Employers Embrace New Software to Track Workers Amid Remote Shift

As numerous industries continue operating remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a new wave of software now allows employers to track workers online.

Approximately 78 percent of employers said that they use special software to track their employees' actions online, according to a survey of 2,000 businesses conducted by ExpressVPN. The same survey found that 74 percent of employers were concerned about productivity in the age of remote work, while at the same time, 83 percent said that tracking their employees raised an ethical dilemma.

No matter how they feel, new software continues to roll out to meet the needs and concerns of employers during the pandemic. Users have branded these new digital surveillance programs as "tattleware" or "bossware," and they are now considerably unpopular with employees working under them, according to a report from Austin, Texas-based news station KXAN.

remote work productivity tracking
A new breed of software is emerging to track remote employee productivity. This undated photo shows a family working from home in Paris, France. Xavier Laine/Getty Images

One such program is WorkiQ, developed by Texas-based company ActiveOps. The official webpage for the software boasts that it can track remote workers, as well as in-person employees and even automated programs, all with the goal of providing companies with clearer data.

"WorkiQ collects user activity directly from each monitored desktop to provide visibility and insight for the end user," the site explains. "Human, automated, remote employees or hybrid, we remove self-reporting to monitor employees activities and employee performance via desktop, virtual machine or mainframe."

Despite its intended function, ActiveOps told KXAN that the program is easy for employers to abuse, allowing them to invade the privacy of their workers.

"Some organizations have decided they want to measure every second of every minute of every day of an employees' working time," ActiveOps CEO Spencer O'Leary said. "They're the type of organization that wants to entrap their workforce."

O'Leary further suggested that employees put off by this kind of surveillance "vote with their feet," similar to the many U.S. workers currently abandoning low-pay, high-stress jobs in droves.

"Some employers have decided not to tell their employees that they're doing these things when they do find out, and they will, they're just voting with their feet and leave to work for somebody else," he explained.

The push to track employees online may be backfiring, according to a report from Forbes. A study conducted by the research firm, Gartner, found that, out of a pool of roughly 2,400 participants, workers are around two times as likely to pretend to be working when they know an employer is tracking them, rather than actually doing more work.

Whatever the best solutions may be, companies will likely be employing them for some time. Another survey from the Best Practices Institute from the past year found that only around 10 percent of remote employees want a full-time return to in-person work, compared to around 83 percent of CEOs.