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How Employees are Trying to get around Employer Monitoring

By George Waggott, founder, and Roberto Fonseca-Velazquez, summer law student, George Waggott Law


In its recent article “The Jiggle Is Up: Bosses Bust Workers Who Fake Computer Activity”, the Wall Street Journal reported on the phenomenon of employees finding ways to deceive their employer’s productivity-tracking tools. The article discusses how some employees are faking computer activity to appear productive while working remotely. It further highlights the countermeasures employers are implementing to detect and respond to these tricks.


Remote Work and Monitoring

The shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic led many companies to adopt monitoring software to track employee productivity. These tools can log activity, track mouse movements, record keyboard strokes, and capture periodic screenshots to ensure employees remain productive while working from home or another remote location.


Employee Tricks

Employees, feeling the pressure of constant surveillance, have found ways to fake computer or work activity. Common methods include:

 

Mouse Jigglers: Devices or software that move the mouse cursor at intervals to prevent the computer from going idle.

 

Automated Scripts: Programs that mimic keyboard strokes or mouse movements to create the illusion of activity.


Detection Techniques

As these tricks became more common, many employers have upgraded their monitoring systems to detect irregular patterns of activity. Advanced software can identify consistent, unnatural mouse movements or repetitive keystrokes that suggest automation rather than genuine work, which is usually performed using more random patterns. AI and machine learning tools can also be employed to analyze work patterns and flag suspicious activity.


Ethical and Privacy Concerns

The rise in surveillance has sparked ethical and privacy debates. Many employees feel that constant monitoring is invasive and erodes trust between them and their employer. Critics argue that excessive surveillance can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and a toxic work environment. On the other hand, employers will often justify monitoring as essential for maintaining productivity and accountability in a remote work setting.


Balancing Trust and Accountability

These concerns noted above reinforce the need for a balanced approach to remote work arrangements and employee monitoring. Key strategies include:

 

  • Clear Communication: Setting clear expectations and goals can help employees understand what is expected of them without feeling micromanaged.

  • Focus on Output: Emphasizing results and productivity over constant monitoring of activity can foster a more positive work environment.

  • Flexible Policies: Implementing policies that balance the need for accountability with respect for employee privacy often leads to better outcomes.


Conclusion

The shift to remote work presents both opportunities and challenges. While monitoring tools can help ensure productivity, excessive surveillance can harm employee morale and trust. But these issues can be addressed by employers taking a nuanced approach that respects employee privacy while ensuring accountability, ultimately fostering a productive and positive remote work environment.


For more information about George Waggott Law, please see: www.georgewaggott.com, or contact: george@georgewaggott.com

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