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Is your company secretly monitoring your work at home? Since COVID, the practice has surged

Don Lee, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

WASHINGTON — Despite evidence that working from home has not diminished U.S. productivity during the pandemic, employers are increasingly turning to monitoring software that can track workers’ keystrokes, log active hours, take regular screenshots and even activate a web camera.

And many companies may be using such tracking systems without workers’ knowledge.

Gartner, a technology research and consulting firm, estimates that 60% of large corporations now employ monitoring software, double the share of early last year.

Teramind, a Miami-based provider of employee-monitoring software, said that before the pandemic, about 70% of its sales came from companies concerned about security and 30% from those focused on worker productivity. That balance has since flipped, said Eli Sutton, Teramind’s vice president of operations.

“They want to make sure productivity stays high. It’s essentially become the new norm,” Sutton said, noting that Teramind’s sales tripled early in the pandemic and have not slowed.

Most surveys and economic reports show U.S. productivity did not suffer when American workers began doing their jobs from home. During the pandemic, Americans on average spent 40% of their work hours at home, compared with 5% in February 2020.

 

Yet U.S. productivity growth since the health crisis has run at more than double the rate it had in the decade before the spread of COVID-19 and surge of remote work.

And for more than 85% of employers, work-from-home efficiency met or exceeded their expectations, with half of these companies saying it has been “substantially” or “hugely” better, according to research work by economists at Stanford and the University of Chicago.

Many companies justify the surveillance on grounds that it helps them improve employees’ performance. Elizabeth Harz, chief executive of InterGuard, said her firm’s monitoring tools can help managers identify burnout, overwork and tasks where people may be getting stuck.

“A category that started more as perhaps the Big Brother notion is evolving to be much more positive, transparent and helpful to both employers and employees,” she said.

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