Is your boss listening in on you?

'Morale could drop due to feelings of mistrust from employers'

Is your boss listening in on you?

With plenty of employees still working remotely, some employers want to keep an eye on some of them to ensure they are not slacking off.

For many, the legal implications are tricky and should always be considered before installing software that will track employees.

A recent survey found that more than one-third of employees reported the use of some type of monitoring software but 37 per cent were trained on it or signed consent agreements and 16 per cent of those who didn’t were not informed of the monitoring at all.

This indicates that not all employers are being above board with workers when it comes to this, meaning the age of Big Brother or Big Boss, might be upon us!

Certain settings don’t have an expectation of privacy, including workplaces to a certain extent, which means employers can carry out some form of monitoring – as long as it’s reasonable.

Activity on work computers or phone lines would have a limited expectation of privacy, but employers have to be careful if a certain level of personal use on these are allowed, and generally they would have to notify employees that they’re being monitored.

There should still be a limited expectation of privacy on work computers, but employees working from home are more likely to use them for personal tasks and there is a risk that some element of an employee’s personal home environment could be captured on audio or video.

Clearly informing employees what is being monitored and encouraging them to obscure their backgrounds on video calls will help reduce that risk and liability.

Government weighs in

In the largest Canadian province, Ontario, the Progressive Conservative government recently clarified some of the rules around this and this could provide other jurisdictions with some guidance.

According to one lawyer, this will provide those employers with a lot more clarity around what can and cannot be done.

“We now have a better framework to help us interpret and understand obligations under the legislation… it just helps to give a path or checklist for employers,” says Carl Cunningham, a partner at Bennett Jones.

Employers that employ 25 or more employees on Jan. 1 of any year are required to have in place a written policy on the electronic monitoring of employees.

The policy must state whether or not the employer electronically monitors employees.

If the employer does, the policy must include:

  • a description of how and in what circumstances the employer may electronically monitor employees
  • how the information obtained through electronic monitoring may be used by the employer
  • the date the policy was prepared and the date any changes were made to the policy

Employers must also provide a copy of the written policy to all employees, meaning transparency is a key and important consideration.

Many still in the dark

This openness does not translate to all workplaces, found a recent survey.

A new Capterra report said 18 per cent of workers survey were not aware is monitoring software was installed and this reveals a “lack of transparency and communication of policies on workplace surveillance and employee consent.”

However, 35 per cent of the report’s respondents said that they work for a company that uses one employee monitoring tool, 28 per cent of whom have been using them even before the pandemic, while seven per cent only started after the pandemic broke out.

The recent results of the Capterra report suggest a possible transparency gap between employers and employees about the organization’s surveillance policies, an issue that lawmakers have been trying to address.

Meanwhile, the rise of the metaverse, and its growing importance also brings up some tough questions that must be answered around its security.

While leaders seem to be on board with this emerging technology, not all workers agree completely, according to another survey.

Metaverse security concerns

It showed that 77 per cent of employers are interested in immersive work and 69 per cent say they are very familiar with the metaverse. These numbers are significantly lower at 57 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively, among workers, according to a survey by ExpressVPN.

“Employers are much more likely to express excitement, curiosity, and optimism when it comes to the prospect of a metaverse workplace, whereas employees tend to express anxiousness and suspicion about it,” says the survey.

Surveillance is also a major concern in the metaverse, finds the survey of 1,500 employees and 1,500 employers in the U.S.

“Employers need to pay close attention to how surveillance activities in virtual workspaces could impact the adoption of the metaverse, as well as morale, retention, and recruitment,” says the software company.

“While employee monitoring may provide peace of mind to employers who are overseeing a remote workforce, the reality is that surveilling employees could be detrimental when it comes to their willingness to adopt a metaverse workplace. Morale could also drop due to feelings of mistrust from employers.”