A third of the U.S. workforce has shifted to remote work as a result of the pandemic, according to a survey conducted by MIT.
Fearful this could lead to a drop in productivity, employers have turned to remote monitoring tools to ensure their staff work effectively from home.
From covert webcam access to random screenshot monitoring, these products are capable of recording almost everything an employee does on their computer.
The rapid increase of these invasive programmes risks setting new standards of workplace surveillance and dramatically undermining employees’ right to privacy.
While data from March shows a slight increase in demand, 7% over the full month, it wasn’t until April that the impact of lockdown measures had fully taken effect. In response, demand for employee monitoring tools surged by 87% and remained 71% above the pre-pandemic average in May.
Despite widespread, if temporary, easing of restrictions in the months that followed, demand for these intrusive tools barely diminished.
Rather, it hovered at around 50% more than before the pandemic over the entire period of June through September.
Previous international crises have shown that once heightened surveillance measures are introduced they are often never reversed.
The companies behind these programmes also do their best to guarantee that their products become permanent fixtures of the modern workplace. Eight out of the 10 most in-demand companies encourage long-term use by offering annual price incentives and lifetime purchasing options. Only Time Doctor and Crossover do not actively promote annual price incentives on their websites.
The pandemic has led to a huge rise in the range and sophistication of surveillance technologies being adopted around the world and, as remote work looks set to continue for the foreseeable future, invasive employee surveillance may be here to stay.
“There is something depressing about the idea that full-grown adults must be subjected to routine surveillance of their activities in order to hold the jobs necessary to pay their bills and provide for their families.” – ACLU