How to Keep Remote Employees on Task Without Spying On Them

by Evil HR Lady on May 11, 2020

When you take part in a Zoom meeting, you can see your own face on the screen and you should be fully aware that your coworkers can see you and whatever is behind you. This has resulted in some hilarious situations as children, pets, and spouses have wandered into meetings.

But, it’s also possible that your boss is watching you when you’re not aware of it. Or it’s possible that your boss is watching your family when they aren’t aware of it. If you’re not in a meeting, your spouse may think it’s okay to come in and change his clothes in the bedroom where you’re working, but whoopsie, the boss gets a show.

It’s not just video cameras, it can also be screen monitoring. The New York Times reports that Hubstaff, a software company that provides tracking screenshots to bosses, has tripled their sales since March–that’s when everyone who could work at home started working at home. 

To keep reading, click here: How to Keep Remote Employees on Task Without Spying On Them

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

grannybunny May 11, 2020 at 2:28 pm

A small Post-It Note over ones computer camera works.

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Goober May 11, 2020 at 5:45 pm

Any computer that has a camera also has a microphone. Those are harder to completely block.

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Mr Been There May 11, 2020 at 7:58 pm

But not impossible to block or muffle (especially if you listen to music). Certainly anything personal happens on my cellphone, whether I’m in the office or not.

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Maggie May 13, 2020 at 6:38 pm

You can turn the microphone off in your computer settings.

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Elizabeth West May 11, 2020 at 4:16 pm

Same in the office. Treat employees like adults who can manage their own time and deal individually with slackers and those who aren’t meeting goals. You’ll have happier, more productive people overall.

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Kathy May 11, 2020 at 5:09 pm

I have always wondered about managing by results. How much work should a manager expect from one person where it’s not a widgets-made-per-hour sort of job? Many if not most of my managers touted “smarter not harder” in meetings but measured our productivity by busyness because they didn’t know what results to expect. Never mind that last week Bob wrote a program that cut a whole department’s work in half; what if he did that in a couple hours and slacked off on company time for the rest of the week when he might have made more major contributions? Managers seem to find that a problematic question that they can only answer by observing apparent busyness by whatever methods are available. It leads to dysfunctional behaviors like people working ineffectually so they can look busy longer, or moaning over all the work they do and tearing around looking busy in order to be promoted over someone who is quietly getting more work done. But I’ve never seen any manager training that helped a manager to change this approach.

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Millennial Perspective May 14, 2020 at 10:06 pm

Theres a fascinating article about a man who quitely automated his job. Spent all day playng with his kids and checking emails and never did any work. People were split on if he was wrong or not.

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James May 15, 2020 at 8:20 pm

I’d say give him more work and see if he can automate it as well. That sort of laziness has revolutionized businesses before–Adam Smith wrote about a kid who revolutionized the steam engine because he wanted to play with his friends, for example. If you can do the same output and cut payroll in half that means you can cut costs, undercut your competition, and increase margins; it’s an all-around win for the company if you play it right.

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James May 11, 2020 at 6:12 pm

If your solution to a problem involves the word “spy”, or anything close to the word “spy”, and you’re not a government agency, you’re probably doing something wrong.

Plus, what constitutes work-appropriate can be hard to pin down. I remember an archaeologist who got in trouble with this. She went to a fellow archaeologist’s personal webiste to download some papers (standard practice in the field, and it saved the company a few hundred dollars and two weeks delay). Unfortunately the website contained some adult material associated with the other archaeologist’s personal hobbies, which raised flags with IT and HR. That’s the most memorable example (we had a few meetings about it), but I’ve seen others as well. Point is, in order to spy on people you need to know what you’re looking for–and 99 times out of 100, managers won’t.

Or to give another (perhaps more applicable) example: Sometimes work involves thinking about data. Can you differentiate, in a photo, between me staring off into space because I’m working on my fantasy football roster vs me staring off into space because I’m trying to figure out a thorny problem involving data I’ve just received? Can you determine if I’m away from my computer because I’m watching TV or because I’m getting coffee and reading a report that’s relevant to the job? If not, how can you use these spy programs to evaluate my performance?

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