Fri Oct 09 2020

A deep dive into the highest tech ways your boss could be spying on you.

Working hard or hardly working

Working from home has been a prevalent topic over the last six months. It’s understandable— what else is there to talk about other than queuing for Tescos, spotting (or not spotting) a neighbour clapping for the NHS or doing your ‘hourly’ allowance of exercise? But as you sat opposite your laptop quietly sipping tea from your favourite mug, did you know that Big Brother could be judging how weak your brew was? Or more importantly, how long you took to make it? 

Surveillance software has had a boom since the shift to home working. Such programs like StaffCop, OccupEye (a heat and motion sensor that logs how long a worker sits down for), Time Doctor, ActivTrak and Hubstaff are seeing increases in sales. Sneek, an ‘always-on’ video software, has been argued to set gentle reminders to keep workers engaged. It will make those who cover their webcams with masking tape sneer at those who call them paranoid. It will also make many others shiver at the thought of always being watched. 

Login times, screenshots and keystroke activity can now be analysed by bosses to make sure their workforce is productive and efficient with their time. Most will find this very disturbing, further encroaching on rest at home and privacy. Trust between workers and employers could be breached whilst creating a culture of unease. 

The reality is that surveillance has been part of the workplace for a while, particularly those in banking and finance. Many see ‘obedience through paranoia’ as part of the job, an admission which would surely make Orwell turn in his grave. 

What might please the 1984 author more is that many workers are retaliating, tricking their watchers into thinking they are working. Anti-surveillance software is also on the rise. Presence Scheduler allowed workers to set their Slack status as permanently active and doubled in sales at the start of lockdown before being blocked by Slack. 

But instead of a workplace that could become increasingly divided and focused on time, surely a simple solution would be to set realistic targets to meet rather than track how long someone spends on a laptop. You could spend twice as long as a fellow employee and do half the quality and amount of work as they do — surely that is common knowledge. Furthermore, home working brings with it other unforeseen distractions; children, pets, the postman or the plumber coming to fix your leaking sink. Common sense and trust seems like a much more acceptable solution.

In conclusion, maybe taping a webcam is not such a bad idea. Or, if you’re feeling really brave and rebellious, stare deep into the little camera whilst drinking your dishwater tea with pride. 

Have You Heard? 

Employers could pay for your coffee

Workers are noticing that they’re coffee, tea, electricity, water and toilet paper consumption is inevitably increasing whilst working at home, but should employees pay for it? The National Institute for Family Finance Information in the Netherlands has calculated that they should pay an extra £2 an hour to cover the costs. Employers say that it works both ways, with workers saving money on transport, buying lunch out and work clothes. 

H&M fined for spying on staff

In keeping with the surveillance theme, H&M have recently been fined £32m for the illegal surveillance of hundreds of employees, breaking the recent EU GDPR rules which regulate the collection and use of personal data. This includes keeping ‘excessive’ records on the families, illnesses and religions of employees which was then used to review performance and inform employment decisions. 

A third of UK workers looking for jobs

According to LinkedIn’s latest workforce confidence index, a third of all UK workers are actively seeking a job. A further 26% are casually looking for a new job and 30% are ‘open to the right offer’ whilst not actually searching. That leaves 13% who are not looking to change jobs. 

Sending rude emails is unproductive 

It may not seem groundbreaking or deserving of a professional study, but communication is so important and often neglected that the University of Illinois Chicago has conducted a study to research the effects of rude emails in the workplace. What did they find? Impolite emails, ranging from derogatory terms, passive email rudeness and being ignored can have a negative effect on work responsibilities, productivity, and even sleep. 

TT’s Top Story

Clim8, a London-based fintech that focuses on investments in sustainable industries to combat climate change, have announced a Crowdcube funding campaign. This is on top of the $2m already raised. 

App of the week

Stand Up! The work break timer is an app which helps set breaks throughout your working day whilst reminding you to stand up; something that is a lot more important than many think. 

Word of the week

Leitmotif

Noun

a unifying or dominant motif; a recurrent theme:

A leitmotif of the Recruiter’s Zeitgeist is commentary on the U.S. President.’