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43% of companies monitor worker’s online activity

April 7, 2024
Borderless Leadership

With remote work destined for good to be a fixture of the modern workplace, almost half of companies are monitoring remote employees’ online activities.

Among 1,000 remote and hybrid U.S. employees who participated in a February survey, 43% said their employer monitors their online activity. That broke down into 48% of hybrid workers and 37% of fully remote ones.

An additional 21% of respondents said they weren’t sure or were unaware whether their employer is monitoring their online activity, according to the survey, which was commissioned by Forbes Advisor and conducted by OnePoll. Forbes Advisor is a platform designed to help consumers make financial decisions, but its report on online surveillance of workers offers some worthy insights for employers.

Monitored activity can include active work hours, websites visited, chats, and messaging logs. Almost a third (31%) of respondents said their employers are monitoring their computer screens in real-time.

Unsurprisingly, many employees dislike the monitoring, and some of their viewpoints might make employers pause. Among the scrutinized workers, 39% said the monitoring has a negative effect on their relationship with their employer, and 43% said it negatively affects company morale.

Further, 27% of survey participants said they would be at least somewhat likely to quit their job if their employer began monitoring them.

On the other hand, 30% said they are “very comfortable” with their online activities being monitored, and 31% reported a positive association with job satisfaction. “This could indicate that a segment of the workforce feels more aligned or accountable when such practices are in place,” the survey report said.

Room for Improvement
According to the report, a “concerning aspect” of the trend is insufficient communication about surveillance policies. Only a third (32%) of those surveyed reported having received clear guidelines or policies regarding the monitoring.

Are there ethical issues with companies monitoring employees’ online activity? Three in five (59%) of the surveyed workers agreed that there are. However, ethical concerns go both ways, as 25% of those whose online activity is monitored admitted to pretending to be online while performing nonwork activities. In fact, 11% of such employees said they use anti-surveillance software, and 9% said they’ve attempted to “trick” the monitoring software.

by David McCann


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