You’re Being Watched: The Downside of the Remote Work Environment

By Steven E. Sacks, CPA, CGMA, ABC

Remember the game “I see you” when you were a child? You would cover your eyes with both hands and then remove them quickly and your parents or grandparents would do the same and scream “I see you!” Hearing the laughter from the child was pure joy. Gee, those were fond memories.

But now, “I see you” takes on a whole new meaning. In this era of remote working, employers who used to hover over you in the office to examine your work are now following you through your webcam and a device on your iPhone that tracks your movements.

In a perfect world, businesses (at least a large majority) would institute the honor system or would occasionally “engage” their employees as a way to check in with them. But, alas, we do not live in a perfect world. Businesses are now deploying software that accumulates information on the websites you visit. If that’s not enough, employers are also able to track keystrokes and mouse movements, along with apps that track your location through your iPhone. And in a bit of Orwellian flavor, there are software programs that take a picture of you through your webcam every 10 minutes. Take a look at Workpuls and Time Doctor as examples of remote “snooping” software.

There is a Limit

For workers at Subway or Amazon going back to work, they will be subjected to the use of infrared cameras that report their temperatures to determine if they are sick.

Okay. No big deal. Beneficial, in fact.

However, the infrared cameras—and any other device—is not limited solely to worker health safety. Walmart can eavesdrop on its workers through its sensors. If you can believe it, there is a Boston-based company called Humanyze which has developed a badge that can determine whether employees are sitting or standing. Ironic…er…interesting name for such a company. Perhaps it should change its name to Intrusiveyze or Spyingyze.

This is a do-it-yourself test for paranoia: you know you’ve got it when you can’t think of anything that’s your fault.  — Robert M. Hutchins

Here we are, still mired in the first wave of Covid-19. Lots of changes appearing at a rapid change. Uncertainty exists on the part of employees about the issue of privacy and trust. To be sure, our legal system hasn’t caught up with technology innovations. Employees will either have to submit to this “new normal” or find other places to work; in the current economy, this may not be so easy.

The conundrum for many: Risk getting sick by returning to the office or living daily with employer-sponsored paranoia.

From the broader issues of management, respect and trust, if business leaders cannot trust their employees, either they hired the wrong people, or they should take a closer examination of their own leadership philosophy and style.

About the Author

Steven Sacks is the CEO of Solutions to Results, LLC, a consultancy that specializes in helping individuals, firms and organizations meet the challenges of communicating with clarity and purpose. Visit his website at www.solutions2results.com.