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Employee Surveillance & Bossware – What Exactly Are Employees Okay With?

Employee Surveillance & Bossware – What Exactly Are Employees Okay With?

First half of 2020 has definitely changed a lot of things. While employee surveillance used to be an optional trend in the past, nowadays such technologies are a complete necessity. The first conflicts around this subject have subsided, and now it’s time to summarize some results. Today we’re going to talk about what software one should consider surveillance in general, and we’re also going to touch upon the topic of how employees feel about the very phenomenon of surveillance by the management – and what kind of such surveillance can be considered acceptable altogether.

What is Bossware – Starting With The Technicalities 

If we give a general definition, bossware is any software that:

  1. Is installed on the device the employee uses (laptop, PC, smartphone, tablet);
  2. Collects any data regarding the use of this device – running programs, keystrokes, activity in apps, etc.;
  3. Sends collected data to the boss.

The problem is that a lot of programs fall under this definition, and not all employee surveillance software is equally useful. Here’s a simple example:

  • Most employees don’t have any objections regarding the monitoring program that has been installed openly, the program, which employees can switch on and off themselves and which collects only generic data of the activity in the apps . It is considered a standard control tool, and this is the way Kickidler time tracking software works for remote employees;
  • Fewer people will agree to enable the permanent screen display and keystroke logger features. To use such apps, you need to create a transparent and understandable corporate culture in your company that's based on a simple thesis – a work computer is a work computer. There should be no personal data there;
  • And finally, almost all people react extremely negatively if the supervisor has access to their webcam or if they decide to use hidden surveillance. Both are clearly an intrusion into personal space that’s completely unacceptable (by the way, that’s the main reason why we always recommend that you install Kickidler openly and inform all employees about the software and the data it collects).

In all three cases, the software described above will be called Bossware, but the degree of its acceptability – both ethically and legally – will vary. Therefore, we make a simple conclusion – there is no way to give an overall assessment of the entire segment of the monitoring software, and one needs to understand the details. 

Rating Different Functions of The Bossware 

So, you’ve decided to introduce employee surveillance and other monitoring techniques into your company. Based on our experience, we’ve divided all major functions of surveillance software into three categories:

Unproblematic

Deserves attention

To be used only in specific circumstances

  • Collecting statistics on time spent using different apps and visiting various websites;
  • Collecting statistics on time spent at the computer (helps keep track of smokers, latecomers, etc.);
  • Notifying of work schedule violations (without the participation of the boss);
  • Showing employees the reports on their productivity;
  • Keeping track of printed documents;
  • Blocking software installation or usage.
  • Keylogger (collecting data regarding the keystrokes);
  • Online monitoring of things that happen on the monitor (both in the form of recordings and real-time);
  • Screenshotting open apps and web pages;
  • Video recording of the history of activity on the computer;
  • Monitoring email usage – what was sent to whom and when;
  • Monitoring messengers and social networks – with or without message interception;
  • Remote computer control – with or without employee request;
  • Monitoring files – when and what document was opened, copied, created, etc.).

 

  • Using hidden surveillance (employees have no idea they’re being watched)
  • Monitoring the webcam and microphone;
  • Blocking access to certain sites;
  • GPS tracking of the employee’s location.

“Green zone” functionality is the foundation of quality monitoring. In fact, if your goal is to keep your employees from sneaking around and make sure they spend their time actually working, the overall statistics on the apps that are being used is more than enough. It’s easy to explain the need for such monitoring to your team. No one will argue with the fact that the supervisor has to monitor the activity of their employees.

“Orange zone” are the tools that are designed to solve three tasks that are more difficult:

1. Individual work with problematic employees – those who procrastinate, wander around, get distracted easily and so on. If you see in Kickidler’s time reports that an employee regularly wastes hours doing nothing and simple conversations with them are fruitless, it’s time to deal with the situation thoroughly. Keylogger and the ability to see what happens on a subordinate’s computer at the moment can be considered stronger control measures that will help discipline the employee and provide you with a comprehensive view of the situation. But keep in mind that many people have a negative attitude towards this kind of monitoring, and essentially this is the last resort;

2. Improvement of performance indicators. In a situation like this, you are generally satisfied with your employees, but you want to work on the business processes of the company – improve the scripts that support specialists use while interacting in the chat, simplify some coordination, etc. Viewing keyboard logs and screens of your employees will help you detect weak spots that your subordinates have grown used to. The main thing is to make everyone aware that you’re satisfied and aren’t planning to punish anyone for anything. For example, introduce employee surveillance at the same time as the bonuses for good work;

3. Prevention of the leaks in the company and insurance in case of legal proceedings. Again, it’s important to explain exactly what such strict control is being introduced for – and at the same time show employees that decent employees have nothing to worry about – employee tracking software is just an additional alibi and proof of their innocence.

Overall, the main recommendation for the “green” and “orange” zones is to show the employees the benefits of the monitoring. Give bigger bonuses and certificates on the basis of Kickidler reports, consider promotions and professional development – let people see that the implementation of the monitoring system benefits not only the company, but them personally as well.

And finally, “Red zone” of Bossware. You should use it only in extreme cases. Such approaches can cause problems at the company level. The only exception is when you know for sure that there is a “mole” in the company and open surveillance will scare them off. But in that case, no one should ever know that there was a mole, so you'll need to do some extra work to ensure the confidentiality of using software to track employees. 

Here at Kickidler, we strongly recommend that you communicate openly with your employees about any monitoring methods you use. Transparency, disclosure and competent results processing are what make monitoring truly effective.

List of most used bossware 

To make matters a bit easier for you, we’ve compiled a list with the bossware examples that are most commonly used for monitoring employee productivity.

First things first, no such list can be complete without a mention of our solution, which has been found to be quite superior to most other similar solutions on the market. Kickidler has a plethora of visual monitoring tools that make it pretty much impossible for unscrupulous employees to cheat the solution.

Other honorary mentions include Teramind and Hubstaff; however, both of these tools still have some blind spots that might cost your company quite a lot.

If you want to get a more all-encompassing look into possible bossware solutions for you to choose from, we highly recommend that you check out the rating of best monitoring software we’ve compiled based on the most often requested features and functionality of such solutions.

Detecting bossware

If you as an employer are worried that some of your most tech-savvy subordinates can be looking for ways to get around the monitoring, we’ve compiled an extensive list of the most common ways people may try and detect the monitoring solution.

To summarize, there isn’t an option for your employees to detect it if they do not have corresponding admin rights (so be careful who you assign them to). They simply won’t be able to access Task Manager, run the command line or even download some kind of anti-spyware solution if you don’t choose to allow them Administrator rights. And even if they decide to turn to such an approach as social engineering (e.g., reaching out to their colleagues from IT or HR teams), it might eventually turn to be a waste of their time and efforts.

Legal aspect of using bossware 

First, it is imperative to research the laws of your state and country regarding employee data privacy as thoroughly as possible. The main concern should be not gaining access to any personal information (which can be done by forewarning your team on the monitoring).

To make sure you adhere to the laws, here are some points we suggest you cover prior to implementing bossware in your company:

  • informing employees that personal use of work computers is prohibited and issuing a corresponding policy;
  • obtaining written consent from the staff regarding the collection of certain data on their work computers.

We cannot stress highly enough that any type of monitoring software is best to be deployed transparently. Notifying personnel that their performance will be monitored is a wise move not only in terms of legal intricacies, but also in terms of overall team spirit and everybody’s morale.

If you want to go a bit more in-depth on this topic, we have a legal opinion on our blog regarding the whole issue of whether such monitoring is legal.

Bossware pros and cons

In our humble opinion, advantages of bossware far outweigh any potential drawbacks.

When used in a competent manner, bossware can tremendously increase the efficiency of managers. Having a comprehensive overview of everything the teams do during their billable hours at work helps managers make unbiased and proficient decisions. Such solutions are also beneficial for employees themselves, since they can use the self-monitoring features to get a better understanding of their work patterns and tendencies, further improving their productivity and overall performance

Meanwhile, the most prominent drawback of implementing bossware is the potential aversion of employees to the monitoring in general. We cannot ignore the fact that there will always be people who are simply anti bossware. In dealing with such employees, your best plan of action would be to prove to them with concrete actions that implementing such monitoring solutions is beneficial to everybody involved. 

As we’ve already mentioned, such solutions can help with increasing both the managers’ efficiency and the employees’ productivity, collecting essential analytical data, supervising remote employees more proficiently, and providing insurance against any potential sensitive data loss.

Kickidler Employee Monitoring Software

Alicia Rubens

As a tech enthusiast and senior writer at Kickidler, I specialize in creating insightful content that helps businesses optimize their workforce management.

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