Half of remote workers staying logged on longer than necessary because of surveillance, research finds

Experts say businesses’ use of surveillance tools is leading to ‘unhealthy behaviours’ as a quarter of employees polled say they work harder from home than in the office

Almost half of remote workers reported that they stayed logged onto work devices later than necessary in response to their employer installing surveillance software on their devices, research has found.

A poll of 2,000 full-time employees by Kaspersky found that of those with monitoring software installed, 46 per cent admitted staying logged into their devices longer than they needed to be while working remotely.

More than two-fifths (44 per cent) of those working from home have had monitoring software installed on their devices, the survey found, of which 37 per cent said their managers constantly check on them to make sure they’re working.

And while more than half (54 per cent) of employees said they felt trusted to work from home, one in five (19 per cent) admitted to using personal devices for work activities to avoid being checked up on by their employer, while a quarter (25 per cent) said they worked harder remotely than they would in the office.

David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky, said employers needed to realise that excessive employee surveillance was “leading to unhealthy employee behaviours”, including people feeling they needed to work longer hours in a ”bid to keep up appearances”.

Emm also warned that heavy-handed surveillance could also create security concerns if employees move to personal devices to avoid excess scrutiny. “Employees using non-sanctioned personal devices for work tasks increases the vulnerability of corporate data and assets to hackers,” he said.

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While remote surveillance was a legitimate business practice, Paul Cole, partner at TLT, warned that there was “a right and a wrong way to go about it”. Employers considering implementing these kinds of technology needed to ensure they were acting in a proportionate and justified manner, must inform employees of their intention to monitor and ensure there are sufficient safeguards in place to prevent any abuse or over-monitoring, he said. Employees also needed to be mindful about the risk of discrimination and any data privacy issues.

David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder of Basecamp, warned that worker surveillance software as a response to going remote during the pandemic was a “crime against humanity”.

“Not only do these packages represent a gross invasion of privacy in general, but the psychological abuse they extract during a pandemic is unconscionable,” he said, noting that the offer of remote work provided employers a number of benefits including increased resilience and lower costs.

“To repay these advantages with suspicion and surveillance is both ungrateful and counterproductive,” said Heinemeier Hansson. “Workers are not going to bring their best ideas over the long term when subjected to a surveillance regime.”

However, Cole added that while some employers were using surveillance tools to monitor performance, businesses could also use them in other ways.

“From a positive perspective, employee monitoring can also be used as an indicator of wellbeing, to help identify when people are suffering from burnout or simply lack of engagement with their job as a result of mental health issues like depression or anxiety, or working too many hours,” he said.