go to find the management defenders who think that anything management does is right and the employee, who is getting great reviews, is wrong.

      I bet you are the type to monitor other people’s breaks and report to management

        1. L-squared*

          Ha. This is pretty hilarious. Reported me for making an educated guess about someone else’s behavior? That happens ALL THE TIME here.

        2. somanyquestions*

          You’ve got issues with this mouse-mover thing that are outsized and judgmental, and now you’re snapping when those issues are challenged.

          You should think about that. & maybe you should read a lot (A LOT) more of this blog.

      1. Elle*

        Isn’t it sad to see people have such strong anti worker views? These companies don’t care about these individuals! I honestly think some people just really enjoy rules/control for the sake of it. I’ve worked with so many people who just could not ditch their “butts in seats” mentality and ruined their working relationships with constant tattling and checking up on others.

        1. Properlike*

          Probably gunning for a management position. If you haven’t watched ANDOR yet, they have a character who embodies this mentality and do an excellent job skewering him. Failing upward is a thing even a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away!

        2. I don't have a clever name*

          I’m not sure it’s even enjoyment; it certainly doesn’t seem to make them happy. It’s like the prospect of someone breaking a rule, however trivial or unjust fills them with such a strong and obsessive moral horror that they just cannot let go of it until someone “does something” about it.

          Funnily enough, that “YOU BROKE A RULE!” attitude never seems to extend upward. It’s only people at their own perceived level or downward who incur their wrath, and it’s usually impossible to get them to wrap their heads around the fact that rules are created and enforced by human beings who may be operating punitively or in bad faith.

    6. CatCat*

      MS Teams is so incredibly annoying about this. It will often show me “away” when I’m not actually away. I just haven’t done something Teams recognizes as being present. And it irritates me to no end having to manually move my mouse to fix this so people know I’m available for calls and messages. A mouse mover would go a long way to resolving this.

      1. Mockingjay*

        My team is 75% remote, including myself. We’re supposed to be on Teams throughout the day, but fortunately TPTB (including our remote supervisor) understand that Teams “presence” is completely random. As long as we respond to a query within an hour or so, it’s fine.

        (At the beginning of the pandemic when we all went remote, the company was heavy handed about Teams monitoring and ensuring employees were butt-in-seat. They relaxed after the first six months showed solid gains in productivity which haven’t declined yet. Most staff are back in the office or are hybrid except our team, which continues to function remarkably well.)

    7. Elle*

      Respectfully, this is an absurd stance. OP is salaried (I’m assuming exempt) and is getting all their work done. The company should be interested in the work they’re delivering and the value of that work, not the time spent. Companies are against remote work because of many complex factors that are pretty anti-worker, like old puritan ideas about humans being naturally lazy. As a manager, I care about what’s getting done. If one of my people was away from their screen for an extended period but all their work was getting done and no one was trying to get ahold of them and coming up empty, I could not be arsed to care. Companies that care more about butts in seats (when it is immaterial to the success in the role obvi) are not companies that deserves employees’ loyalty or defense.

      1. ferrina*


        This is also the company’s classic excuse for why they expect you to work overtime when you’re exempt and don’t get extra pay, but why you working less than 40 hours is “wage theft”.

        It’s also ridiculous that they say “I’m so happy with your work!”, then when they find out you have extra time, are disappointed you aren’t doing more. Would you rather I do stellar work for 30 hrs/wk, or mediocre for 40 hrs/wk. And before you tell me you’re paying for a stellar 40 hrs/wk, keep in mind how the stellar employee’s compensation lines up with their mediocre peers. Are you really paying for that? Because 99% of the time, nope. (and that’s without getting into the question of if the employee can truly be stellar 100% of the time). Many companies just want to pay the same rate and get everything they can. Employees aren’t an oil well that needs to be drained- they are human beings with human needs and human interests. A human-centered approach gets long term results.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          The idea that the ten minutes I spent getting coffee (while I was in the office) or dancing around my apartment (while WFH) is “wasted” or “stolen” assumes that humans are capable of focusing and being productive for 8 hours a day. We just aren’t.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Hell, I take my phone into the bathroom with me. If someone really needed to talk to me they have my number. I know because I’ve been called when I was off duty and in the parking lot of a grocery store!

        1. ferrina*

          I connect my personal phone to my work IM for this reason. I’ve been pulled into an emergency meeting in the parking lot of my kids’ daycare. I was that parent on the phone for 40 minutes before going in to pick up my kid (in fairness, we were trying to determine if the company had been hacked)

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        This right here. I’m not writing up a strong performer for (checks notes) performing strongly. I can see having a brief discussion with them about what made them think they needed to resort to a mouse-mover, because we have KPIs that do not include mouse movement/screen time or to warn them the company was on the lookout for this sort of thing, but I don’t review exempt employees on screen wake time.

    8. lost academic*

      Our Teams show us as idle after one minute, no joke. Now if you look, you can see how long it’s been, but it’s ONE MINUTE. And we can’t adjust it.

    9. unperformative worker*

      Just because you enjoy wearing a tracking collar doesn’t mean anyone else should. It’s ok for people to exercise any autonomy they can in a workplace. It’s not ok to be managed live feedlot livestock.

      1. Lily*

        Honestly, this person sounds like the kind of person who insists that OTHER people wear tracking collars. Def getting a “they shoulda complied” vibe from them.

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      Using devices like this is why companies are resistent to WFH.
      I’m sincerely baffled that companies can’t look at your work output to determine whether you’re doing your job. By this metric, if you use a mouse jiggler that doesn’t match the search algorithm, your work is great.

      Sometimes my job involves staring thoughtfully at a screen for some time as I try to figure out how to fix something. If Teams says “oh no, this employee has stopped working” for those times–that is not a sign that it is a great management tool that gives the company useful information.

      1. ferrina*

        This. None of my KPIs are “sit at a computer 40 hrs/wk”. They are solely about the results, and the strongest results come from taking time away from my computer to work through a tough problem.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yep. I regularly step away from my computer to do skull work. I don’t just start typing away with the first random crap that comes into my head, I sit and plan out the sequence I’m going to do things in, because it’s important. If it’s really thorny I’ll put it in the background for my brain to chew on until the next day. Turns out that some of my best ideas/solutions come after sleeping on it overnight.

    11. Lydia*

      There is some looped logic in here. To start, companies aren’t resistance to WFH because of “devices like this.” Companies are resistant to WFH because they THINK it means you’re less productive, but when you show you’re just as productive, they have to find other ways to nitpick workers. “You’re not moving your mouse enough to be productive” is the most tiny-brained reasoning and writing someone up for it is also tiny-brained. This company sucks and the OP should GTFO.

    12. Cari*

      I just want to emphasize that the LW made it clear that the primary reason for the mouse jiggler was work-supportive, and made a throwaway comment that sometimes it extended her breaks.

      I think many commenters are really fixated on the breaks part. It seems to me that you’re overemphasizing the secondary aspect of the letter, and being pretty harsh about it. Except… LW is salaried exempt. So that’s a big red herring.

      There are comments all over this thread describing the actual work use case for the mouse jiggler. None of which are “wrong” or “defrauding” — indeed, many of them (those not materially undermining security) actually improve efficiency or are necessary (compiling, background calcs).

      1. Well...*

        Also sometimes longer breaks are critical for work output? If you do creative work, sometimes clearing your mind actually saves a few hours of trying to grind through a problem.

        But some people just irrationally hate breaks, maybe because they hate thinking of workers as people?

    13. Jessica*

      Sometimes you do work that doesn’t involve using your computer. (I frequently print out docs to read and annotate when I’m asked to give feedback because I absorb the information better when I’m not reading on a screen.)

      If a company insists on using mouse-tracking as their main metric for whether someone is working, employing a mouse mover seems like the most pragmatic way to indicate that you’re working.

      I’m not going to waste my valuable time (not to mention my company’s money) and distract myself from my actual work by moving my mouse every 30 seconds or whatever.

      Play stupid games (like judging productivity by how often someone’s mouse moves), win stupid prizes (like employees using mouse-movers).

    14. Starbuck*

      Finding people using mouse jigglers is not the same as finding actual performance issues, though. OP says her work output is good.

    15. Batgirl*

      The only “deception” achieved is how often the mouse was jiggled by a human rather than a robot. There was no deception about the work done. Work can be seen! Work is submitted! Viewing an employee’s work output is not a mystery. It is the poor grasp of this concept that “ruins work from home”.

  7. Help Desk Peon*

    On the one hand, I don’t agree with their approach or monitoring. On the other hand, from an IT security stand point, using this kind of software means that if you have security policies in place to lock the screen and require a password after a period of inactivity, you are subverting that. If I tried that at my place of employment, it would be considered a security breach and I’d be written up on those grounds.

    1. DMLOKC*

      This was one of the points that came to my mind. There’s usually a reason, often security based, for computers to lock/sleep/shut down.

      1. Lydia*

        This is to keep anyone from sneaking into your computer if you leave your desk. If you’re working from home, that’s not a likely outcome. I lock my computer when I leave my desk when I’m in the office. On the days I work from home, I do not because I’m less worried about my MIL or my husband poking around on my work laptop than I am a coworker, and I’m worried at all about a coworker doing it.

        1. Allonge*

          I see where you are coming from, but your trusting your husband / MIL is not the issue here: the company needs to be able to trust them for any security issues. And in a lot of cases that is a much higher bar.

        2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          It depends if you are living alone / have a dedicated office room. It also depends on how sensitive the data is you’re working with (think HIPAA, not necessarily spy stuff).
          OP was doing the equivalent of deliberately leaving paper files open while away from their desk, which may be a minor or rather significant issue.
          Disclosure: I spend a large part of my time in cyber security consulting, and I have built a USB gizmo (very similar to a mouse jiggler, in fact) that could compromise an unlocked PC in a few seconds – just plug in and watch the fireworks. Virus scanners won’t catch it. The demo payload is completely harmless, of course – but we use it a lot to raise awareness with clients.

        3. GrooveBat*

          It assumes when you’re working from home you’re working from home AT home. I frequently use the resident lounge in my apartment building just for a change of scenery. Other people like to work at coffee shops. So I get this concern.

          But it sounds like, in LW’s case, the company uses this more for productivity monitoring than security. That sucks. If my company did this, I would have been fired years ago.

        4. Warrior Princess Xena*

          Some of this absolutely depends on what sort of job you have & how high the security is. I will also point out that if you are WFH your IT department has no idea if you are working from home in a private office with a locked door, the table in your kitchen with your two toddler, or the busy Starbucks for half an hour when your home wifi is out. So from the perspective of IT, “I got a mouse mover so my computer wouldn’t lock while I went to the restroom” has the potential to be a massive security flaw.

          If your computer boots slowly & painfully, I would recommend the route of returning the awkward to sender – tell your boss exactly how much time is lost in the tedious logon process, tell IT that your 10 year old computer takes 15 minutes to boot up and goes to sleep at the drop of a hat. But if you haven’t taken those steps & alerted the necessary people that hey, the so-called security protocol is terrible and wastes much more time than it saves, then the use of a device to bypass that security is going to go over like a lead balloon.

        5. NotAnotherManager!*

          IT policy isn’t predicated on the narrow scope of someone working from home with trusted family members (nor relying on your judgment that they’re to be trusted). There are roommates (a third of my team has an unrelated roommate living with them – high COL area/recent graduates), people who work in public places, stolen devices, visitors, data that is protected, data that belongs to other people than your company/client, etc.

          No IT security person wants to sit through that deposition.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        You realize that the best security is when everyone is locked out of their computers, right? Of course, no work is done, but at least it’s secure. /s

        Making it odious to log in after 5 minutes away from the system is just an incentive for people to get around the requirement. If it takes a minute to log in after five minutes of what the machine deems “idle”, you can easily waste nearly an hour a day just for trying to read a manual.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      As an IT professional, in theory, I agree. But only if it’s done right. The timeout time has to be reasonable – not a minute or two idle. And waking up has to not be onerous, not 24 character complicated passwords. And most important, the computer has to be new and powerful enough to not win contests for longest login time.

      The most insecure computer in the world is the one with the password on a Post-It note on the side of the monitor because nobody can remember it. And when it takes several minutes to log back in to wake it up, people will take steps to keep it from going to sleep.

      There’s a lot of sides to this, and we haven’t seen any of them.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        There’s an episode of Limitless where the lead character is able to determine the long, random, ever-changing password on the nuclear waste storage site by… reading it off the wall where a worker had penciled it in.

        1. ferrina*

          I know so many people who write down their passwords somewhere accessible because they can’t remember 12+ passwords that change every 3 months. Sure, bad actors can’t guess the passwords, but neither can the person that set the password! Hence the VP with the notepad sitting right next to the computer with all the passwords….

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            My current workplace wants us to change passwords every 45 days. Plus, if there’s even a hint of a breach anywhere in the company, they make us change them immediately. So. Damned. Dumb. I now refuse to do anything more than the minimum length and complexity, because I can’t remember something long for only 45 days.

          2. Splendid Colors*

            I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has told me I need to put my passwords on sticky notes or in a notebook so I don’t lock my online accounts any more. I never know if I’ve mistyped the password or forgot the latest one, so I end up trying too many times and locking myself out. Then I have to do a password restoration, which may entail calling the bank and waiting on hold for a while. If it’s for an account linked to my accounting software, then I have to change it in the accounting software… and half the time the update hasn’t propagated through the gateway system (whatever it’s called) and it fails and I lock the account again.

            But I don’t want passwords written down, because even though I’m self employed, I’m thinking of getting a housekeeper and there are rumors of break-ins at my building. I don’t need to lose the company computers AND the logins to the corporate accounts.

            1. Enai*

              The solution is either a password manager (I hear good things about bitwarden; LastPass otoh got hacked recently) or a notebook you carry on your person at all times. The latter cannot be hacked, and stealing it is hopefully harder than it would be if you left it lying around. Organising it might be a pain, though, if you have many passwords to keep track of.

      2. Warrior Princess Xena*

        From an IT perspective I would be unhappy with people loading unapproved 3rd party software onto work computers for security reasons. That’s a huge no-no at my workplace. However from what OP said IT security was not the reason they were raked over the coals.

        Agreed from a controls perspective though. If the controls are unreasonable people will stop doing them.

        1. I don't have a clever name*

          It seems like a lot of IT departments are a little shaky on the fact that if your IT policies make it difficult or impossible for people to do their jobs, your IT policies will be circumvented, because people get in trouble for not doing their jobs too.

        2. Bit o' Brit*

          The one instance I know of someone using a mouse-jiggler at my workplace they got in trouble (and indeed got caught) because their mouse-jiggler contained a virus.

          Though I have been known to download “unsanctioned” software (Firefox and an OTP code app) and abuse my admin login to adjust settings on my work laptop, so no moral high ground for me.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          That’s easy, just don’t let them install it. Our users can install anything from the approved list (which includes job-specific software and is open to work-related additions) and can connect to any printer on their office or home network. Other than that, call IT with your business need.

          My favorites are the people who want to install pirated versions of unapproved software – that’s a fun a toss-up on if you get malware with that or if your company gets pinged for nonpayment of license fees and fines.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Actually, the post-it note on the side of the computer isn’t the most insecure a networked computer can be. If the password is reasonably complex, you’re protected against all remote bad actors (who don’t have the computing power to brute-force the password).

        There are a lot more remote bad actors than people willing to break into a house/office.

        Using a single dictionary word as a password, on the other hand, can be easily hacked from anywhere in the world.

      4. Maple Bar*

        God, I worked from home for a company whose provided laptops would go on standby after just a few minutes of inactivity and could not be changed no matter what. Every time it happened, you had to manually re-type in several lengthy unique (and constantly changing) passwords to get back into both the laptop and each of the programs you had to have open at all times for your job. Naturally, the laptops were old, so the loading time was also not quick. Also your 2FA would expire after so long and you’d have to redo that to get back in sometimes as well.

        Because my job involved both a lot of long phone calls and meticulously scrutinizing long documents, I was in a more or less constant battle with the standby timer. I generally remembered to move my mouse around idly while reading or talking, but if I concentrated a little too hard at any point in the day I would get booted and have to do it all again. I was in my private home, in my private office, and I wanted nothing more in the entire world than to plug in a mouse jiggler just to get some peace. But I knew if I ever got caught with it I would probably get sacked for violating their security requirements, so I just had to deal with it several times a day every day. Good lord it was maddening.

    3. Antilles*

      Except for one thing:
      When the company brought OP in, they didn’t mention IT security or HIPPA or government regulations or whatever other “well actually…” scenarios we might think of. Instead, the company said it was time theft and fraud and told OP they were lucky not to be fired.
      The way the company responded to it is pretty illuminating.

    4. Pescadero*

      …but if I’m reading a document on screen, but never touching my mouse or keyboard… it ISN’T a “period of inactivity”.

      Monitoring mouse movement as a proxy for “inactivity” is really, really dumb.

      1. xl*

        Kind of reminds me of how Elon Musk was using lines of code typed to see which programmers had done the “most work” over the past year in order to determine who to lay off.

        1. MigraineMonth*


          I consider the number of lines of existing code I delete to be a much better proxy for productivity than the number I write.

    5. Olivia*

      Now you’ve got me thinking about this from an IT security perspective, and I’m wondering: isn’t it bad that the employee, who doesn’t seem to be in IT, was able to install a program on their computer? Shouldn’t only IT be able to do that?

      1. scooter34*

        Mouse jigglers are a USB connection item – it’s a little platform that spins and rotates and makes your mouse move, not a program that directs the cursor.

            1. Enai*

              You can also build one with a few calling cards (to elevate the optical mouse) and any qr code printout or similar (to irritate the sensor into believing the mouse moves).

              How do I know? A little mousey told me…

    6. Random Dice*

      Right, but that’s for an office. At home, I lock my computer when I walk away, because it’s so ingrained… but Teams says I’m idle when I’m sitting there.

    7. Llama Llama*

      This is what I have been thinking when reading many of these comments that they use it because it might require to put in their password again.

    8. Just Another Tired US Fed*

      If you work at home alone in a separate office space like me, there is no security risk. One size fits all policies fit no one. The time-out period is just too darn short especially since I work with absolutely no sensitive or confidential data. I find constant jiggling so distracting.

      1. Latte*

        One size fits all policies fit no one.

        THIS. I am so sick of managers and employers who take this approach.

      2. H.C.*

        I agree that there should be different security levels depending on the sensitivity of data handled by the employee, but the “my remote setup is secure” reasoning is a moot point. IT is not going to take it upon themselves to verify the security of every WFH employee’s living situation/home office setup (and even if they do, what happens if that changes? Would it be upon the employee to notify IT if they move, if there’s a new roommate, if there’s short- or long-term overnight visitors, etc.)

    9. NotAnotherManager!*

      This was really my only concern when I read the letter. I was tangentially involved in a ransomware situation that came about because an end-user circumvented a basic security protocol, so my tolerance for that sort of nonsense is fairly low. The inconvenience of putting in your password or reconnecting is zero compared to the time and money that goes into incident response.

      1. Enai*

        Depends – if logging in and starting up again takes less than 10 seconds and doesn’t lose work, yes. But upthread there’s several people describing multi-minute log in procedures (do that a few times a day, lose >1h of work _per day!_) or failed computing jobs that took literal hours. Aggregated over all employees, the productivity loss is staggering.

    10. BasketcaseNZ*

      I would have presumed that THIS would have been the argument made in the discipline meeting if that was why though?

  8. Susan*

    I work in information security for a large company. If you are using a software mouse jiggler, you are going to get caught. What you need instead is a hardware version of a mouse jiggler, search Amazon for “Mouse Jiggler” to see what they look like.

    1. Miss Elaine Yuss*

      I have a USB one that works like a charm. I can leave it running all day, and the small movements don’t disrupt my work. I’m actually in-office full time, but my VP is remote in another state. Does anyone actively track my active time? No. Does this help ensure that “we’ve noticed a lot of inactive time” doesn’t get piled on if I make other mistakes or fall out of favor? Yes. Protect yourself, people.

      1. Starbuck*

        Does the USB plug into the computer? That seems risky, if they’re able to identify the device.

    2. Rain's Small Hands*

      Although it isn’t a leap from “searching for jiggle software on desktops” (and frankly any company who is worried about screen locking for inactivity shouldn’t be letting you install software like a mouse jiggler anyway – I’m far more worried about viruses, etc. and software license liability than someone accessing your computer when you step away) to software that statistically analyzes mouse movements looking for a mechanical purpose.

    3. Camellia*

      Had a coworker that said they just sat their mouse on top of an analog watch. The ticking second hand kept the mouse active.

        1. Victoria*

          You put the mouse directly on top of the watch with the optical sensor on the watch face, and the moving second hand of the watch makes the optical sensor bit of the mouse think it’s moving, so your cursor moves a bit on the screen. You can’t use the mouse at the same time, of course; you leave it sitting on top of the watch and get on with the non-computer activity you need to do.

      1. Susan*

        No need to plug anything into the host. It’s a stand alone device that you set your mouse on top of.

    4. Just Another Tired US Fed*

      Susan, that’s what I have. No software. Couldn’t use it if it did have software because you need administrator rights to install anything on our system. I’ve had zero problems so far.

  9. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    Just today my screen went dark because I (1) had a work phone call, (2) was updating my to-do list on paper, (3) ate lunch at an odd time since I had a noon Zoom, and (4) used my phone for that Zoom so I could access a file on that device. I would have been irate if I had a boss judging me only on my screen time.

  10. scurvycapn*

    While I don’t know if it applies to the letter writer, I think there’s an important topic that is not being addressed: regulations/the law.

    I work for a company that works with government agencies. I’ve worked from home for over fifteen years. Our company-owned computers have a policy to lock after 10 minutes of inactivity. It’s required because we are working with PII/PHI and the state/federal regulations require it. I believe it may be part of HIPPA. Circumventing that could get my employer (and myself) in big trouble.

    1. Help Desk Peon*

      Indeed. I also work with PII and occasionally PHI, which is probably why security concerns were my first thought. I could easily see people being outright fired for this where I work.

    2. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

      I get where you are coming from but that is not going to apply to most jobs. They aren’t doing this because they are worried about HIPPA or PII regulations They do this because they don’t trust their employees.

      Also, I work with HIPPA and have always worked with PII. Maybe this is just your specific industry but I’ve never heard of having your computer lock after inactivity. We have procedures that you must have security screens, lock your computer when you leave your desk, and things like that. But not having it lock just for inactivity. Heck you could be sitting at your desk doing paperwork. In this case they would lock the computer even though you are right there? Also, I worked from home during the first part of covid and all we had to do was make sure our space was confidential. and quiet. If OP is in their own home, with no roommates why should she have to lock the screen if there is no way anyone would be able to see or do anything?

      1. Help Desk Peon*

        I know of a user who was working with her laptop in a public space. She was punched in the face and her laptop stolen. THAT’s why we have the policy in my org.

        1. Ginger Baker*

          Ummm…unless your laptop is somehow programmed to lock “when user is punched in face” this…does not seem like the solution you think it is.

          1. Magenta Sky*

            It’s not perfect, but laptops that have been closed require a login when you open them back up. Have you ever tried to run with an open laptop?

            (That said, I think that’s the solution to the wrong problem.)

          2. Help Desk Peon*

            Most thieves are too busy getting away to worry about keeping the laptop user’s session active, so yes, it is a solution. Then while they’re trying to play guess the password, the user is calling us and we’re implementing the security system that will cause the OS to eat itself if it goes online.

            I mean, if they punch the user and then immediately sit down and start doing stuff we’ve got a problem, but we haven’t actually had that happen.

        2. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

          How is that going to help if the computer is stolen while the person is already logged in? They can take it, not close it and go where ever. all the thief would have to do is keep the screen on until they got someplace where they could do whatever they wanted.
          most likely this wasn’t some sort of espionage to get PPI but someone saw a laptop and thought the person was an easy target.

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          The problem was the user’s choice of location, not the computer timing out or something.

          1. Giant Kitty*


            Someone working with that kind of sensitive data should not be working in a public space – period – for legitimate security reasons that are quite removed from the risk of physical theft of a laptop while one is using it.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              I don’t want my medical files open on a laptop in a coffee shop with random people reading over the case manager’s shoulder.

              1. Enai*

                Or my legal case discussed on a train, for that matter. I actually witnessed that once first hand. Sat in a place with a desk, two lawyers get on and proceed to talk about the strategy for court in $next city complete with spreading the file out in front of me. The financial minutiae of $restaurant were no beeswax of mine, not to mention the rest of the well populated car.

                No computers, though. Just paper.

      2. Wannessa*

        I’m really surprised by your company. I also with work HIPAA (c’mon y’all, we see the name in training every year) and every org I’ve worked for has required inactivity locks. If you’re sitting at your desk doing paperwork, you periodically jiggle your mouse or you let the screen lock. That applies to our WFH work too, because you might know you live alone or know that your spouse/mother/roommate won’t use your computer while you step away, but your company has no way to verify that.

        As someone who previously worked in healthcare compliance and now works in healthcare IT, I can see the security argument against mouse jigglers. The “defrauding the company” part is ridiculous, though.

        1. Properlike*

          My spouse/mother/roommate could also be using my computer in front of me or reading over my shoulder and the company wouldn’t know.

          I assume, in public, most people aren’t using a mouse jiggler.

          Sure, things happen. We’ve all heard about people having paper files stolen out of their cars, or a secure laptop. Yes, the inactivity lock is a useful feature for many of the reasons described. Is it useful in all situations? Is it useful when it’s onerous? No. It’s not an all-or-nothing.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          (Thank you. There is only one P in HIPAA – and it does not stand for”privacy” :-P )

        3. Giant Kitty*

          “every org I’ve worked for has required inactivity locks. If you’re sitting at your desk doing paperwork, you periodically jiggle your mouse”

          I really don’t see how this is any different than having a mechanical mouse jiggler make the movement for you, except that with a mouse jiggler you can fully concentrate on what you are doing without having the distraction of needing to remember to keep moving the mouse.

    3. Rain's Small Hands*

      As someone whose done both PHI and HIPPA as part of IT governance, no the regulations don’t require it. Companies choose to implement it because it makes compliance easier, but the laws themselves aren’t that prescriptive.

      1. scurvycapn*

        My bad, it’s probably because we also work with FTI.

        AC-11: Device Lock
        a. Prevent further access to the system by initiating a device lock after 15 minutes of inactivity; requiring the user to initiate a device lock before leaving the system unattended

        1. Lydia*

          But that’s not why she got written up, which tells you all you need to know about their reasoning. And even if that were the cases, it’s unlikely to be a thing if you’re working in the safety of your own home.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          But a lot of security controls lock the device after only 5 minutes, which is not what is actually required.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      My spouse works very tangentially with PII and has to take mandatory security training every year, during which they explain the amounts of fines and jail time you can get for violating security policy.

      1. Rain's Small Hands*

        Yeah, honestly, they are lying – its POSSIBLE, but it doesn’t happen. Low level employees don’t go to jail or face fines for this sort of thing – high level employees don’t really either. I once had a contract working with nuclear reactors in eSecurity – and while they enforced software locks, they were violating the basic principles of audit and IDM control all over the place – failed their government audit, and let their head of eSecurity go, got a fine and a slap on the wrist – which was cheaper than putting in the controls.

        Now, people get FIRED all the time for violating policy – not nearly as often as they should when the policies are good. But getting fired for violating policy is often based more on if they want to get rid of you – I’ve seen companies overlook drug policy violations because they liked someone.

        1. Latte*

          As other posters have said, it is quite clear that OP’s employer is not basing this ridiculousness on any security concerns, but on productivity paranoia, anti-worker claims of “time theft”, and a poorly-designed policy.

          Now, people get FIRED all the time for violating policy – not nearly as often as they should when the policies are good. But getting fired for violating policy is often based more on if they want to get rid of you – I’ve seen companies overlook drug policy violations because they liked someone.

          As a lawyer, I’ve also represented people whose managers LIED about them breaching policies. Fabricating not only evidence of policy breaches, but even making up policies on the spot, and then accusing them of breaching them.

  11. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

    I really want to know how the salaried person is defrauding the company and committing time theft? All of the work is getting done, etc.

    I really want OP to go back to their boss and have them explain this, and then update us here!

    1. Pippa K*

      And if the company thinks this is “time theft,” then on days when the employee works beyond her usual hours is that “time donation” or “wage theft” by the company? Such nonsense.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Yeah, I would tell them that if they plan to view this as time/wage theft, then they better plan to start paying me overtime, because this argument only works if my position is non-exempt.

    2. Tio*

      Time theft is when you’re on the clock but not available for work – other examples would be an hourly employee who clocks in from lunch but then goes back out to their car or whatever and doesn’t return to work until later. People at work but not working are still technically available for work so not necessarily considered not working (although it’s splitting hairs at that point, and some companies would consider this “time theft”.)

      But regardless, it shouldn’t matter that much for a salaried worker who’s getting everything done. If I took an extra half hour for lunch – which I’ve done – my boss would not care as long as I got my stuff done (which I do)

      1. I Need Coffee*

        And in this case, since the employee is salaried so there is no “on the clock” and therefore no time theft.

      2. Lacey*

        Right. I worked somewhere with crazy rushes of activity and then huge lulls where the work just dribbles in.

        When we worked at the office we’d have three hour conversations about tv shows, do our online shopping, one coworker was house hunting and would slack the listings she was looking at to everyone – including our boss! No one cared, because if anything came in, we were available to work.

        If we’d been out at the lake or even just at Starbucks, that would be a different story.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yes. During the slow holiday period my boss said to go ahead and knock off early, just keep your cell phone available and your computer booted up so that if you’re needed you can be reached and can return to active work.

          1. Lacey*

            Yes, my boss has done that as well. And before we were all WFH, sometimes someone from the C-suite would go around to all the offices and say, “It’s nice outside, go home!” Because there was just NOTHING to do.

      3. Just Another Tired US Fed*

        I’m not available for work when I am taking care of necessary bodily functions or taking a coffee break. Exempt folks don’t normally clock in and out for lunch.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > All of the work is getting done, etc.

      I understand the logic of this but also, what defines “all of the work” isn’t always fixed and can be elastic.

      If OP (or anyone else!) has a lot of slack time, most often there are other tasks they could pick up, a new project, chip away at the backlog of “things we’d like to improve but are not top priority” and so on.

      It doesn’t happen to me much these days as I am ‘senior’ enough to generate my own projects when I have the opportunity, but certainly earlier in my work life and in other people’s, there’s an expectation that if you find yourself with spare capacity you need to talk to a supervisor to be assigned something, take the next task from the list, or whatever.

      Yes, she is meeting expectations. It could be that the expectations aren’t high enough to begin with…

      1. Lydia*

        It doesn’t matter. She gets good reviews and is meeting requirements and possibly a more challenging workload has to do with them writing her up for defrauding the company and time theft.

      2. Properlike*

        So she’s automatically wrong because she’s producing all this work (that she lists) which seems to have pleased the company a lot, because she’s not using the spare handful of minutes to take on MORE work? And she’s salaried.

        She’s not talking about sitting around for hours. She’s talking about keeping her screen from going to sleep while she’s doing work that doesn’t involve moving a mouse.

        This isn’t how “work” works. I’m baffled by so many people assuming that the LW is in the wrong for not ascribing to the company view of “productive equals your mouse moving at all times and any minute not moving it is theft.” I would be curious what jobs all these company-is-right people do that they are literally in motion for 480 minutes every day without stopping.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        Expectations are set between her and her manager. She was meeting her manager’s expectations. He has now sprung an “activity” measure expectation on her that having a mouse jiggler somehow violates. He’s changed the rules in the middle of the game. I would be looking for another job if that happened to me.

      4. Jessica*

        Microsoft just literally did a study about how constant work, like back-to-back meetings, impairs brain functions. Like it’s right there in color: not having breaks between meetings raises stress levels and reduces productivity.

        Slack time is actually very, very important for productivity, and trying to fill it with busy work just means that you end up not getting ANY quality work time from people.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          It wasn’t explicitly stated, but what also isn’t in the letter is OP giving any kind of legit justification for using the device, e.g. I need to keep the computer awake while I work on the X document and it keeps going to sleep otherwise which causes problem Y. Surely if OP had said that, it would be in the letter, so I can only conclude she accepted the reprimand even though she doesn’t agree with it, as there was no justification for using it. So then the question is what is she doing while this is going on – that’s why I characterised it as slack time, because it doesn’t seem to be work.

      5. Azars*

        This is the office job version of “time to lean, time to clean!” It’s a mentality that leads to being given makework more often than it does some useful.

      6. Fishsticks*

        Considering the history of what happens when people volunteer to take extra work on (they become expected to work themselves harder and harder with raises that either don’t happen or don’t keep up with inflation, workers having to leave and go to other jobs to get the kind of pay they deserve for the quality and quantity of work they do, etc), I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t decide to burden themselves.

  12. I have no name*

    I both disagree and agree with the poster. The poster said she was deliberately trying to take longer breaks. That is…theft of wages? High performer or not, that’s unethical.

    Why did she need the jiggler? Was her supervisor timing her breaks or her being away for longer? If there were no issues prior to her installing the jiggler I don’t see why she felt she needed one.

    On the other hand I don’t feel companies should spy on their employees like this. But at the end of the day it’s their equipment and I guarantee she signed something at the start of her employment acknowledging she wouldn’t install items she was supposed to.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        It could be if she is non-exempt (salaried is not always exempt), but I am thinking she is exempt. That said, she should point out that since they think it is time/wage theft if she is not working 40 hours a week at their specified times, she is entitled to overtime whenever she works more than 40 hours a week and will be reporting it to the IRS if they fail to comply!

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yes, that OP mentioned they used the jiggler to take longer breaks is really telling. Either OP is in fact using the jiggler to take two-hour naps and not be discovered or the company thinks a 30-minute lunch break or walk around the neighborhood is a “long break.” One of those doesn’t look good for OP and if it’s the other, I’d encourage OP to go find a job at a reasonable company that doesn’t monitor employees every second of the day.

      1. KN*

        Disclaimer, I’m a manager and would be annoyed if one of my employees took a 2-hour nap while working from home, specifically because we do fast-paced, collaborative work, and there’s an expectation to answer one-off questions reasonably quickly.

        That being said: if that’s *not* the case for LW’s job, does it… actually matter? Like, apparently no one had an issue with their actual response times, or the amount of work they actually got done. If they could get the same amount of work done as pre-WFH while taking a 2-hour nap every day, where’s the benefit in forcing them not to do that?

        And even in my case, as long as an employee is reasonably responsive (e.g., responds to Slack messages during the day), I don’t really care how they divide up their work throughout the day, as long as everything I get from them is timely and done well. I definitely have had people on my team who were obviously responding to Slack messages from their phone, and if they were high performers, I didn’t care. I’d only start worrying about it if they weren’t getting their work done well.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Good point. I have nap guilt because I used to take naps all the time (due to untreated insomnia) and felt bad about it even though I actually was hourly at the time and would clock out. But it might not matter to OP’s colleagues if OP is taking naps or whatever, so your point is a good one.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          I have insomnia. I will often take a two hour lunch-nap if I didn’t sleep well the night before. I also work later to make up the time in my day.

          Except for meetings my day is not scheduled tightly. As long as I make my meetings, am generally available during core hours (by phone if I’m not online) and get my work done, my boss doesn’t care if I need a nap in the middle of the day. I’m a responsible adult, and I expect to be treated like one. Often if I have a thorny problem to work out I will deliberately go do something unrelated to allow my brain to work on the issue in the background.

          If my job expected strict hours, closely timed breaks and other hourly type control mechanisms I would be looking for a new job.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        If the screen locks after a minute, that means totally normal things like going to the bathroom, or to get a cup of coffee, lock you out and you have to log back in.

        At the office (or in a coffee shop) there’s a reason for that, but after NASA came up with the pandemic software to prevent the nation’s cats seizing control of the satellites, it’s not really logical if someone is working in a space with no other people.

    2. Lisa*

      They’re on salary, so “theft of wages” isn’t a thing. Not having closely tracked time is the primary benefit of being salaried.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Well, salaried does not always mean exempt. You can be salaried and be non-exempt, and then you are entitled to overtime pay if you work more than 40 hours a week. In that case, if you are not working the requisite 40 hours, that would be wage theft. However, it sounds to me like she is exempt, and you are right, there is no wage theft their because exempt means you are paid to get the job done, not based on hours.

      2. CheeryO*

        It can absolutely be a thing. I am a salaried, exempt government employee, but I am also required to track my hours and take PTO for any breaks beyond those that my contract entitles me to. If I took a two hour lunch and reported a 30-minute lunch, that is time theft.

        1. Cheesecake2.0*

          Are you sure you are salaried exempt? I am also a salaried exempt govt employee and we can only take PTO in 8 hour increments (both vacation and sick time) because as exempt employees, any work done (even only 1 hour) counts as a day worked. When I fill out my time card, I only report whole days that I used PTO, never hours in a day or breaks or anything else.

    3. Isben Takes Tea*

      I think whether “taking longer breaks” is regarded as theft or unethical really comes down to the type of work you’re doing. If you’re paid to be a responsive physical body, such as in retail or answering phones, then you are being paid to be “in position,” and I could see avoiding that as being unethical.

      But if you’re role is based on other work output or metrics and you’re meeting them within your deadlines, then taking longer than “standard” or “legally required” breaks isn’t unethical: you are performing as you are being paid to do. Alison has answered several other questions on the same issue that way.

      I work from home, and some days I take an extra walk or an extra 10 minutes at lunch, because that results in me being more productive and better equipped to do what I’m paid to do.

      I do agree with wanting more context around why she felt the mouse-jiggler was needed in the first place, though.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Yes, this is why exempt employees do not get overtime pay (some salaried jobs are non-exempt, but this one sounds exempt to me). It is understood that you are going to get the work done, produce certain work and results, meet deadlines, and sometimes that means you work more than 40 hours in a week, and sometimes it can mean that you work less, but as long as you are meeting your job requirements, you get paid your salary either way.

        In other words, if she is exempt, their is no wage theft, because her wages are not based on hours worked.

      2. Lydia*

        The thing is, they don’t know she was taking longer breaks. She didn’t volunteer that information. She told Alison about that to be transparent, but what they were focused on is that her use of the mouse jiggler automatically means she’s cheating them. So even if on occasion she took a 20-minute break instead of a 10 minute one, the point is they assumed she’s always taking longer breaks or not working at all despite her actually showing results. She gets her work done, but instead of focusing on that, they want to nitpick her mouse jiggler.

        1. Tio*

          They’re probably looking at it from the view of – if you’re using a mouse jiggler it means you’re away from your desk enough to “need” it. An extra ten minute break where she’s away might have been perceived better than having used a mouse jiggler. OP is not very specific about how long they are away for, so there are even odds that it’s longer than a ten extra minutes. They could be anything from a terrible company, to a company with more work they need done finding out their employee is possibly afk for long periods of time. There’s no way for us – and possibly them – to tell how long OP is gone, so that’s why it works bad.

          Now of course their output should cover for that but the optics on it may not be good

    4. KN*

      I agree it wasn’t a great idea to use it because of the pretty verifiable deception (and if it was unapproved software, although it’s unclear if LW’s solution was software or hardware), but I don’t see how it’s wage theft. LW clarifies that they are salaried, so they’re not getting paid based on their hours worked.

      “If there were no issues prior to her installing the jiggler I don’t see why she felt she needed one.” – LW specifies they’ve been using this since they were sent home at the start of the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, there was presumably no issue because their manager assumed butt-in-seat = no need to be concerned about productivity. You don’t have to look far to find ample stories of managers who freaked out at the start of WFH and started obsessing over whether or not their workers had their butt in their seat, because it turned out they knew how to judge that better than the work output.

      At the end of the day, it’s deception over something that shouldn’t actually matter. LW deceived their company about how many hours they were spending moving their mouse in front of their computer, which is technically deceitful, even if it shouldn’t matter. It’s unethical on a technicality, but it’s absolutely not “wage theft,” and it’s not hard to imagine why they would have felt like it was the easiest way to solve a non-problem.

    5. Colette*

      Salaried employees are paid the same no matter how much they work, so it’s not really time theft. She could literally say “I’m going to take a longer break today” and she’d get paid the same – and that’s acceptable in a lot of places.

      The thing with jobs that involve creativity or knowledge is that you won’t be directly working all the time. Sometimes you need to take a break and let your brain figure out the problem you’re working on – and if you sit staring at your computer, you will actually end up producing less.

      1. Samwise*

        Not necessarily.

        I’m salaried exempt, a state employee. I have regular working hours –I have to state them and get them approved at the start of every semester.

        I have a lunch period of 30 or 60 minutes (depending on my start and end times).

        Technically, if I take an additional 15 minutes or more away from working, I have to use PTO. In practice, my boss is not an idiot. I only put in for PTO when I’m quite late, or unexpectedly get stuck away from the office for more substantially more time than my lunch break. It’s rare.

        1. Yorick*

          It sounds like your employer is cheating you. They’ve made you exempt so they don’t have to pay overtime but are still treating you like an hourly worker if you work less.

          1. Starbuck*

            Yes, maybe it’s a government loophole, but it does not sound like they are really technically salaried the way most people would mean it. The common understanding is a flexible time arrangement, and if it was one of these weird government exceptions OP probably would have specified that.

        2. Random Bystander*

          That really doesn’t sound right (that it is the policy). One of my sons is salaried-exempt and works for a college (so pay is from the state), and he only has to use his PTO in half-day increments.

        3. Colette*

          Yes, they can require you to use PTO (although, as you say, that would be foolish for 15 minutes) but they can’t dock your pay.

    6. Fluffy Fish*

      Salaried employees don’t generally have assigned breaks. My breaks are usually only 5-10 minutes, but occasionally run longer for a variety of reasons. I’m assuming that’s what she means by taking a longer break. Most reasonable employers understand that balances out during times of needing to work through lunch or after normal hours. That’s why it’s not (generally) considered theft (by reasonable companies).

      An hourly employee who is paid only when working who takes a longer break and says they were working during that time, would be theft. We’ve fired an employee for that.

      The company is being weird about a salaried employee by focusing on nickle and diming their time vs the work product which IS what they’re getting paid for.

    7. Dogmama01*

      I don’t agree with the company, but OP doesn’t get away Scott free on this either. It may not be theft of wages, but unethical to say the least.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Why? What’s unethical?

        They’re a high performer and there are no complaints about their work.

        If work wasn’t getting done or coworkers were having to pick up slack, that would be one thing of course. But that’s not what’s happening.

        1. Dogmama01*

          How long is she pretending to work? 30 minutes is one thing. Being offline for 4 hours each day is another. Maybe management has other tasks they need handled but she “appears busy” all the time so they give the work to another top performer. Bottom line she’s being deceitful and lying. If she thought she had to this is a terrible company to work for, but she’s no angel either.

          1. Lydia*

            Nah. She says she sometimes takes a longer break. I don’t think she’s taking off to do hours long errands while her mouse jiggler fools everyone. PS You aren’t going to be a top performer if you do that, so it’s unlikely your scenario is in any way realistic.

            1. Dogmama01*

              I said what I said, she’s lying and deceitful. Just take your breaks and go about your business. If your supervisor is timing your breaks when you are salary, leave, with your morals and ethics still grounded.

              1. Just Another Tired US Fed*

                Ridiculous. The screen timing out is not an indication someone isn’t working.

                1. Dogmama01*

                  She says she bought the mouse jiggler so she could take longer breaks. Not that she bought it so her screen didn’t time out while she worked on other non mouse moving work activities. People are confusing their own reasons for going idle with what she said herself.

                2. Lydia*

                  No, Dogmama, she said she uses the mouse jiggler so her computer wouldn’t lock her out and SOMETIMES she takes a longer break.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            “Pretending to work”???? Horse feathers.

            In most exempt type jobs I’ve had I can be stuck on the toilet and still working by thinking about my job, planning what I need to do next, etc. Knowledge work doesn’t require sitting in front of a computer poking buttons all day.

            “Keystrokes”, “Mouse movement” or “lines of code” is a misconception of productivity that is used to abuse knowledge workers.

            1. Just Another Tired US Fed*

              Some of my most keen insights and solutions to thorny problems have come when technically I’m off the clock, in the shower, driving etc. Some of us do analytical work that can’t just be turned off. Any mechanical metric for knowledge work is off-base.

    8. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I could see using it to keep the screen from falling asleep because if mine falls asleep, I have to re-enter my password, which is annoying because they make us have really long passwords and we have to change them a lot. So if I took a longer break, I would want the screen to stay on. (Granted, I just sigh and enter the password again … I had no idea jigglers even existed).

      And if she installed unapproved software and that was the big issue, they would have made the warning about that. Instead, they made it about time/wage theft. OP says she is salaried. She does not say if she is exempt, but it sounds likely that she is, in which case it cannot be wage theft. Just as they do not have to pay overtime if she works more than 40 hours a week, she has no requirement to give them forty hours a week as an exempt employee. As long as she is meeting her responsibilities, they have to pay her salary, however few or many hours she works. So, I would definitely be inclined to contest that or tell them that if it stays on my record, I will be reporting them for failing to pay me overtime going forward (I’d have a lawyer communicating this for me, of course. I am a lawyer, and that is the kind of communication best coming from a lawyer).

      1. animaniactoo*

        As long as there is work available to do, it is a reasonable expectation and requirement of the job that she is actually putting in 40 hours of work (with time allotted for breaks, etc.). She does owe that.

        Being salaried is more a question of rounding and averaging over a time period.

        If she is actually available to do more work but they don’t have that visibility, and she’s not notifying them of it, then that’s a problem.

        This should be open on both sides “I finished X project but I need a day or two to take it slow before I dive in to another project”, “I tend to take an extra break, but make up for it elsewhere or am efficient enough that I can still get the project done within the needed timeframe”.

        This is really not as simple as “salaried/exempt means there’s no responsibility to account for time!”

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          It cannot be wage theft if she is productive and getting her required work done. It is certainly better for your development and reputation in the company to seek more work than is assigned, but it is not required. So no, it still cannot qualify as wage theft. And people can be sitting and active on their computers in the office all day, and still not be working. It happens all the time. The fact that OP has good performance reviews, meets deadlines, and is satisfying her requirements means she is fulfilling her end of the bargain. Hours are not part of it.

          Plus, most people need a mental break now and then, and especially in many exempt jobs, that is understood, so a longer break is fine. And you can also be working and not be active on your computer, even if it is taking some time to mull over a work related problem. Sometimes the break and not thinking about the problem makes it easier to solve the problem. My previous boss used to tell me to walk away for a while when I started feeling stressed, take my mind off of the issue, then come back and make a prioritized list. She knew I would not be as efficient or effective unless I took that extra break. And as I was salaried and exempt, that was fine.

          The notion that employees should be actively seeking “active online screen” work every second of the working day is as ludicrous as the assumption that someone sitting at their computer with it active all day must actually be engaging in work and doing so in a productive manner.

          1. animaniactoo*

            Please read long enough to understand my 4th statement above about what the interaction should look like.

    9. PoolLounger*

      I don’t get the problem with a salaried employee taking any length of breaks if they get their work done, are available to others when needed, and get positive feedback and reviews. My partner works for a Big 5 company and I have friends who work from home for smaller tech companies. They tend to set their own hours and take long breaks, working later in the evening or earlier in the morning (but always being around for meetings). And their managers never care, as long as everything get done. I don’t understand micromanagement when what matters is the results.

      1. Starbuck*

        Yes, that’s the whole deal with being salaried, and people seem to really be misunderstanding the nature of that work. If your boss has specifically assigned you a meeting, task, coverage, etc then you need to be available, but otherwise you can plan your tasks and breaks as you see fit.

  13. Just Another Fed*

    God forbid anyone want to print out documents and review them on paper because they find that helps them focus, or spend time drafting wireframes with sticky notes, or take a work phone call without a video component. Computers are tools for work. When did we decide that using a computer defines work?

    1. Nea*

      THIS! My mind boggles at the number of managers who think computer work is the same as being on a factory line, where you’re expected to stay in one spot doing one task for 8 straight hours.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        And even then, you’re usually given breaks.

        (I say “usually” because the Fed does not mandate breaks, and neither do several states. Several other states only mandate breaks for minors. Of course, companies in those jurisdictions can still choose to give breaks.)

      2. Properlike*

        THIS. The assembly line immediately came to mind. The Lucy & Ethel version of it.

        Going back to paper — if my pen wasn’t constantly moving, does that mean I’m not working?

        If I’m in construction and I’m not hammering or shoveling the entire eight hours (minus breaks?)

        Has anyone actually thought through what they’re saying? And why does everyone assume “hours away from desk when she could be doing other projects” instead of “a minute here or there, nothing big?”

        1. Nea*

          It’s horrifying how many people are rushing to assume the worst.

          I’m always wiggling my mouse at the office while at my desk to keep my computer from going to sleep because being a tech writer often means staring into the middle distance while trying to figure out the best way to phrase or organize information. Apparently OP’s employer (and a fair chunk of the commentariat) wouldn’t see the problem with writing me up doing my job because they think my job ought to involve either constantly logging out while I’m *right there* or constantly typing random letters.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            This. I often have hours where I am thinking about stuff, but not committing anything to electrons. I will jot physical notes and brainstorm on stuff for days before sitting down and writing a document in one pass – because I just spent part of the three previous days structuring it in my head.

            Knowledge work is that way – it’s skull work, and the computer is only a tool to get it out of your head into a usable format. The computer is the tool, not the work itself.

    2. cncx*

      I read much better on paper, this was my first thought. If I worked at a place where my mouse was the main productivity tracker…whew

  14. DCompliance*

    Salaried employees are paid for a body of work and not a period of time. I would be interested in how using a mouse jiggler is time theft. I would need a lot more then that to write somebody up for time theft.

  15. WorkForYourPay*

    AG is dead wrong on this.

    Mouse movers are used to circumvent programs that to go idle/away automatically based on the computer’s I/O. Some of this software is how calls/emails/texts get routed. Using the mover means that potentially someone is being given a runaround because they assume you’re present and able to assist…but you’re actually no where to be found.

    Even if it’s not used for customer routing…I’d be p/o’d if my team mate always showed as active but never responded to any of their IMs or phone calls.

    From a management perspective, how are you going to address performance issues if you don’t know why they’re being caused? If I had two employees with the same performance deficiencies but one had a large up-time and one had a large down-time according to our activity tracking…I’d handle both of those employees very differently.

    Note for the upcoming onslaught: An activity monitor is reasonable and would be part of a management investigation to determine the cause of an employee’s performance problems.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I think it’d be fair to install monitors with the employee’s knowledge during a PIP, but routine monitoring of employees is overreach. By this logic, wouldn’t it also be better to require them to be on-camera all day? Or connected to one giant zoom room, like some companies tried to do at the beginning of the pandemic? Of course managers would always find more information useful, but most workers are going to feel resentful under these surveillance measures and try to find less constricting places of employment.

    2. Colette*

      There’s no indication that the OP isn’t responding to IMs or phone calls – in fact, she mentions that her performance is strong.

      And it’s poor management to assume that poor performance is caused by something that activity tracking will uncover. Sometimes it is – but some of the most inept coworkers I’ve had were always very busy. They just weren’t busy doing the right things.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      Actively monitoring your grown adult professional employees computer “activity” with intent to micromanage their time is not reasonable.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        It sounds like WorkForYourPay manages non-exempt employees in a customer facing role, which is clearly not the same as OP’s job. OP is salaried and likely exempt, so being on and available during working hours is not necessarily expected or required (and even if it is required or expected, there is no requirement that OP be actively working during that time, just available if needed). WorkForYourPay may need to monitor employee time and engagement if they manage something like a call center. But it does not apply to OP.

        That said, their username suggests that WorkForYourPay is probably a miserable person to work for!

    4. Sunshine*

      There was no indication that OP was not responding to messages. My computer dings when I get an IM or an email so I can answer it even when I’m reading something on paper or writing something in a notepad.

      1. Lacey*

        Yup. I often work on paper – if a new message dings, I’m right there to see it. It’s not like I can’t be responsive.

    5. Meep*

      I mean, maybe just maybe it is because I have a job that involves a lot of thinking and being “in” the problem, but I am not going to respond to you right away when I am busy anyway. Maybe stop expecting people to jump through hoops for you?

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        It sounds like WorkForYourPay manages non-exempt employees in a customer facing role, which is clearly not the same as OP’s job. OP is salaried and likely exempt, so being on and available during working hours is not necessarily expected or required (and even if it is required or expected, there is no requirement that OP be actively working during that time, just available if needed).

        1. Meep*

          Oh definitely. But WorkForYourPay (what a stupid, condescending name!) shouldn’t be so cheeky to assume every place is like their management. Not saying that they could stand to treat their retail employees nicer (and without a doubt they are bad management with a name like that!), but that different jobs have different expectations.

      2. Magc*

        This applies to me as well, and I have deliberately turned off notifications on Outlook and on Teams for this reason. I can do this because I’m not on the first line for technical problems, and the people who are know to call or text me on my phone if I’m not answering on Teams.

        There’s nothing quite so frustrating as being deep into a complicated problem or task and being interrupted for something that isn’t an emergency but still pulls me out of that headspace.

        I have finally gotten past any anxiety around using the DND option on Teams, and that’s helped.

    6. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      But there are no performance issues. Also, the type of job you describe sounds more like a customer facing role, which would be hourly, or at least non-exempt, because the person is expected to be available at specified hours or have coverage, and they are eligible for overtime. OP says she is salaried. She does not say if she is exempt, but most people assume salaried = exempt (it doesn’t always mean that though), but I am assuming she is also exempt. And they wrote her up for wage/time theft. But there cannot be wage/time theft for exempt employees, because just as employers do not have to pay overtime if their exempt employees work more than 40 hours a week, the employer still owes the employee their full salary if they work under 40 hours a week. The jobs are expected to have an ebb and a flow, and constant availability is not expected. She had had good performance reviews, meets deadlines, gets her job responsibilities done, and that is what an exempt employee is paid for. So there cannot be any time theft involved if she is exempt.

    7. I don't have a clever name*

      I’ve addressed performance issues with salaried employees in technical positions, and I’ve seen performance issues addressed. In not one instance was it for any reason that would have been explained by how much time during the day someone spent moving their mouse. I would be ashamed to be such a poor manager that the only reason I could think of for someone’s performance issue was “Well, they’re just not moving their mouse enough, I guess. If that’s not it, I got nothin’.”

    8. Irish Teacher*

      I’m no expert on any of this, but I think a lot depends on what she means by “longer breaks.” I assumed she meant she took 20 minutes when she might normally take a 5 minute break or took an hour and 20 minutes for lunch instead of an hour, that sort of thing.

      If that is the case, then I don’t think it’s likely to matter if somebody has to wait an extra 15 or 20 minute for her to get back to them. And I don’t think taking an extra 15 minutes a couple of times a week would mean somebody never responds to their IMs or phone calls.

      Now, if by longer breaks, she means she is disappearing for hours at a time, that might be somewhat different, depending on the job and how much interaction she should be having with colleagues.

      And she says she didn’t have any performance problems and that her management had been pleased with her work until they found out about this. I can imagine addressing performance issues differently if you have reason to believe they are caused by taking too many breaks versus being overwhelmed by work or finding work from home difficult or having a lot of stress in one’s personal life, but that doesn’t seem to be the issue here and I think that is very different from threatening to fire somebody who has no performance issues because you found out they were managing to do their work to a high standard while working slightly less hours than you thought they were.

      I think dealing with two employees with the same performance deficiencies is different than disciplining an employee who had no performance deficiencies and whose performance you were very happy with.

    9. Yorick*

      But OP was getting great reviews before this. There doesn’t seem to be any problem with being able to assign them projects or their communication with coworkers.

    10. Curmudgeon in California*

      I’m very glad I don’t work for you.

      If I found out that my management was tracking my activity I would be looking for a new job, because that would indicate that management had absolutely no clue as to what I do or how it gets done.

      IMO, adults should not be monitored for activity unless there is a documented severe problem with missed deadlines and lack of work produced that has resulted in a PIP, and the person has been informed that such a monitor has been attached to their account.

      Anything else is infantilization and inappropriate to a reasonable workplace.

    11. Starbuck*

      ” because they assume you’re present and able to assist…but you’re actually no where to be found.”

      “my team mate always showed as active but never responded to any of their IMs or phone calls.”

      But we don’t know that either of these things actually ever happened with OP. Their boss didn’t mention any issues! No performance problems! Activity monitor is not reasonable for a salaried employee if you haven’t assigned them specific coverage / time slots / meeting requests or haven’t already had any issue with their work.

    12. Sarah*

      Yet somehow I manage team performance remotely without ever once checking if my employee’s teams status is available or away. If I need them, I IM them. If they don’t respond in a timely manner, I’ll have a conversation with them. If they aren’t meeting performance objectives, I’ll have a conversation with them. Has worked well for 3 years now without ever once resorting to East German style surveillance.

    13. Pudding*

      I don’t use a mouse mover. I DO sometimes idle at my computer long enough that my status on Teams goes to yellow/away. Either I’m working on paper or I’m chatting with someone who came up to my desk or I’m on the phone or I’m taking a break.

      When I am working from home, I manually move my mouse periodically to keep the idle status from appearing. I am right there at my computer, I’m available. My mouse movement shouldn’t be an indicator of how productive I am – I have regular 1:1s with my manager to go over my projects and the hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost savings I’m generating; those metrics are a better way of measuring my productivity. But. My manager is new, she doesn’t totally understand what I do yet, I don’t know her very well yet, she’s indicated some biases against remote work, and for now, while I’m idling at my desk at home where she can’t see me and know I’m still busy, I jiggle my mouse a little bit to keep my status reflecting Available, because I am available!

      If I didn’t do this, and actually had a meeting and a writeup (!) for being in idle status or using a mouse jiggler, I’d be looking for a new job. Sorry not sorry.

    14. Yada*

      LW is clearly a knowledge worker, who is a high performer with no performance problems. None of your examples apply here, and do not apply to knowledge work in general.

      Having dealt with it myself, I would put money on the mouse jiggler being utilised to stop the computer going to sleep and disconnecting LW from everything (requiring a time-consuming login process every time it happens) after a very short period of time.

  16. animaniactoo*

    I have one question about the being salaried comment – do you do work outside of actual work hours? Because I will sometimes shift work that I’m supposed to be doing on Friday into Sunday morning because my brain is tired. And I think that’s a reasonable trade off as long as the work is done Monday morning. Or if I take a longer lunch in the middle of the day, I’ll go back in for an hour or so to finish stuff up later that night.

    But… if you’re not doing that and you’re just taking more of a break than you would if someone could see you, and not making up the time elsewhere, they do have an argument for the time theft. It’s time that they have – from their perspective – purchased from you. They might have given you another project since you had availability. Even if they are happy with your general productivity. And it might be more than you have mental space for. But then that’s a different negotiation than simply making them think you’re engaged in work for them during time that they have purchased from you, when you’re not.

    This is not to say that I don’t get the impulse to manage your workload and not invite more when companies have shown such a strong inclination for mining for every last bit and then some out of employees. Just that in some senses, while they signed up for people to both design and use apps such as mouse movers, doing so perpetuates the problem and gives them an actual argument to stand on – salaried or not – in regards to time theft.

    1. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

      I see salaried differently. Part of the perk of being salaried is that when there are times when things are slow or you have less work to do, you have the ability to take longer breaks because it makes up for the times when you might have to work longer hours, not be able to take breaks, etc. Of course this really depends on the company and the roll as well.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah, I was trying to decide if there were hourly roles where it would make more sense to be annoyed at OP. From a white-collared salaried perspective, the occasional longer break should be fine if all deliverables are being met and performance is good. At my work I don’t have to take PTO unless I miss four hours or more of a day.

      2. animaniactoo*

        Right, but I’m asking if there are actually periods where there are extra hours being put in here. Because if so, then part of my point is that then you shouldn’t have to *hide* that break in the slower time. Or be taking a longer break during a busy time that you’re not putting in time to make up for elsewhere.

        We don’t actually see being salaried differently, as far as I can tell.

        1. Elle*

          The “extra hours” should not matter, assuming that in a salaried, non exempt positions you’re being paid for your body of work, not time spent. I think that’s the difference.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          A lot of jobs will make an exempt worker take an hour of leave but not give an hour of overtime.

        3. Yorick*

          You don’t always do this to “hide” the break, although OP could be doing that based on the letter. You also do it so your computer doesn’t fall asleep, you can hear notifications from email/messaging, etc. while you take your longer break.

          And to the people talking about security – if you work from home, it may not be dangerous at all to leave your computer on while you take a break. And some people do take longer breaks in their office/work area, anyway.

      3. TaraGreen89*

        Indeed! I work in development for a non-profit. As you might imagine November, December, & January are *much* busier than the rest of the year re: processing donations and the associated work that comes with processing donations. During those times, I can and will work over my regular hours. Additionally, the time periods leading up/during major fundraising events can require excess hours.

        But then there are times of the year when donations slow to a trickle and/or there are no fundraising events. While I can and will use those times for professional development and clearing the deck of less time sensitive tasks that can pile up during the busy periods, those are also the weeks where I will likely take longer lunch breaks or maybe saunter over to a coworker for a casual chat about favorite tv shows, the cats, etc. My manager has never expressed a problem with that – because when it is time to get work done, I get my work done.

        1. Lacey*

          That’s how my office works as well. When it’s crunch time you better be ready to go, but when it’s slow – do as you will. As long as all your tasks are being completed on time.

    2. RB*

      That is how I work, frequently making up for lost time or late starts by working in the evening. So how would their monitoring tool differentiate between me doing office work in the evening and me doing personal emails and online shopping in the evenings?

    3. lilsheba*

      I’m salaried, and I generally don’t have enough work to fill my day. But I also generally stay at my desk and am available unless I specifically state I’m stepping away for a bit. I count these as longer breaks because I’m not working, I’m reading stuff here or shopping or watching movies or whatever, while waiting for work to come in. It might be something like that. And I don’t see a problem with that kind of thing.

    4. Yada*

      LW is clearly a knowledge worker, and I’d say the mouse jiggler is being used to stop the computer from going to sleep and disconnecting LW from everything (requiring a time-consuming login process every time it happens) after a very short period of time. This tedious nonsense is a massive productivity drain for knowledge workers.

      Based on their letter, I’d say the “longer break” LW refers to is likely a 5 or 10-minute add-on to their lunchbreak, not a 6-hour shopping expedition on the company dime.

      Employers that whine about time theft are, more often than not, wage thieves.

  17. Magenta Sky*

    I took it to suggest that the jiggler was mostly intended to keep the computer from going to sleep. If it’s joined to a domain, and controlled by IT (and it seems very likely they’re control freaks in many ways), waking it up means logging back in. If it’s an older computer, and you’re logging in across the internet, that can waste quite a few frustrated, wasted minutes. (And being salaried, it’s not legitimate for the employer to track long breaks anyway.)

    But as Allison said, that’s not the the issue. The issue is “you get what you measure,” and they’re not measuring work output, they’re measuring mouse jiggling. So they get mouse jiggling.

    Personally, my mouse (and keyboard) would be quite busy updating my resume at this point. A high performer should have little trouble finding another job (and probably a raise to go with it).

  18. Squirrel!*

    > I’d be p/o’d if my team mate always showed as active but never responded to any of their IMs or phone calls

    They can ignore you just as easily without a mouse jiggler program though.

    1. Fluffy Fish*


      I worked with a guy who literally did almost nothing all day every day. He did this long before COVID WFH. There was no difference in his work output whether he was in the office or at home.

      The physical location of a desk employee doesn’t dictate their ability to not be productive.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I admired the chutzpah of the lady who just flat out set up an easel and painted landscapes in her cubicle rather than doing any work.

        If she tied the mouse to the end of the paintbrush, would she show as busy and active, while the person in the next cube reading a spreadsheet showed as inactive after a minute?

  19. soontoberetired*

    I work with people who use mouse jigglers because some of the programs they run (actuarial analytics) will die if the machine goes to sleep. No one has ever mentioned security concerns about this, so now I am very curious.

      1. Daniel*

        Themselves? Possibly not; these sorts of things are often locked down by IT. And I can’t speak for every IT department, but a request to change that generally is treated as a lowest priority task.

        1. soontoberetired*

          we can’t change those settings. I am sure her management knew she did this. We’re several releases ahead now so I don’t know if it is still an issue – this was a known bug with original windows 10.

    1. lost academic*

      This is an easy fix – change the sleep/screen lock settings. IT can do it if they can’t.

    2. Allonge*

      Would it not be an option to tell your management about this kind of use of mouse jigglers? It may be a reasonable workaround or a security issue. I would want to find out before I use them.

    3. Lacey*

      Great point. I have the ability to change how long my computer stays awake for, but if I didn’t there are some tasks I have to set to run and then… I can’t do anything on my computer for the half hour or hour that they run.

      If I couldn’t change my settings the computer would fall asleep and the program would pause or fail.

    4. Llama lamma workplace drama*

      Yes.. I use a mouse jiggler (hardware based) because I’m a data scientist and if I’m running something Tableau my computer may go to sleep and disconnect which makes me lose all my work.

  20. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    I agree with every bullet point Alison makes here.
    This is also why I taught my Golden Retriever to mouse move.

    When companies start to nickel and dime these things, they should not be surprised when they suddenly have a lot of empty seats – onsite, or off. I personally returned to the office but will work from home when necessary, needed, or it’s ok from a logistical standpoint, and I’m incredibly lucky that the important things I do have been noticed, not my absence and that they’re not spending money to spy on me.

    I think the dog just found Amazon.

  21. Interview Coming Up*

    Is it wage theft if I read askamanager at work?

    If no one cares when I do that, but then they have a big problem if I’m seen as “away” … Then they’re really not mad about wage theft.

    When I’ve been in work environments where managers were closely monitoring my online status, with the intent to micromanage, it didn’t matter if I was on a mandated break time. They weren’t keeping track of who had already taken their break and who hadn’t. It was just a bad look to be “away” at any time.

    1. L-squared*

      Right. So many people are acting like OP is being dishonest, when the reality is, you can be on reddit/Amazon/AAM, having chats on gChat, whatever and it will look like you are busy. But apparently that is “different” because… reasons

    2. kupo*

      I remember one manager who walked into a conference room turned into impromptu workspace where we were all at laptops where our screens were visible from the door and freaked out because we were all browsing the web. We were a couple of hours into overtime, the website we were all there to test had just gone down, and we had all decided it was about time for a 10-minute break anyway (legally required in my state as I was non-exempt). We were also all high performers and most of us had direct reports, which is why we were on this project to begin with. She wouldn’t listen to reason and became convinced we all goofed off every time she left the room. I simply started walking around the block any time I was on a break because she was too ridiculous to try to reason with. I quit within a few months, after working there 15 years. On my last day, as I’m sitting at my desk doing as much work as i can to tie up loose ends for my coworkers, she accuses me of having “short timer’s” (her term for the senioritis type behavior when someone is finishing their two weeks notice) and goofing off. She could see my screen. I was working. HR was appalled during my exit interview.

    3. Pink Candyfloss*

      AAM is professional development! I say it’s not wage theft, as the skills you learn here help you become a better employee and benefit the company! (Unless the company is crap, then they benefit you by helping you leave)

  22. Three Flowers*

    This kind of employer nonsense is what makes me want to go outside (or maybe to the building atrium) and just scream GENERAL STRIKE at the top of my lungs.

    What would it take for workers generally to be treated with generosity and respect?

    1. I don't have a clever name*

      Judging from some of the commenters here, I think it’s safe to say that it won’t happen in any of our lifetimes.

  23. VaguelySpecific*

    While I agree that if you are otherwise meeting/exceeding expectations getting dinged for this is a bit petty and you aren’t necessarily wrong in how you feel as a reaction I do have to say that As someone who works for a defense manufacturer I have to defend the IT team here….depending on the type of mouse jiggler used.

    If it was something that needs to be plugged into the computer/be installed to function then it’s absolutely correct for IT to be monitoring this. Plugging in any old usb/installing unapproved software on business computers is a very easy way for malware to be introduced to the network and compromise data security. Even if you don’t work in defense, this kind of thing is how hacks that resulted in massive leaks of personal data can happen.

    One of the strategies that both hackers and penetration testers use to try to get access to company systems is load malicious software onto a USB key and “accidentally” drop them around the entrance to a company they are targeting in the hopes that some Good Samaritan will see it, pick it up and plug it into their work PC to identify who it belongs to and return it to them.

    Never, never, never plug personal devices into your business computer.

    1. Fishsticks*

      I mean, if IT was asked to check for mouse jigglers, I can’t blame them for doing so. The nonsense here is all on management for turning what could have been a simple, “Hey, our IT detected that you seem to be utilizing a mouse jiggler. Can you explain why?” conversation into “YOU’RE A THIEF AND A BAD PERSON, HOW DARE YOUUUUU”.

  24. animaniactoo*

    Another factor – there are project management tools that track amount of time spent on a project and assign budgets against it. Both current budgeting and future budgeting. So if there’s PM software that is essentially getting bad data because a mouse jiggler is keeping a screen lit up while someone is being logged as working on that particular project, that’s another variation of “This is doing actual harm” vs “this is thwarting something that shouldn’t be happening”.

  25. Sarah789*

    Mouse Jiggler Confessor here as well. I’m also a salaried employee that is WFH. Why do I do it? Because yes, Teams will show me as idle after 15 minutes and there is no override for that.

    I also read/review a lot of documents. I sit on a ton of meetings that don’t require me to move my mouse or even speak. And YES, sometimes I am downstairs doing laundry and getting coffee.

    But like the LW, I am also a high performer. I get all of my work done on time and do not miss deadlines. I answer emails and IMs quickly. I’m here WORKING when there is work to be done. Like a lot of jobs, I do also have some downtime. So maybe I’m letting the dog out or starting dinner.

    I agree that if the job is getting done and my employer is happy with my work, then what is the problem? Would they rather I sit in front of the computer screen for the sake of sitting there? Or would they prefer that I’m happy with my work/life balance? One of these options is going to keep me at this company and they get a productive and happy employee.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Do you think your company would view you negatively if your teams was idle? Would there be real consequences to that? That’s an issue from where I’m sitting!

      1. Monday Monday*

        At my last company, we had a manger that would watch bubbles, pre-COVID, when we were IN the office. For certain people she had a vendetta. She would go on a mission whenever they were yellow to find out where they were. They could have been in the bathroom or talking to a co-worker. So then it became a game of always making sure our bubbles were green or create a fake meeting on our calendar in case we went idle so she wouldn’t go digging. It became such a waste of time to play her games.

        My current company treats us like adults and only looks at our work output, not our Teams bubble. Which is good because I have 2 monitors for work. I found out if my Teams is not on my active monitor, it goes yellow even though I am active on my second monitor. Plus I read things on paper too so I am not always moving my mouse or typing.

        1. Two Dog Night*

          Oh, that’s interesting! I’ve been wondering why Teams sometimes shows me as yellow when I’m actively working–I wonder if it’s because it’s on my 3rd monitor. Thanks for mentioning that!

      1. Monday Monday*

        I used to do this too but in some company cultures, this would prevent people from messaging me. It was almost equivalent to Do Not Disturb.

        1. lilsheba*

          except Teams has a separate DO NOT DISTURB button that looks just a hair different from the busy button so that doesn’t apply.

    2. Squeakrad*

      I understand the security risks of having a computer go to sleep, but if your salaried, what does it matter how many hours of the day you work?

  26. Elle*

    I would be incredibly frustrated by this. However, if I felt like I needed to be using a mouse mover to begin with, I don’t know that I’d say I was being treated like an adult and a professional. It’s a very minor red flag, but it’s definitely a red flag to me.

  27. Dan the Mouse Moving Man*

    Pro-tip: Put an analog watch under the mouse. Second hand will pass under the sensor at least once per minute.

    1. RB*

      Tried this, it works! But might that not also trigger suspicion if they are using the kind of monitoring the LW described? Wouldn’t they see that the mouse is being activated exactly once every 60 seconds, similar to a jiggling device, or would the movement of the second hand keep it activated constantly?

  28. Meep*

    My toxic former manager would spend more time viewing my screen than doing her own damn job. Was I doing anything bad? Nope! Did she still accuse me of doing coursework doing working hours? Of course, she did! I had to explain to her boss when he asked about it that I logged off and onto my personal computer during lunch.

    To be fair to her, I suppose, she expected me to work from 7 am to 9 pm with no lunch break so when I started taking one I was being insubordinate. /eye-roll

    OP, your manager sucks. Look elsewhere! If they do not understand you have to be away from your computer some time, find someplace to work with more than a single brain cell between management.

  29. nm*

    I gotta wonder about jobs that track peoples’ mouse movements so minutely. What happens if, god forbid, the employee actually needs to THINK to solve problems at work, so they stop moving their mouse?

    1. Daniel*

      That’s the biggest thing for me. Like, these guys are judging productivity based on mouse distance covered or time that the cursor is moving? They seem to be confused about what productivity itself actually is.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      I’m not sure that applies here. It may, but so far what we know is they used software to determine if anyone were using a mouse jiggler – suggesting the assumption that the false-mouse-moving indicates some other inappropriate behavior. If the mouse movements in question had been irregular, I don’t think OP would’ve been caught. They didn’t come at OP for being idle. They came at OP for using a device that disguises whether or not they’re idle. (Possibly also for circumventing the security measure of the automatic lock after certain idle duration, although the letter doesn’t mention that as part of the warning, but I’d argue, it’s the bigger concern.) In other words, it’s the lie that’s the problem. We have no way of knowing if the OP had not been using the mouse jiggler if they’d have had the same dressing-down for their mouse not moving enough.

  30. lost academic*

    1) Stop using it.
    2) Find a new job ASAP

    You shouldn’t need it and if things are set up such that you do or feel you do PLUS you just got formally disciplined for it, I don’t think it matters from what level that edict came, the trust is gone. You’re by your own account a star performer and you need to be working someplace that values your quantifiable productivity alone.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      This is where I land too. I’d be anxious all the time if I was OP any time I was not active at my desk, and I don’t know if there was anything my boss could say to make me feel like I could trust they weren’t micromanaging my every move. I couldn’t work like that long term.

      Time to dust off that resume OP.

  31. LawBee*

    This is like a mild version of AITA where no one is an a—hole but no one is squeaky clean here either. I think knowing why OP used a mouse juggler to begin with is pertinent info. Occasional longer breaks shouldn’t be a big deal unless those breaks spill over into really long breaks or just not working for an hour but pretending you are.

    But also, unless there are regulatory reasons like those suggested upstream, I’d be highly annoyed that my mouse was being monitored. Monitor my work product, not how I got there. (But one would assume that OP would know the reasons why, as she’s a high performer.)

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      What gets me is that they called it wage theft, but OP is salaried (and presumably exempt). So there cannot be wage theft based on time/hours. It also means that they do not have to pay overtime.

      If she is non-exempt, then they have a point, but it sounds like she is exempt to me.

  32. Czhorat*

    I don’t feel that management was as egregious as some here. If the rationale is that the OP is salaried and getting enough done while taking long breaks there’s a possibility they can be carrying a bigger workload. If you were in the office and finished your work in, say, six hours you wouldn’t take a two hour break; you’d take on another task.

    Pretending to be busy makes it harder for upper management to know what everyone’s work load is, makes it hard to balance that workload, and it feels dishonest. To put it another way: if taking an extra long break was OK, why not set your status on Teams as “away on a break” and let the computer fall asleep? If you’re using a mouse jiggler it means that you think you’re doing something wrong which you need to hide.

    1. idea*

      Agreed – I do think using a mouse jiggler is dishonest. Not to take away from the bad management stuff, but you deliberately were trying to deceive, which is an integrity thing.

    2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      If OP is exempt, it is not wage theft, because it is not an issue of time=pay. That is why they do not have to pay overtime if she works more than 40 hours a week, and she still gets paid her salary if she works fewer hours. They did not cite workload in the warning; they explicitly lectured her about wage theft, and that is not accurate at all.

      Also, if OP is efficient, should she have to take on significantly more duties and a higher workload than a colleague in the same position and not get any extra pay? If she is doing the work required of her position, she should get paid for doing that work (which is what an exempt position is … payment for work done, not hours worked).

      Also, I can be in front of a computer screen at my desk and never have any down screen time, but I could be internet shopping, or scrolling reddit, or staring into space and then jiggling my mouse when it start to go to sleep, like a human jiggler. And OP could be working on something that is important but does not require being active on the computer, so down screen time might not mean she is being lazy, just as active screen time may not mean she is being productive.

      As for why she got the jiggler, I agree it sounds a bit suspicious, but having just heard of the existence of this device while reading this post, I am considering getting one so I do not have to re-enter my password every time my monitor falls asleep (we have really long and complicated passwords … sigh). Granted, I am exempt and it is very normal for me to have work to do that isn’t on the computer, like reading a file at my desk beside my computer, so no one would be concerned about active or inactive screen time as long as I am getting my work done.

      And no, not everyone looks for another task when there is a long break … some people instead go to my cubicle neighbor and spend over an hour chatting really loudly while I am trying to focus … another sigh).

    3. CheeryO*

      Agreed, the blatant deception is just not a good look. As a manager, I’d be a little worried about your integrity in general. If you are really a high performer, it’s much better to just go idle at times and let your work speak for itself.

      1. T*

        I agree, they shouldn’t be using a jiggler. The company’s reaction is way over the top. But the company does have standing to lose trust in the employee, since the employee was actively try to deceive them (hiding longer breaks).

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Again, though, we do not know that was OP’s intent. She might not have been concealing longer breaks but may have just preferred the screen stay active so that if her break went a little longer than usual (which is fine since she is salaried and likely exempt), she wouldn’t have to log back in.

        2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          ok, never mind, OP did say she was concerned about monitoring, but only after another colleague got blasted for having her personal gmail open so she could respond to emails about a personal/urgent matter regarding one of her kids if one popped up. So with monitoring that extreme, OP got a jiggler that went on the mouse and was not installed in the computer. Somehow that was detectable.

          So she was trying to hide it, but I honestly think with good reason. This company is clearly overzealous about the wrong things.

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I don’t know. It would never occur to me that the company was checking this, and therefore it would not be the reason why I would get one. If I were to get a mouse jiggler, it would be to keep the computer active while I am reading a case file at my desk, so that I do not have to type my password in every time I hear a ding indicating I have a new email. Our password requirements make them really long and complicated, so that can be a pain.

    4. L-squared*

      Or, as a counterpoint, if she is getting paid what her colleagues are, she shouldn’t have to take on 25% more work just because she is more efficient at it.

    5. I don't have a clever name*

      Assigning a higher workload to your efficient workers effectively penalizes efficiency. Believing that everyone has to be productive every second of every day is not a characteristic I generally associate with good managers; employees sometimes need breathing space so they can come back to other tasks more efficiently or develop new procedures to increase efficiency even more.

      Also, as a manager, I don’t have time to invent busywork for people. I have a set of tasks; I require an FTE to cover those tasks. If there’s someone in the position who covers those tasks in 35 hours a week, great! They’re doing a good job and I want them to keep doing it – unless they’re doing it in 35 hours and then pestering me to find them something to do to fill the other 5.

    6. Irish Teacher*

      I think that does depend on the job. As an example from today, I am a learning support teacher and two of my one-to-one students were absent today. Yeah, I found stuff to do for the first of those two classes (got some paperwork and stuff done), but for the second one, I went home early, as it was my last class of the day.

      And yeah, I am quite open about that. Happened to be talking to the acting deputy principal and mentioned “I’m escaping early ’cause a couple of my students are absent!” But it’s hard to know whether the OP felt she had to hide it because she is working in a role where she would normally find something else to do were she at work or because her manager is being unreasonable and would complain about her being away from her computer, even though there may be nothing else to be done.

      I think people are sort of not very inclined to give management the benefit of the doubt (and consider that she might be doing less work than she would be without the mouse jiggler) because there are hints that management is unreasonable, tracking it in the first place, especially when they are apparently happy with her performance and accusing her of wage theft when she is salaried and likely exempt (I’m not sure of the details of this because I only learnt of exempt/non-exempt from this site, but from what others have said here, it sounds like the odds are in favour of her being exempt).

      Even assuming this is interfering with her work (and honestly, I assumed that by “longer breaks,” she meant an extra 10-30 minutes once or twice a week), accusing a high performer of “wage theft” because they could do more seems…like an exaggeration and doesn’t exactly encourage me to believe management have a good reason to complain.

    1. Elle*

      Only with the required training for said bear jiggler. It’s really safer to leave the bear unjiggled than to jiggle the bear without the proper training.

    2. Llama Identity Thief*

      I don’t know, my lack of bear knowledge is preventing me from understanding the intricacies of bear jiggling safety.

  33. Wendy Darling*

    FYI if anyone else is like me and just wants to stop their screen going to sleep, but IT for some reason controls how long your screen stays awake, there’s a Microsoft Powertools feature called Awake that keeps your screen alive.

    Caveats: I have to explicitly tell my laptop to go to sleep before closing it. Also I don’t know if this reads as a mouse jiggler to overly controlling managers/IT departments. I just know it keeps my screen awake when I’m across the room doing the dishes and watching my screen to see if that code I kicked off is done yet.

  34. Tech Writer*

    One more vote for “bad company/manager; start job hunting.” Someone who values productivity over butts-in-seats, green-Teams-dots is going to appreciate you far more than this place.

    BTW, I do a lot of proofreading in my job. Years ago (okay, decades ago) I had to train myself to hold my mouse and jiggle it periodically to keep my screen from going dark. Thankfully, my boss never looks at our Teams dots unless she is about to call one of us – and that is one more reason I love my job.

    (And isn’t that the same as a mouse jiggler? I’m not using the mouse; I’m just randomly twitching it about. Where’s the line?)

    But if my boss was judging me on the color of my Teams dot rather than my work output and my value as a team member, then yeah, I’d be running for the hills.

    1. Elle*

      Also a tech writer. I’m often diagramming things on my whiteboard or otherwise not actively moving my mouse despite actually being productive. My management is the same and I’m so grateful for it. My productivity/output is WAY higher than it would be if I were worried about things like this.

    2. Sue*

      The difference is you are at your desk working on something v. hiding the fact you are taking an extra long break.

      I get that exempt employees are entitled to flex their time, in my opinion you need to be upfront about it. Done early or taking a long break NP, let colleagues know so they don’t waste time looking for you.

      1. Giant Kitty*

        “ so they don’t waste time looking for you.”

        And this is not the problem that management chewed her out over.

  35. Quickbeam*

    I’m retired but as a hobby test a wide variety of products for a Large Online Retailer. Anyway, I’ve seen many battery operated mouse jigglers that are not plugged in but work independently from your work laptop. I can’t see how those could be detected.

    The company I retired from was going down that rathole with its WFH people and hastened my exit.

    1. Fergus but Not*

      Yes I have seen battery operated mouse jigglers, I think the website is called Adam and eve

    2. Kevin Sours*

      If you can track the mouse movements it wouldn’t be hard to tell the difference between the movement patterns. I believe that’s how the “check this box if you aren’t a robot” systems actually work — it’s hard to automate checking the box in the way a human would.

  36. Baron*

    For me, two issues here.
    1. I can’t really think of any salaried job where it’s rational to expect someone to work all of the time. People need breaks, sometimes breaks that go five minutes longer than the designated break period.
    2. I can’t really think of any salaried job where “working” looks like “moving your mouse constantly”. Someone doing any kind of professional office kind of job is likely to occasionally need a moment to, you know, think about what they’re doing.

  37. KP*

    I want to know why the OP felt like she needed the jiggler to hide a longer break. I only see two possibilities:

    1) That workplace is way too invested in how salaried employees spend their time doing normal human stuff (getting coffee, going the bathroom, stretching your legs) while working.|

    2) OP’s work requires an “always available” mindset/approach during core working hours.

    And I’m not being critical of the OP. Both of those situations can suck for different reasons. As someone who got feedback as “not responsive” because I was stressed and in the bathroom with IBS issues….well. I understand that sometimes longer breaks are not only a want, but a NEED. I’m just curious why the OP felt like they needed to hide where they were.

  38. The OP*

    OP here!
    Some additional information here, after reading through AG’s response and comments:
    I did get the mouse mover originally because I knew about other monitoring methods my company does that seemed excessive and I was worried that showing as inactive might be an issue (a former supervisor got hauled in for being on “non-work” websites all day because she had left her personal Gmail open while she worked so that she could respond to an urgent personal kid/matter). I’ve found my supervisor and manager to be very reasonable but upper management, not so much.

    I never had complaints from coworkers about not being available or not being responsive on Teams- I’ve always answered messages and e-mails quickly.

    I do not work with PII, but I can generally see how security is a concern.. though I do work from home with no one but my dogs around.

    The nature of my work doesn’t require me to be present/active at all times to field inquiries or calls. More long-term projects, scheduled meetings, etc. I do sometimes think through issues or problems better when, say, doing the dishes or playing fetch with my dogs and have taken advantage of that flexibility while WFM.

    My mouse mover was an object that did not plug into my computer, not software or something that I plugged into my USB port. Word to the wise for other mouse mover folk out there that this was still detectable.

    Reading through everything has been insightful, thank you! I see both sides of this issue. I have decided that I’d prefer to work for an employer whose approach and priorities line up more closely with mine and have been applying for outside jobs.

    1. Czhorat*

      That’s a very mature approach to it, and a reasonable one.

      And yes, I’ve worked primarily from home, in an office, and hybrid. While WFH there often *is* time to shuffle a load of laundry, put the dishes away, have a quick lunch with your spouse, etc. That’s a perk of working from home.

      In my experience, if you *tell* your boss “I have to drive my kid home from school” then they’ll be fine with it 90% of the time, and it won’t put them in a mindset to check up on you; you’re earning trust by being forthcoming. If your employer is the other 10% – the one that insists you be AT YOUR DESK from 9AM until 5PM, no questions – then it is time to look elsewhere.

      Good luck finding a place with a culture that fits better.

        1. Czhorat*

          It’s easy to. Probably the same here, but my commute is a three hour round trip.

          I can work an extra two hours and STILL be an hour ahead in terms of personal time.

    2. Sedna*

      Getting dinged for having personal Gmail open? Yeah, this company is not worth your time. Find some place that will treat you like an adult.

      1. WillowSunstar*

        Most companies block gmail if they don’t want ppl using personal email accounts. That was on IT for not blocking.

    3. KN*

      Wow, that is helpful context. I could see a reasonable company being annoyed about employees using mouse-movers regardless of their productivity, but being annoyed about a supervisor-level person leaving a personal gmail account open?? Once??? I have zero sympathy for them and their priorities, and I think you’re making a great decision to leave.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        There are reasons for companies to be annoyed. But once they mention “wage theft” that goes out the window. Especially since corporations seem to think that wage theft is everything but failing to pay employees what they are owed.

    4. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yeah, this all sounds not great. Like Alison, I get why the company wouldn’t like mouse movers and would have some questions about why people were using them. Though it seems like they’re not asking any questions at all (let alone the right questions), since they seem to be assuming that these are only used for nefarious purposes, rather than to not get dinged by doing work that doesn’t register in their tracking.

      I’d be super annoyed, too and also wouldn’t be nearly as inclined to go above any beyond for the company if that’s how they choose to operate. It sounds like this is not the only issue you’re dealing with, just the one that pushed you over the line to start job searching.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, this workplace definitely sounds like somewhere where I would a) work to rule, no more, and b) be looking to leave in a hurry. Having your personal gmail open while waiting on an urgent personal issue is not a violation of workplace norms or needs. These guys are jerks.

    5. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Ok, while I would think it was not a good idea to deliberately do this to conceal inactivity, under the circumstances, I think you were reasonable to do it considering how unreasonable your company is. Also, I assume you are exempt and do not get paid overtime. It certainly sounds that way based on how you describe your work. So it cannot be wage/time theft because just as they are not required to pay you overtime if you work over 40 hours a week, you are not required to work a full 40 hours a week to be entitled to your full salary. Let them know when you are leaving that since they considered this wage theft, then they were treating your position as non-exempt and needed to be paying overtime, so the IRS might find that interesting if they pull this BS on the wrong employee (this would be for your exit interview).

  39. JSPA*

    “I keep the computer set to sleep quickly, for power saving. But when the computer sleeps, it can interrupt certain of our legacy programs, or take me out of my thought process, when I’m working with my brain, rather than my fingers. So I also use a mouse jiggler for days when I expect to do more thinking than typing, or if my digestion is acting up, and I expect I may have to make a quick run to the bathroom. I have never asked for a medical accommodation for my digestive issues, because they don’t affect my productivity and output in any way, even though they do occasionally take me away from the computer with minimal time to reset the computer’s sleep setting. If you need me to look into a diagnosis to excuse the use of a mouse jiggler for unexpected bathroom breaks, I can do so; or we can agree that I’m a high performer, a dedicated worker and an adult human being, who should be trusted to handle my own digestion and my own workflow.”

  40. PsychNurse*

    My former workplace blocked certain “time wasting” websites, such as Facebook and Instagram. (Maybe this is common practice, I don’t know.) I am not much of a social media user, so I didn’t exactly *care*, except that it made me feel like a child using the school’s Chromebook. Look, if I want to waste company time, there’s a big internet out there, not to mention chatting with coworkers, staring out the window, counting sheep, whatever. It felt like they were trying to play whack-a-mole with distracted employees in a way that was never going to be successful.

    1. Avery*

      And as any child can tell you, those website blockers don’t work as intended anyway. They’ll block things you actually need for what you’re supposed to be doing, and they’ll ignore not just other websites in the same general category but easy workarounds to access the very material they tried to block in the first place. And that just means kids are spending more time looking into workarounds than they would need if they just had the space to goof off a little in the first place…
      …yeah, flashbacks to my schooling in the early 2000s, what can I say?

    2. sam_i_am*

      I would hate working somewhere that had website restrictions. It would feel like my employer didn’t trust me, and it would make me trust them less.

    3. Khatul Madame*

      Security is a bigger concern than wasting time and blocking is fairly common in some industries. This goes for Gmail, too, or any site where you can upload files.

      1. PsychNurse*

        That makes sense but I can definitely say gmail was allowed. In the case of our office, it was a management concern, not a security concern.

      1. Me ... Just Me*

        I’ve never worked at a place that didn’t have website blockers on their office computers, honestly. My current workplace certainly does.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Whereas I’ve never worked in such a place, and wouldn’t want to.

          Now, I am not a person who logs on to FaceBook or other “social” sites on my work computer, because a) they have nothing to do with my work, b) are a time suck, and c) could expose my private life to my workplace. That’s what I have a personal computer for, TBH.

          But blocking sites, often based on some religious org’s block lists, always struck me as saying “We know best, we don’t trust you, so we will treat you like a naughty child and lock all your toys in a cabinet so you do your homework.”

        2. Kevin Sours*

          I’m certainly not going to complain about the inherent injustice of it — though I ran into a company using Discord as it’s primary technical support set up. Just noting that it’s probably not particularly effective.

  41. M. Sunshine*

    I don’t think this is deception.
    This all started with the company monitoring mouse activity. It’s super stressful to be monitored all day.

    One of the biggest upsides of WFH is a bit more flexibility in how you plan your work and take breaks. They’re taking that away from you.

    Plus, it’s important to take care of your mental health. If you feel that you’re feeling best and doing your best work by occasionally taking longer breaks, you should not have the stress of an acitivity monitor on you mind while you’re out for a walk or whatever.

    It’s messed-up, belittling and demoralising.

    1. NeedRain47*

      That second point. I work in a cubicle farm. I cannot read, think creatively, plan complex multipart tasks, or do pretty much anything that’s not easy and boring, while sitting in a cubicle farm. I get two days a week to work at home and if someone thinks mouse movement is more important than overall productivity, I’m not gonna work there anymore.

    1. Danish*

      i hope their hourly rate is low, since I imagine it takes them several trips and lots of man, er, mouse power, but I’d hire them!

  42. Fergus but Not*

    I am a software engineer and I was asked one time why I wasn’t typing? Also asked why you didn’t have my camera on in a meeting, who really cares, and why should they

  43. Sangamo Girl*

    THIS. Thank you.

    When I work remotely, the system not only locks my screen, but will close my connection after a few more minutes. It is so annoying to be on a long call, have my connection closed, and then have to find something relevant to the call.

    Not all working is pounding away on a keyboard and there are plenty of legit reasons to ensure that your computer stays awake.

  44. L-squared*

    I gotta say, I’m kind of surprised at the amount of people backing the managers here.

    Yes, a few IT people brought up some valid security issues, though those don’t seem to really be at play. So while there may be occasional situations where this behavior makes sense, overall, IMO, it is just management overreach.

    However the fact taht a lot of people, many of whom are presumably on the clock as they read and respond, are acting like OP is being dishonest because they aren’t doing “work” for the entire shift seems a bit hypocritical to me. The comments here usually lean much more pro worker, but appaerntly this is the one where the pro management people come out of the woodwork

    1. Danish*

      I think some of it may be like… I’m not Catholic (or religious at all) so “guilt” isn’t the word I mean, but eh…

      For example in my heart and soul and brain I want every feasible job to move to a 4-day work week, and not that 4×10 nonsense, just what if you only had to work 32 hours a week to be full time. Work life balance!

      But I will still have this like, internal moment of…but, well, if I can get a full week’s worth of work done in four days instead of five is that not just admitting that I can and could always have been doing more work? Should I/America Fall Behind By Working Less if the rest of the world continues 40-hour weeks? Should–

      Alternately, lot of people get deeply uncomfortable at idea of breaking a rule – any rule – and it takes a lot of self training to go “but does that rule actually matter?”

      So I can see some people who are otherwise very pro-worker getting their brain caught on “but… but deliberately not working…when giving appearance to work… bad? but just not doing any tasks when you could theoretically do more… bad?”

      1. Just a different redhead*

        If you find a company that does that, let me know… My thought process goes that if we’ve had all these productivity increases all this time, and what with all the technology that we have enabling us to get so much more done in such a shorter time, shouldn’t there be… Some kind of…. End? Cap? Limit? Do we really need to seek the edge point of burnout and try to live just before it instead of being like oh hey isn’t this great, I can do all what I used to and more, and still live more life outside work too?

        I know it’s not necessarily the case and there are things where it hasn’t become that way, but. Eh maybe I’m just burnt out.

    2. ButtonUp*

      I’m having the opposite surprise. I usually find commenters here to be a bit more rules-focused/black-and-white than me, so I thought most people would be against the mouse jiggler.
      I don’t think ethics come into play with productivity or focus in the workplace, but there’s something so deliberately dishonest to go out of your way to purchase a special device to give the impression you’re more active at your computer than you really are. I think if I did that and got caught, I would feel embarrassed and ashamed. Not because of the supposed “time theft”, but because of the dishonesty.

  45. from the govt, here to help*

    it’s ridiculous for a company to distrust it’s employees so much to use a technology of that sort, and it shows a real lack of quality management that they dont measure productivity/performance and instead rely on spying. that being said – your use of a tool to circumvent security shows a lack of integrity, and would absolutely be grounds for termination in my organization.

  46. alienor*

    Neither would I. It’s meaningless anyway because I have colleagues who will still message me back when they’re in a meeting or on PTO or inactive (and I’ll do the same). Plus most people don’t change their status when they log off for the day, so I’ll see their status is green at midnight their time, but I won’t expect them to answer.

  47. raaaleigh*

    I use one! sometimes I’m “available” on Teams from my phone, but I’m not physically at my desk… I don’t want someone who might actually need something from me to think I’ve just disappeared when I’m downstairs making lunch and doing laundry for 20 minutes!

    1. Michelle Smith*

      It’s just unreasonable to me that you can’t disappear for 20 minutes without someone think you’ve ridden away into the sunset. In an office, it is not unusual for it to take 20 minutes to go to the bathroom, then swing by the breakroom to pick up some coffee. Or stop by someone’s desk to brainstorm about a problem. Or any number of other things. This expectation that people working from home need to be chained to their desk for 8 hours or more a day is so infantilizing.

  48. Lily Potter*

    I haven’t ever resorted to using a mouse mover but I AM cognizant of the color of my Teams bubble.
    At both this job and the one I had previously, my boss didn’t give a rats patootey about whether I showed as green, yellow, or red – but you can bet that my co-workers watched it.

    At both places, if you were yellow more often than green, people would talk. Old job was WFO, new job is WFH – but in both cases it’s been a PR thing with co-workers, not my boss.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      As inaccurate as that bubble is, that’s hilarious, sad, and terrifying.

      At the same time, I’ve been green on a virtual machine, yellow on my notebook, yellow on another computer, red on one phone, and green on the other phone–all the same account.

      Thankfully, I’ve trained my peers to ignore it and reach out to me anyway.

    2. RhondaDawnAnonAnon*

      Oh lord. People make all sorts of bizarre assumptions about the green/yellow/red colors of Microsoft-anything.

      I have a former co-worker rage quit her job last year. One of the things that set her off was that she assumed our boss (who was temporary WFH at the time) was “gaslighting” her because he wouldn’t answer her messages when his Microsoft Teams bubble was green. It was 2AM his time and he wasn’t even awake!

  49. ds*

    One of my managers apparently spends their day watching our Teams availability icons and scouring it for anyone who turns yellow or doesn’t go green at exactly their log in time. Whereas turning on a computer and logging in was once part of the process done AT start time, we now have to ultimately do it before login time or have her breathing down our throat about not being green fast enough. If she were in charge of how IT functioned for the company, I imagine she’d be in the “tracks how often you mouse and type” kind of realm.
    My other two managers, for contrast, only care that I’m available when someone needs me and turn in my work on time and accurately. They care not for the little green/yellow/red dot on Teams.
    Oddly the project lead in the same group as the dot-watching-manager is a horror of a micromanager and wants to dictate what tasks we do in what order (which ends up leaving off very important tasks entirely b/c she doesn’t understand them). But all the other project leads I interact with are of the ilk of do your job and move on.
    Anyway, my point here, is that even in a company that doesn’t track your mouse movements, some managers are watching their employees activity dots anyway. I think those people are either coming from the wrong idea that an employee at home will be slacking or came from something like a call center where all management tactics stink (call has to last only X period and you must sell Y amount or be written up~~). A manager with trust in who they hired will let it be and if your icon went yellow? You were probably, oh, I dunno, doing work at your desk that doesn’t involve the mouse or keyboard.

  50. Anon for this*

    Just suck it up & take it off & keep your record clean as you search for your new job. Problem solved.

  51. Michelle Smith*

    Using a mouse jiggler is wrong, IMO. If the computer goes to sleep because you’re done with what you need to do for now and you’re taking a break, that should be fine. The fact that you felt you needed to use one is a huge red flag to me about the company.

    I do not always work 8 hours a day. Some days I get about 2 hours of work done. Some days I work 10 or more. It can vary a lot depending on how many projects I have, deadlines, and whether I’m waiting on responses from others in order to move forward. As a salaried person, my boss gives exactly zero thought to how I manage my time if I am meeting deadlines and producing quality work. If it means (like it has recently with COVID fatigue) that I work 2 hours in the morning, take an hour break for lunch, work 2-3 more hours, take a nap, and pick work back up in the evening if needed, that’s fine. Go find an employer that doesn’t make you feel like you need to show as active on Slack or Teams for them to trust that you’re an adult that can manage their time. And never use a mouse jiggler again.

    1. Mid*

      Due to settings I’m not allowed to change, my computer locks after 10 minutes of inactivity. However, listening to something work-related, reviewing long documents, and even being in a virtual meeting often don’t count as “activity” to my computer, and it will surprise lock on me. I’m tempted to get a jiggler so it stops timing out on me all the time. It’s not like I’m not doing my job, it’s just that my job doesn’t need me to use my mouse the entire time, even when I am actively working.

  52. lizabeth*

    Oh, heck no!!! If my work tracked my mouse moving they’d be disappointed because my “personal” computer I use for work is offline for a reason (old software and old OS) and I have a laptop for emails. Plus it’s not their hardware so mouse tracking software would be a hard NOT. BTW you can set your computer to not go to sleep.

    1. slashgirl*

      “BTW you can set your computer to not go to sleep.”

      Sure, if it’s YOUR personal computer. If it’s a work computer, you often can’t change it because IT has set up those guidelines and they block access to that functionality.

  53. Just Another Tired US Fed*

    Using a mouse jiggler is not time theft!!!. My organization has not been able to have the IT infrastructure and support to keep up with increased demands since Covid and much more remote work. the system is set to time out so quickly, and constant relogging in, when you may or may not get in without tech support, was such a pain. So I got a jiggler, which has reduced my stress and increased my productivity. No software download or activation is required, which I would not have been able to do anyway. It’s just anther peripheral device.

    OP, that was shitty of your employer to discipline you for this, especially if there is no policy prohibiting the use of jigglers. Push back to get that note out of your file.

    1. Despachito*

      “Using a mouse jiggler is not time theft!!!”

      Of course it isn’t – at the very best, a mouse jiggler coul d be used to camouflage time theft, but what exactly is time theft? If my butt is duly in the seat for the required amount of hours, but some of that time I am not productive and my mind just goes blank, would that be theft of time (because I am not working during the time the company is paying me)? Everyone has productive and less productive moments and it is normal – if I am complying with all my duties (as OP is), why should it matter if I relax? I have already proven that I can manage my time and deliver what needs to be delivered – is it really necessary to pester me beyond and above that?

  54. Jedi Mike*

    Seeing so many comments about Teams. It definitely does go yellow after 5 minutes and I try to keep it green but it doesn’t seem people are as neurotic about that stuff in my new office job(yay). It’s just annoying when I realize I’ve been trying to read something

  55. KatEnigma*

    Here is where I stand on this issue. Had LW simply refused to play the games with her mouse at all, and had left her computer go to sleep as needed, and pushed back if her manager came to her about productivity, then LW would have a stronger position to be in.

    But essentially “you made me do this deceitful thing” is not a good look. Embezzlers usually have a reason why they “had” to embezzle, too. It’s not only LW’s lack of honesty but it’s not taking responsibility for her bad choice that would lead me to fire her, personally. Not that I’d be looking for mouse jigglers to begin with- I’d be talking about productivity and if I didn’t notice a drop, then there wouldn’t be a talk.

    But I also wonder if LW and all those people who claim no lack in productivity are a good judge of their own productivity…

    1. Czhorat*

      It’s a bit like being pulled over for driving 5MPH over the speed limit and having a radar detector visible in your car; you didn’t do anything egregious and can make a strong argument that driving with traffic safer than keeping to the limit and having people race to pass you. The countermeasure takes away some benefit of the doubt and makes the highway patrol officer more inclined to think that you intend to speed, and that you routinely do worse.

      Don’t get me wrong – the LW’s employer was crazy (disciplining someone for checking their private gmail account is very poor management). The LW didn’t do themself any favors by appearing to be hiding something .

    2. Sunshine*

      I mean, LW’s manager is the judge of her productivity and there’s been no problem with it. The problem was the mouse jiggler itself, not any dip in LW’s output.

      Mouse jigglers definitely don’t rise to the level of embezzlement, and if the company was normal and not monitoring every little thing the employees are doing, there would be no issue with using one. On the other hand, constantly being “away” WOULD look bad right off the bat. LW took a risk on which would be worse and unfortunately lost.

      I think the company has every right to say “hey, don’t use this,” but mouse jigglers became so widespread during the pandemic that I would not think it was an egregious error in judgment for someone to use one.

      1. KatEnigma*

        Meh. Someone who will lie about small things and then justify their lie will lie about bigger things and justify that. If I can’t trust an employee, that employee can’t work for me anymore. And Alison normally advocates not continuing to employ people who have SHOWN they can’t be trusted, rather than bend over trying to check them all the time.

        And LW claims there’s been no dip. Did her manager actually say that? LW just said no one has ever complained about it. BIG difference.

    3. Former Retail Manager*

      1,000% agree with your last comment about productivity. Since the pandemic we have had loud and repeated cries of “Look my productivity is GREAT! And we should all keep working from home!” Except it’s not. Work has been transferred to me from multiple other employees, and by and large, there is a clear pattern that shows who was and was not working anywhere close to an 8 hour day. But all of these people genuinely believe that they were working hard. Management dealing with that is a whole other conversation, but the individuals themselves will all tell you that they were working super hard and they are not the problem.

      1. Me ... Just Me*

        Yes!! This. For those of us in an office, waiting on the output from others’ working at home while they decry how they’re working sooo hard (getting up at 5 a.m! working on Saturday!) and yet, aren’t reachable or responsive during business hours and don’t actually have anything that they could legitimately be doing at either 5 a.m. or on Saturday (because ALL of their work output requires someone else to be in an office somewhere) … I just can’t deal with their complete naivete on how they’re perceived. We know that your not working, Jackie!

      2. Parakeet*

        There’s an implication here that on-site workers are all working all day and not having any productivity problems. And yet the pre-pandemic archives of this site, and some of the more recent ones, are full of letters about unproductive on-site workers. It’s not like it’s especially difficult to spend most of the day at your in-office computer procrastinating while pretending to be working (and I guarantee you that plenty of those people would have also claimed that they were working hard; how many people are going to claim that they’re not working hard?).

  56. Callie*

    Listen, is using Teams status, etc. as a way of measuring productivity for WFH employees ridiculous? Absolutely. 100% a reason to job hunt or to use whatever capital you’ve accumulated at your job to object.

    But you have to know that if you instead choose to install a mouse jiggle to circumvent if, you’re going to look bad if you get caught. If your manager comes to you and says “why is your teams status inactive so much?” and you say “because it logs itself out when I read long documents” then you’re probably fine if your manager likes you and your work is good. If your manager comes to you and says “IT says you’re using technology to circumvent the normal procedures we use,” you are going to look shady. And then have to hope your manager really likes you and wants to use THEIR capital to justify not coming down hard on the employee who was caught out.

    Don’t put yourself in that position! And if you do and get caught, well, that’s the game you were playing when you installed the thing. You did the risk and reward calculus at the time.

  57. Faith the Twilight Slayer*

    What in the ever-loving cheap ass rolls duck club is going on at management meetings there? “ my employees are moving their mouses at 98% efficiency, why aren’t we making more money?”

    Management is not for everyone.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*


      IMO, monitoring mouse movement and Teams status is not a substitute for actually, you know, managing for results. If they feel that mouse movement and Teams being “green” means that you are “productive” then management has already headed down the failure hole, and your company is a drain-circler.

  58. Long Time Fed*

    I didn’t read everything because the “how dare your job track you?” bandwagon is loud. Your job can do that and if everyone whose job was monitoring them in some way quit, we’d have 80% unemployment. Just because you don’t know doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

    That said – the better solution would be to not deceive your company by using a mouse jiggler and when confronted about inactivity make your case for what you were doing and why. I work my hours but I’m not always on my computer. If someone asked why I was inactive I’d tell them that I was reading, reviewing, networking, etc. It’s better than being deceitful.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      Fellow fed….agreed. I LOVE paper and will often print out documents to read or review them (a big part of my job) because it’s easier for me so I may be inactive throughout the day. Not unusual at all. Better to keep it honest when they ask than try to circumvent it to begin with.

  59. Crazy Dog Lady*

    There are mechanical mouse jigglers and software driven mouse jigglers. I’m retired from the IT industry and any company that I have worked for that suppled a work computer, you were not allowed to install software without authorization or plug anything into the USB. Work furnished computers were regularly scanned for unauthorized software and/or USB devices. So if this was a work furnished computer, I would think they would be checking for any unauthorized software/hardware, not mouse jigglers specifically.

  60. Computer-Man*

    From a cyber security perspective:
    – if it’s a software jiggler (ie not a mechanical device), that’s unauthorised software that may lead to vulnerabilities in the future.
    – in either case, if you have screen timeouts for security reasons, they’re good reasons. Even if you’re at home, if you let someone in (or if someone breaks in while you’re on the toilet) that’s potentially sensitive data getting out, or a potentially dangerous actor getting IN to the system

    And in the vein of my first note, please update all your software (Windows, Adobe, Chrome, etc.) regularly when it asks, especially on work computers. If you saw the amount of vulnerabilities that come up regularly, you’d probably become the cyber equivalent of a germophobe.

  61. Former Retail Manager*

    Haven’t been able to read all the comments, so someone else may have already asked, but if your performance is good, has always been good, why did OP use the mouse jiggler to begin with? I feel like there may be more context that is missing here. If I knew my performance was not in question and had good relationships with management and team, and there was not a pressing need to appear as though I’m available at all times, I don’t see the need for the mouse jiggler. What am I missing here?

    Even if you needed to appear as “available” all the time because someone might reach out to you, what good does the mouse jiggler do? If they reach out and you don’t respond for 30 mins, all while appearing available, you just look like you were ignoring them, which does more damage IMO than actually being “away.”

    1. Sunshine*

      Because when you’re in the office, managers don’t rely on your Teams status or whatever to judge your performance – they can see you and assume you’re working. When everything went remote, lots of managers suddenly forgot how to judge an employee by the work they produce and started micromanaging things like away statuses. But as many people have said, you can be working without moving your mouse, and yet your status will default to away – making it look to your manager like you’re slacking off. OP does mention taking longer breaks, but you can normally do that in the office without being judged.

    2. Llama Identity Thief*

      “I did get the mouse mover originally because I knew about other monitoring methods my company does that seemed excessive and I was worried that showing as inactive might be an issue (a former supervisor got hauled in for being on “non-work” websites all day because she had left her personal Gmail open while she worked so that she could respond to an urgent personal kid/matter). I’ve found my supervisor and manager to be very reasonable but upper management, not so much.”

      From The OP, in a comment above.

  62. ecnaseener*

    Ugh, this type of story makes me nervous! I don’t use a mouse jiggler but I do use a browser extension to auto-refresh a page (my inbox in a web-based system we use) every few minutes. It genuinely is useful so I don’t forget to refresh it for hours on end and miss things, but yeah, a side benefit is that when I take a break, my computer won’t register as completely idle if IT decides to monitor for that. And yeah, I enabled a setting to use random variation for the time between refreshes instead of every X minutes on the dot so it’s not obvious. I would hate for that to be taken as evidence of dishonesty, despite getting my work done quickly and well.

    1. Llama Identity Thief*

      He mentioned that he did use an analogue, and got caught due to the nature of the mouse movements themselves, in a comment above under “The OP.”

  63. Danielle*

    I’m a full-time, salaried remote employee, and I have a mouse-mover device. Like the OP, I am a top performer on my team, and am regularly recognized for meeting targets and being proactive.

    But my computer settings log me out after 2 minutes of inactivity, and the network is shut down and secure enough that I can’t change that time block. I’d like to be able to go to the bathroom without having to log back into my computer.

    Plus – a decent part of my job is managing video files – downloading them from servers and uploading them to YouTube or Vimeo. And making batch edits on pictures. There’s nothing more annoying than having to restart a 45 minute video download/upload because the computer timed out.

    I’m kind of treating the thing as a “don’t ask, don’t tell” type of deal. But did choose to get an actual physical mouse mover device instead of something that I needed to download on the computer. And I also have actual work-related reasons/justifications to support having and using one should the issue ever arise.

  64. Llama Identity Thief*

    I know I’m part of the problem, but the fact that this has more comments than bear safety has me disheartened.

  65. Matthew M*

    As a security pro, I’d absolutely back written discipline for this. At most medium to large companies, laptop drives are encrypted, and the machine is set to lock the screen and require a password after some period of inactivity. This protects the data on the machine if the machine is stolen, or walked up to, while the employee is away from it.

    Now imagine you use a “jiggler”, take a long (away from home) lunch and your laptop is stolen in a break-in. Instead of stealing/accessing a locked, encrypted laptop, the intruder now has access to all of the data you do — substantially increasing the company’s legal liability and reputation damage.

    Whether or not you’re stealing time, you’re circumventing valuable security measures to create a false appearance of productivity. Stop doing that, be honest about your breaks, and consider yourself lucky you got a write-up for getting caught in a spot check. If your policy breach had been exploited in a burglary, you’d have certainly been fired.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      I would not want to work with you. You envision highly unlikely scenarios to justify intrusive monitoring.

      If my home got broken into while I was there I would have more urgent things to worry about. I lock my computer if I’m leaving the house – most people do. Also, they never indicated that they took a “long lunch away from home”.

      1. Yrue*

        I completely agree with you CIC. I lock my computer when I’m away from home.

        The odds that someone breaks into my home and steals my work laptop are so small that the suggestion is ridiculous. If someone did break into my home, company property is also the least of my worries.

    2. Me ... Just Me*

      I can’t help but wonder how slow of a typist must one be to have entering a password be a significant deterrent and the primary reason one is intentionally circumventing security measures? Which leads me to believe that all these “I hate entering my password” folks are not being entirely honest with us (and certainly aren’t being honest with their employers) regarding why they have a mouse jiggler. Hmm. I get it. I really do. But let’s be serious here (on an anonymous forum) that the reason folks are using these devices is so they appear busy working when, they are not, in fact, working. If I were working from home, I’d be tempted to do something like this, myself. I probably wouldn’t use one, just because I’m too honest and would readily answer any questions posed to me about my availability/productivity; but I do see the temptation. But if I were using one and got caught, I would take the write-up, knowing that I got caught doing something that I knew I shouldn’t be doing. I wouldn’t be rage quitting or anything like that. I got caught doing something that I knew wasn’t a-ok. It happens.

    3. Jackalope*

      Over and over on this thread people have talked about reasons to use this technology that aren’t opening up their computer for a security breach. Trying to keep your computer from falling asleep while you’re using it (probably at your desk) is a legit need that many people have gone over and over again, for example.

  66. Br16*

    I’m sorry OP but you were absolutely in the wrong here and are fortunate to get off as lightly as you did. This is unauthorized software to make the company think you are at your computer when you are not. It’s deceitful and a violation of the rules. Abuse of WFH privileges like this is why managers are calling their employees back to the office.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      Managers are calling their employees to the office because they foolishly assume that someone looking like they’re working means they’re actually working. It’s their own fault for concentrating on the appearance of productivity (mouse moving/typing) rather than monitoring actual productivity (is the work getting done?).

      Also LW has said in a comment that they did not use software, they used a physical accessory.

      1. Br16*

        It’s still dishonest. It’s giving the impression that you are at your computer when you are not. When people do things like this they give people who don’t abuse WFH privileges a bad name and cast suspicion on everyone. The OP was unequivocally in the wrong here.

        1. Sarah*

          Employees are not in the wrong for trying to circumnavigate disrespectful rules. Seriously, a mouse movement tracker? These are paid professionals.

        2. Parakeet*

          There’s no “abuse” (a term that used to mean something) going on here, and WFH is a normal way to work in a lot of jobs, not some kind of special status. If people think a petty lie (and it’s very strange to me how many people in these comments think that someone who will tell a petty fib will lie about major things with actual moral implications – that really doesn’t reflect my experience with humans!) gives WFH a “bad name,” that reflects badly on those people who have such a hostile suspicious attitude toward remote workers.

    2. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      How many names is this person posting the same comment under?

  67. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    I use a little app mouse jiggler and have done for years. It’s not for any nefarious reason! Our computers auto-sleep in like 3 minutes and mine won’t wake up unless I completely restart it, which may take up to 10 minutes.

    I also use to keep the computer from sleeping on calls where you’re taking notes, or when I’m proofreading something offline (yes I still print out to proofread sometimes). If I do step away, I set Teams to Away but keep the Jiggler on.

    There is a lot of panic lately because companies think people have 2 or 3 jobs. Especially in Tech.

  68. nnn*

    Random idea for people whose bosses are monitoring how often their Teams dots go yellow: use the Appear Away setting to make your dot go yellow in the middle of chat conversations with your manager. Not all the time, but frequently enough that it’s yellow when your manager knows firsthand that you’re doing something on the computer.

    Bonus points if everyone does this, especially if combined with occasional mentions of how Teams dots are unreliable. (e.g. “Hi everyone, I am in fact back from my vacation, I don’t know why Teams is still showing me as offline”)

    1. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      Had a whole back and forth with another department on a project when I got the message, “By the way, you’re showing offline, and have been all week.” Everyone knows I’m there, and working, because if you’re in the office when I am, there I am. And if not, you’re getting replies to your emails and messages and the work you expect from me is arriving. Despite being randomly “offline” for a week.

  69. Another Academic Librarian too*

    And when I complained to IT about my computer shutting itself off when I am thinking and having to input the whole damn billion character password plus the duo security they installed the mouse jiggler. I had never heard of it.

  70. CashAsh*

    OP knew they were interested in her wfh movements or she wouldn’t have gotten a mouse jiggler. My tip, get a physical mouse jiggler that plugs into an outlet and not into your computer at all. you set your mouse on it and let it do it’s thing.

    1. Peanutty*

      The part where she says taking extended breaks leads me to think she at least partially was trying to game the system. WFH is a privilege and things like this can affect others.

      1. Fishsticks*

        I think probably she’s a high performer who was making all her deadlines and doing exactly what she was being paid to do, but didn’t want to be ragged on for stepping away from her computer.

  71. Sassypants*

    I think companies that focus on how much an employee is at the computer as opposed to the quality/quantity of work being produced are kind of scummy. Salaried professionals are often exempt because their jobs are intellectual in character and require judgement and discretion. Thinking about the job is still work and doesn’t require one to be at the computer. But it’s completely in their right to track time at computer and the OP is 100% at fault.

    Screen time out times are often set by the company for security reasons. In some instance, there are laws that require the screen to time out after a specific period of time (such as HIPAA laws). You don’t get a pass because you’re remote; an unsecured computer in a personal home is still a potential security risk.

    On top of that, company is concerned about time theft and OP confesses that sometimes they use it to take a longer break. As a salaried employee, I too step out in the middle of my day often for a break. That’s okay, my company is aware of it and has permitted me to do so as long as I make up the hours somewhere. But I’m still required to record my hours on a timesheet because that’s how my work is billed to the client. If I don’t make up the hours, that’s absolutely time theft.

  72. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

    For some reason I can’t reply in thread to @Properlike for this: “Probably gunning for a management position. If you haven’t watched ANDOR yet, they have a character who embodies this mentality and do an excellent job skewering him. Failing upward is a thing even a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away!”

    That character has been renamed in my home with the name of a certain coworker and I struggle to remember the character’s name! It makes it much more entertaining to work with Certain Coworker. But I have to restrain myself from asking, “Did you get that tailored?”

  73. Nina Bee*

    Wonder if these companies have the same ‘wage theft’ energy for unpaid overtime their employees put in?

    Also there’s an app called Caffeine which toggles on/off and keeps your machine from going to sleep. There’s probably more out there. Not sure if it would also be considered a mouse jiggler type of software or be trackable though.

    1. Latte*

      Wonder if these companies have the same ‘wage theft’ energy for unpaid overtime their employees put in?

      As an employment lawyer, I can tell you definitively that these type of companies are most frequently notorious wage thieves in the true sense of the term: they steal the wages of their workers.

  74. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    1) Your company sucks.
    2) “I am, however, a salaried employee” doesn’t make you look too good, either. It’s not very nice to imply that salaried employees are OF COURSE more ethical than hourly workers. Ugh. Really?

    1. nnn*

      I read the statement about being a salaried employee as being intended to argue that it isn’t time theft because OP isn’t paid by the hour.

      1. Peanutty*

        I agree. However OP still is required to put in the hours agreed to. Using a covert mouse jiggler looks bad. Admitting to using it to extend her breaks looks bad. Her company no longer trusts her. Had she asked in advance if she could install a mouse jiggler to prevent her computer from falling asleep, she would not be in this position. She’s outraged she got caught.

        1. Jackalope*

          Actually, if she’s exempt she is not in fact required to put in a certain number of hours per week. That’s part of the point.

  75. the Viking Diva*

    Whew, what a day! However this comes out for the OP, it’s clear that Mouse Jiggling and Bear Spraying must go into the AAM pantheon alongside Llama Grooming and Chocolate Teapot Designing.

  76. staceyizme*

    I agree that someone who is used to self-managing and who has a good record in terms of performance shouldn’t be subjected to “aha!”, “you used a ‘mouse jiggler’, you bad, bad person, you!’. I mean, it’s like so many things in that whether it’s an issue or not “depends”. In your case, you’re doing your work, have always done your work and have a good reputation overall. They’re way, WAY off base in their perspective. It can’t hurt to start looking. When they ask “why?”, which they will after you find a better fit and give notice, maybe tell them that you’d always been under the impression that doing your work and doing it well was what mattered. But- apparently, using a “mouse jiggler’ trumps all other benchmarks in their books. Understandably, this has given you some useful information with which to evaluate how they approach employee retention and management…

  77. UKgreen*

    I have two computers – essentially my old work laptop didn’t have enough power to run the e-learning design packages I need to use so they lent me another one. So I have the weird situation of having Teams on my old, slow laptop but I’m predominantly working on the other one, so people thought they couldn’t get hold of me as I was always on yellow.

    The hack here is to start a Teams ‘meet now’ then set your status (to green or red or whatever). It’ll stick until you close the meeting down.

  78. Sneekee*

    What is “use the mobile version and set a recurring alarm so you end up tapping the screen every 10 minutes” for 500, Alex? (or whoever)

  79. Matt*

    OMFG. I didn’t even know that such a thing as a “mouse mover” existed up until now.

    If companies really do absurd things like monitoring mouse movements, they deserve no more than creative workarounds.

  80. Shiba Dad*

    I had never heard of mouse jigglers before today, so that’s something.

    I have heard that you can remain “Available” on Teams by placing an object on the space bar to keep it pressed down. Anyone know anything about this?

  81. ijustworkhere*

    It appears that some managers will find a way to micromanage no matter what. I didn’t even know that tracking mouse movement was a thing until I read this letter. Thank god I don’t work for an entity like that. I spend half my day walking around with a headset talking to people because that’s a core function of my role… and my computer might sit idle for hours. I’d be fired in a New York minute at the LW’s company.

  82. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

    When I am remote, I use a mouse jiggler so I can focus on working and not having to manually move my cursor to show my status as active. With my specific jiggler plugged in, it comes up as a mouse in the windows device manager. They also make moving plates if you can’t plug stuff into the PC and it vibrates and shakes a regular mouse. I am grateful my company is not micromanaging and hellbent as OP’s company is. Honestly, in that situation,I would just do what is required in my job title and nothing beyond that. Then I would use Allison’s job tips to research, interview and possibly move into to another company. :)

  83. NaoNao*

    I think people are over-focused on the exact wording of wage theft, and I get why. It’s scary, upsetting and has legal implications. But I think the company was struggling to articulate why they felt discomfort with the use of the tool and the issue is subtle and doesn’t really have a name, it’s the “microaggressions” of slacking so to speak. Is it full blown wage theft like clocking a friend out hours past their leaving? No. Is it…entirely honest? No.

    The OP is creating a false impression of activity on the computer when none is happening by her hand. While people are pointing out that they complete many tasks and have breakthrough moments and solve issues off-computer, the company can’t measure that.

    So they’re pulling up a metric they can measure, somewhat fairly, and saying that the employee is circumventing it.

    Now is that…a good way to manage? Hell no. Deliverables and output is measurable and “time on computer moving mouse” as we see from comments, means zip!

    1. Fishsticks*

      Right, but the metric they’re measuring is genuinely the least useful thing they could choose? So it still seems really quite a pointless fight to pick with a high performer.

  84. Avid Knitter*

    I have to click on teams at least once every twenty minutes. It doesn’t always notify me that I have a message if I have clicked on it recently. Super annoying. But since I have another thing I need to check every 15-20 mins, I click on teams after checking on that.

  85. Somehow_I_Manage*

    If the OP is a salaried professional or consultant that tracks and bills their time to clients, there is potentially a real issue of here. For example, if on Monday, he billed 8 hours to his client, but my data says they were only active for 4 hours on Monday, that is fraudulent.

    I think that it’s safe to assume that OP would have mentioned it if this were the case…but it’s relevant to so many people, it’s worth commenting.

  86. WheresMyPen*

    I often have to use programs to build things in the background which take over an hour and if my computer goes to sleep it stops and I have to start the whole thing again, so I leave a YouTube video playing while I make a cup of tea or chat to family because it’s not worth the risk of losing my work. I also have to re log into my VPN every time my Mac goes to sleep which is a pain, so I can understand why someone would use a mouse shaker and would hate the idea of being judged on my productivity just for that. If the work is getting done to a good standard and the staff member is using their initiative to do more work then they shouldn’t be looking into it at all.

  87. Cinderblock*

    I use a mouse jiggler when I work from home so I don’t get logged off when I use the bathroom. Logging back in to our WFH is a pain in the ass.

    That said, there are mouse movers that don’t plug into your computer and can’t be monitored. There are loads of cheap ones available online.

  88. Krista*

    I think what a lot of people tend to forget about are the IT security measures your company may have in place. There are valid reasons why you have to re-log in after a period of inactivity, one being that when you are away from your work-station you could be leaving confidential company documents exposed for others to view…if you aren’t logged off.
    Now post-pandemic (or whatever stage we are in now :), a different story—esp for those who are working remotely. I am doubtful your toddler or your four-legged companion is going to leak any of your company secrets/skeletons :) however, your company does not know WHO is in your home at any given time and for that reason may have decided to keep the same security measures in place and that’s where a jiggler REALLY violates many company policies.

    BUT…in your specific situation, what really gets me is you were completely honest with them and they chose to “punish” you for it. Especially since you are an upstanding employee.
    You, a grown adult who did the “right thing”—you didn’t cover anything up, you admitted to it. If your work has always been stellar and you are an employee normally in good-standing this definitely sounds like a trust issue on your employers part and by employer I mean the “top brass” at your organization thinking everyone is slacking on company time when lets face it—we tend to be even more zoned into work remotely (according to statistics I’ve seen out there). That is concerning because everything trickles down from top in an organization. If you have a terrible manager and other managers in your company are aware and nothing is ever done that’s because the managers above them are enabling the behavior…and that’s a warning sign, a red flag for me.
    You sound like a great, upstanding human and worker, someone I’d personally love to have as a colleague. Now that you know where your org stands with this you can decide if you are willing to live with this or find a company less restrictive. I know there are so many factors there to consider—where you are in career (stage) and if changing companies is the best move for you personally.
    Please don’t lose too much sleep over this.

    I wish you the best of luck and please update us if there are more developments in regards to this issue at your workplace (other co-worker stories in regards to this, any procedural changes implemented on the side of your employer). Thank you for sharing your story!

  89. Henry*

    Lotta commenters missing the point — computers going to sleep is, at least in part, a security measure. Mouse jigglers prevent them from doing that.

    I used one, I totally get it. But there’s a fully legit reason to not allow them.

  90. Fez Knot*

    At my previous role, my company provided computer had all settings under IT passwords so I couldn’t even adjust my brightness. My computer went to sleep after a minute, so if I was reviewing documents or essentially doing…anything…my computer would go to sleep and I’d have to log back in. It seriously slowed my productivity, but management hadn’t shown an interest in altering our equipment policies.

    When I asked some coworkers whether they thought IT would allow me to change the settings, one of them suggested running a soundscape from You Tube all the time. Problem solved! For some reason, my laptop wouldn’t go to sleep if my soundscape was the top window. I started to hear “crackling fire” in my sleep, but it was a way to get around my non-changeable settings and and “trackable” technology.

    For what it’s worth, no job has 8 hours of work. Not in person, not remote, not in any field. I’m in marketing now so my work load is so diminished compared to when I was a clinical social worker. But even as a social worker working on real life emergencies (not company emergencies lol) most days I would still have time to step out for a coffee, check personal email or chat with coworkers. (When posters comment about how someone can get everything done in less than 6-8 hours, I immediately assume they’re less productive or their company culture/workload sucks.) This is a topic for another post perhaps, about employers unwillingness to admit that there’s no such thing as 8 hours of work in any capacity and the real mark of an effective employee is the quality of their work. BUT THAT’S FOR NEXT TIME.

  91. Anon for This*

    It has to work both ways. If they want her to be “on the clock” then they can’t expect her to put in hours beyond the standard number without paying her overtime. That’s not what they want to do. They want her to act as if she is an hourly employee during regular work hours and then magically turn into a salaried employee when she is working off hours.

    If I were a high performer and treated like this, I’d be looking.

    I had a similar situation occur though the details were different. I got another job that had a better title and paid more.

  92. Rosacolleti*

    Why on earth would anyone use a mouse mover? What ethical reasons are there? I’d be pretty annoyed if I found one of my staff was doing it.

Comments are closed.