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Bossware: What Is It? How Does It Work? How to Turn It Into Employeeware?

Bossware: What Is It? How Does It Work? How to Turn It Into Employeeware?

For the last few years, the work culture has been changing globally. With the apparent rise of remote work and work-from-home options, the need for comprehensive and robust employee monitoring software is evident. 

There is quite a number of digital tools that help with real-time tracking of employees’ work and boosting their productivity. The demand for software that automatically monitors employees – more popularly known by said employees as “bossware” is rising.

Today, we’ve decided to shed some light on this rather interesting topic and tell you everything you might want to know about this peculiar concept of bossware. 

In this article, we’ll examine how bossware works, discuss some of the most common reasons why employers use it and employees are scared of its introduction, look at legal and ethical implications of using bossware and review some examples when this type of software actually proves to be useful for the employees.

And right before we dive into this topic, it’s important to highlight that we consider malpractices of using employee monitoring software to be bad examples of its use. Personally, our product is aimed at helping not only employers, but employees as well. Thus, it can be considered a perfect example of employeeware, which makes it suitable for companies who are conscious of their employees’ wellbeing.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and start from the beginning, shall we?

What Is Bossware?

Bossware – more commonly known as employee monitoring software – makes it easier for managers to understand employee behavior, find ways to boost their productivity, strengthen data security, and improve employee satisfaction.

Bossware provides employers with a visual interface, and with its help they can gain understanding of how their staff spends their working hours. 

And while some people (usually, employees themselves) disagree, claiming bossware is an invasion of their privacy, this type of software tends to not be used for malicious purposes. 

The truth is, employees should not fear employee monitoring and instead look at it as one more element that will improve their working life. 

When used appropriately, bossware can help companies increase employee productivity, as well as protect against insider threats and basic human error risks. 

These solutions can see almost anything users do thanks to their extensive sets of features, which might include the following:

  • Time tracking (tracking the amount of time users spend doing work-related tasks at their PCs, all the breaks they take in-between, and the periods of idleness).
  • Productivity monitoring (presenting productivity metrics for each employee in a visually understandable and cohesive way).
  • Screen recording (taking screenshots or recording videos of everything that happens on the user’s screen).
  • Keylogging (recording every keystroke made on the computer, even deleted ones).
  • Audio recording (recording audio through the device's microphone).
  • Location tracking (monitoring the geographic location of devices).
  • Email & chat monitoring (recording everything entered in email clients or instant messaging chats).
  • Browsing history (recording and displaying the user’s entire browsing history, even incognito tabs).
  • Web & app usage (showing the administrator which web pages and applications the user accesses, when and for what amount of time).
  • Alerts & notifications (alerting the administrator when specified data types appear on the employee machines, as well as notifying the user when they've breached certain company policies).
  • Remote control (providing the admins with complete control over the user's device as if they were the ones physically using it).
  • Stealth mode (installing and accessing the software in a way that is invisible to the users).

What Are Bossware Pros and Cons?

Reasons to Track Employees

Better understanding of working patterns. Employers can use the data gathered by the monitoring software to prevent employee burnout by tracking indicators of workplace stress such as lateness and poor focus. Some employees even note that trackers help them organize their workdays and stay on task. 

Increased employee productivity. By monitoring employees using bossware, managers can make sure resources are well managed and efficiently deployed. These solutions identify workers who lack focus or, for example, spend too much time on manual, repetitive tasks that could be optimized. In turn, when employees know they’re being monitored, they tend to focus on their work, be more productive and less likely to veer from company guidelines. 

Fairer workplace. Employees agree that this type of software makes things fairer by identifying those members of the team who aren’t pulling their weight. Monitoring software may also increase the objectivity of performance reviews. 

Reduced insider threats. Remote workers can pose security risks, since their potentially poor “cybersecurity hygiene” can easily make them (and the business as a whole) targets of cybercrime. Bossware is designed to keep track of user activity and flag any suspicious behavior, thus aiding in catching both deliberate and inadvertent misuse of company information, which can keep the company safe from fraud and data leaks.

Reasons Not to Track Employees

Damaged morale. Monitoring has been shown to increase employee stress and decrease job satisfaction. Moreover, an employee who’s used to being monitored might not develop the skills to be productive without the constant pressure of such control. Introduction of bossware might also weaken trust in workplace relationships. 

Privacy concerns and legal implications. There’s always a risk of potentially collecting sensitive data that could get leaked or otherwise exposed indirectly -- for example, if a password gets recorded by a keylogger in bossware. Current laws on privacy and data protection add an extra layer of risk for companies that want to deploy bossware. It’s especially important for employers to implement such solutions in line with local laws and regulations.

We’ve also looked at pros and cons of employee monitoring software more closely here.

Is Bossware Legal?

It's complicated, but the short answer is yes.

The EU-wide GDPR allows workplace monitoring, within a specific set of guidelines. Organizations must create clear policies informing their staff about any employee monitoring practices and make their deployments as unobtrusive as possible. Covert monitoring of things like internet usage and communications content isn’t allowed. There are also strict rules around protecting all employee data, ensuring that only relevant info is collected and that it’s only used for the purposes it was collected for.

In the US, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which we’ve also covered when discussing employee monitoring laws in the USA, allows monitoring of electronic communications like email as long as it’s for legitimate business purposes and done on a work-issued device/computer. It also sanctions monitoring of internet activity, and even keylogging and screen recordings. And while federal laws don’t require prior notification of such activity, some state laws may demand employers gain consent before implementing employee monitoring software. Organizations must also have a clearly defined policy on employee monitoring.

Is Bossware Ethical?

According to business owners, bossware is ethical as it tracks employees’ activity, providing comprehensive data on who is working on which project and who is using the device for what purpose. 

Moreover, certain bossware with its time tracking and activity monitoring features allow companies to track the productivity of remote employees, which has become even more relevant for managers since the beginning of pandemic back in 2020.

At the same time, bossware may still raise ethical concerns. Some employees may not feel comfortable about being monitored by their bosses all the time. These solutions might contribute to the increase in levels of stress among employees. 

What’s more, it might also incentivize toxic productivity, with employees being constantly engaged in some kind of instead of taking time to think, which can ultimately contribute to burnout and decreased well-being.

Thus, our best advice for employers who decide to use some kind of software to monitor their employees is to make sure all the proper rules are adhered to. Employees should know that their devices are being monitored. In turn, employers should not use employees’ personal info.

When Is Bossware Beneficial For Employees?

Sure, the term itself can have a negative connotation, since the concept of bossware often implies excessive nonconsensual intrusive employee monitoring. 

However, we can actually give you a few examples when the use of bossware turns to be beneficial for employees themselves. 

And that’s exactly when employees tend to start perceive such monitoring not as Big Brother bossware, but as rather helpful emploeeware.

Example 1. An employee is blatantly stealing from the company

We cannot see straight through people when we hire them. And even the most seasoned HR manager can overlook a candidate who might prove to be unreliable and who will systematically harm the company. The most obvious reaction of a competent manager would be to minimize the possibility of such incidents. Surveillance cameras, time trackers, and DLP software will help in safeguarding the company from insider threats.

The mere fact of monitoring will keep many hotheads from wrongdoing, and in the event of a real incident, saved screen video recordings will ensure that the intruder is swiftly identified. And we even have an example, where a client of ours caught an insider who was stealing the client base.

But what exactly is the benefit of using bossware for an honest employee? Well, this way, there's no need to prove anything to anyone. Since an employee’s entire activity history is recorded, they don't have to worry about being unfairly accused of something they didn’t do.

Example 2. An employee realistically works only three hours a day

Another type of detrimental employee is a habitual slacker. There are all kinds of slackers, from harmless procrastinators who just need a gentle nudge to evil deadbeats who believe that they must be paid just for showing up at work. Naturally, such employees drag any company to the bottom. So it is necessary to identify them as soon as possible and motivate them to work diligently.

Some people might use the so-called gifted employees who can squeeze all their tasks into a couple of hours as a counterargument. They say, these specialists "have the right" to do whatever they want in the remaining working hours, since all their duties are fulfilled.

But, if we’re talking about a case like that, there is a number of other management mistakes that can be corrected with the help of bossware, namely poor workload distribution and insufficient employee motivation. Even if this hypothetical employee exists and actually manages to do everything in three hours, why wouldn't he want to apply for a position that better suits his skills so that he is of greater value to the company and receives a higher salary?

Although, who are we kidding? With a 99% probability, this person is a full-on slacker who has mastered the art of creating a semblance of activity and exaggerating his achievements.

Example 3. A remote employee spends his entire day doing his own thing

The fact that remote employees need to be monitored doesn’t surprise anyone. Even more, when employing a specialist who’s going to be working remotely, there usually is a mandatory condition in the employment contract that his computer will have a time tracking solution installed.

Here it is important to specify a particular nuance that the employer should not monitor the employee's private life, seeing as this is first of all illegal and kind of inappropriate in general. The solution to this problem is to give the employee a dedicated work PC or provide them with an opportunity to turn the tracker on and off at the beginning and end of work.

Example 4. An employee who has been fired seeks to screw the company during his final days

Not everyone quits at their own will, and not everyone is happy with their resignation. In fact, a large percentage of wrongdoing within companies is committed by employees who have been fired. 

Often, as soon as an employee gets dismissed, their access to all valuable information is blocked. But how can they perform their tasks during the required final two weeks if they are denied access to the information they need to do their job? It is better to have them closely monitored, which will help avoid hypothetical threats from these "at-risk" employees without limiting their ability to perform their work tasks.

Example 5. A manager struggles to assess how productive his employees are

A good manager has a sense of how effective his team members are. There is no doubt about it, but why bother doing the math in your head when you could have a digital tracker do that for you. There's no need to have a conversation with each employee at the end of every working day if you can spend five minutes looking at the statistics collected by the software, and at the end of the week simply compare whether the employees’ recorded productivity correlates with their actual output.

With an adequate approach, this will allow to evaluate the productivity of specialists in a fair manner and will save the employees themselves from the need to act busy in order to be on a good account with their superiors. Everything is evident in the software.

Example 6. An employee suffers from some kind of unacceptable behavior of other employees 

Any instance of office stalking is not going to contribute to a healthy microclimate in the team. 

Of course, you don't need to go through every correspondence of your colleagues, after all, micromanagement is not cool and quite time-consuming. But the screenshots or screen recordings collected by the bossware can be of great assistance in making a fair verdict when dealing with the incident. This can be especially handy if the culprit has thoughtfully cleaned up all the correspondence (e.g., in Telegram).

In Lieu Of a Conclusion

Now that you know quite a bit about bossware, you can use it for employee monitoring. And if you’re looking for the optimal employee monitoring tool for your business, look no further than Kickidler. This employee monitoring tool will allow you to track the time your employees spend at work and see what they do during the working hours. Not only does it give you a handle on workflow and productivity, but it also makes sure employees are compensated correctly for their work.

Kickidler Employee Monitoring Software

Alicia Rubens

Content Marketer

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