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If you work remotely, your bosses are probably using software to track you. Here's how they'll catch you slacking off.

tracking remote workers
More US businesses are using employee-tracking software to monitor remote workers.(Left) Samantha Lee/Insider, (Right) Tesson/Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
  • Many businesses are using employee-tracking software to keep tabs on their workers.

  • Some employers are using their findings to fire employees.

  • We spoke with a representative from Time Doctor, a workday-analytics company, to learn how it works.

Working from home doesn't mean you're free from your boss's watchful eye.

In Australia, a woman said she was fired from her consultant role after her employer's monitoring software found "very low keystroke activity" on her laptop between October and December. In a recent filing, her manager said the role required over 500 keystrokes per hour — she was averaging less than 100.

In July, one boss, Michael Patrón, took to X, formerly Twitter, to say he'd just fired two workers who were using mouse-moving technology to mimic work. After they'd missed deadlines and had long delays in message replies, Patrón wrote that a report from Time Doctor, a workday-analytics company, found there were long periods of time when the workers weren't typing.

In response to the tweet, Liam Martin, a Time Doctor cofounder, asked Patrón whether he was using the company's latest tracking tool. Insider was unable to contact Patrón for comment.

Carlo Borja, Time Doctor's content marketing manager, told Insider the company provides real-time dashboards and progress reports that help firms evaluate their employees' productivity levels, specifically their time in and out, breaks, and web and app usage. Time Doctor also offers a screen-tracking tool that allows businesses to view an employee's screen via recordings or screenshots — it can be turned on and off as needed.

"We help companies get peace of mind with productivity analytics," he said.

Time Doctor has seen business pick up over the past few years as remote work has taken off, Borja said, and the return-to-office movement hasn't eliminated the demand for employee-tracking software.

"Now, post-pandemic, even as people are going back to offices, companies are adapting to the hybrid-work setup," he said. "That makes Time Doctor even more valuable."

Businesses have long used employee-tracking software to keep tabs on workers. But as more companies have adopted hybrid and fully remote work in recent years, these products have grown much more popular. Borja said over 298,000 employees across the globe are being tracked using the company's software — its biggest customers are in the US, UK, and Australia.

A March Resume Builder survey of 1,000 US business leaders with a primarily remote or hybrid workforce found that 96% of them use some form of employee-monitoring software, sometimes called bossware, to monitor worker productivity. Pre-pandemic, only 10% of those companies used it, the survey found. About three-quarters of respondents said they had fired employees based on findings from their tracking software.

JPMorgan's monitoring system, for instance, tracks everything from office attendance to time spent composing emails, Insider reported last year. At Tesla's New York plant, workers told Bloomberg that the company tracks how active they are on their computers — and that they've avoided taking bathroom breaks as a result. Other companies track mouse clicks or use webcam photos to ensure workers are at their computers. Eight of the 10 largest US private companies track their employees' productivity, The New York Times reported last year.

In the Resume Builder survey, only 5% of the business leaders who reported using tracking software said their employees were not aware they were being monitored. While Borja said Time Doctor encourages its customers to disclose the use of tracking software to their employees, it can't guarantee that they do so.

"It is still ultimately the company owner's choice," he said.

Time Doctor's website says it's in their customers' interests to be transparent with their employees so they know they're being held accountable — and can cut back on any of their time-wasting activities.

Workers who aren't happy with how much they're being tracked might not be able to do anything about it. Refusing to turn on your webcam during a meeting, for instance, could give your employer the right to fire you if you live in the US, legal experts previously told Insider.

Some workers at employee-tracking software companies have expressed privacy concerns.

"Everybody in the industry talks about it — you've got the all-seeing eye of Big Brother watching everything the employees are doing, and it's a little creepy," a Time Doctor staffer told Insider in 2021.

Read the original article on Business Insider