With more employees regularly working from home, managers are keeping a closer eye on employees, but workers have found strategic ways to get around the surveillance.
- Some employers are taking advantage of technology to help keep a closer eye on their employees, but employees are using technology to fight back.
- Workers who are worried about their online status showing they are away from their desks are using simple hacks like playing live-streamed videos in the background of their computers.
- While some workers use technology hacks or tools like mouse jigglers, others feign productivity by participating in unnecessary meetings or sending extra emails and messages.
Why it’s news
Managers’ worries that employees aren’t being productive have led to increased employee surveillance. However, this surveillance has led to new, somewhat deceptive practices from employees.
Some of these hacks are relatively simple ways to prevent computers from timing out or falling asleep while an employee is away from the desk. For example, when a slideshow is in presenter mode, some computers won’t time out or fall asleep—giving an employee additional time away from their desk to finish a chore or grab a cup of coffee.
Others are using more creative methods, such as wrapping a computer mouse cord around an oscillating fan so that the cursor occasionally moves across the computer screen. For less creative employees, mouse jigglers are readily available for sale on places like Amazon.
Backing up a bit
As the permanence or regularity of remote work settles in, more employers are increasing surveillance of remote staff. Known by some as bossware, an increasing number of employers are using technology to monitor employees, going so far as to track keystrokes and mouse clicks.
In a case of “productivity paranoia,” managers are worried that employees aren’t meeting productivity quotas and are resorting to watching workers’ every move. The number of employers using some sort of monitoring software has nearly doubled since the pandemic.
In some cases, the monitoring is so detailed that hourly workers feel cheated out of pay when stepping away from a desk to use the restroom or get a cup of coffee. If the computer idles for too long, the time will be taken out of their paycheck.
Perhaps one of the greatest issues with increased surveillance is that there is little to no evidence that it increases productivity. Studies do show, however, that surveillance increases employee stress and increases the likelihood of them calling out of work, Christopher Mims reports in the Wall Street Journal.
Annoyed employees are also likely to find ways around the surveillance, including “mouse jigglers.” These can be computer programs or physical tools used to keep a computer screen from going into sleep mode, tricking surveillance tools into thinking the employee is still working.