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 programs risks setting new standards of workplace surveillance and dramatically undermining employees’ right to privacy.
Demand for employee surveillance shot up by 74% in March 2020 compared to the 2019 monthly average, the same month the global pandemic was declared and lockdowns imposed. Demand for employee monitoring tools stayed high the following month at 63% compared to 2019.
Despite widespread, if temporary, easing of restrictions in the summer of 2020 followed, demand for these intrusive tools barely diminished. In recent months, it has actually increased once again.
Demand has been 60% higher than it was in 2019 since March 2021 following a period of nine months where it had hovered at around a 50% increase.
With cases on the rise around the world and a second Covid winter approaches, the most recent data shows demand for employee surveillance tools in September 2021 was as high as 66% compared to 2019. This is the highest it has been since the very first month of the pandemic in March 2020.
Previous international crises have shown that once heightened surveillance measures are introduced they are often never reversed.
The companies behind these programs 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