Remote Work & The Rise of Employee Surveillance Software
A third of the U.S. workforce 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 software to ensure their staff work effectively from home.
This software is capable of recording almost everything an employee does on their computer, from covert webcam access to random screenshot monitoring.
The rapid rise of such invasive software risks setting new standards of workplace surveillance and dramatically undermining employees’ right to privacy.
Demand for employee surveillance software shot up by 80% in March 2020 compared to the 2019 monthly average, the same month the global pandemic was declared and lockdowns imposed. It remained high the following month too, at 65% compared to 2019.
Over two years on, hybrid working is being touted as the future of employment, with its mix of remote work and days in the office.
The prospect of working from home becoming permanent, even if only for part of the week, appears to have prompted a resurgent appetite for this intrusive computer surveillance software.
Employee monitoring software demand has been 75% higher on average since the start of 2022 than it was in 2019. For comparison, demand over the pandemic to the end of 2021 was 57% higher than 2019.
As the above graph shows, the average monthly demand for employee surveillance software actually intensified over the second year of the pandemic, rather than fading away.
Demand for the software was on average 58% higher in 2021 than it was before the pandemic, compared to the 54% average uplift during the pandemic months of 2020.
That difference is greater still if you discount the initial spike in interest over the first three months of the pandemic. Looking at only the months in 2020 after that initial surge, average monthly demand was “only” up 48% compared to 2019.
Why Are We Tracking Employee Monitoring Software Demand?
Previous international crises have shown that once heightened surveillance measures are introduced they are often never reversed.
The developers of employee surveillance software also do their best to guarantee that their products become permanent fixtures of the modern workplace. Eight in 10 developers of the 10 most in-demand employee monitoring software tools encourage long-term use by offering annual price incentives and lifetime purchasing options. Only the developers of 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 also 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
As advocates for internet freedom and the right to privacy, we believe this kind of computer surveillance in the workplace should never be normalized. By accepting computer usage monitoring and internet surveillance by employers, the risk is that it will further encroach into all aspects of everyday life.