Bossware, or employee surveillance and monitoring software, is a turn off for many tech workers, despite industry analysis finding it’s on the rise.

Around half of tech workers would quit if they have to be monitored at work with facial recognition or audio/video recordings, a new survey conducted by Morning Consult has found.

Other types of bossware, namely keystroke tracking and remote access to computers to take screenshots, are also a turn off, with about half of respondents indicating they would resign if these were introduced in their workplaces.

Bossware on the rise

Some three-quarters of tech workers are not currently monitored, according to the 2022 survey across the computer industry, medical, pharmaceutical, communications, software and aerospace.

However, this figure could be higher, with a separate survey by finding 60 per cent of companies with remote staff use monitoring software.

This looks set to change, with workplace virtual monitoring introduced through the pandemic expected to become more commonplace.

The number of large employers using tools to track workers has doubled since the beginning of the pandemic to 60 per cent and this number is expected to hit 70 per cent within the next three years, according to 2019 research from Gartner.

A fear about a drop off in productivity with remote work is unfounded, the research firm has found.

Some 55 per cent of employees are high performers when provided radical flexibility over where, when and with whom they work, versus 36 per cent of those working 9 to 5 in the office, Gartner’s research has shown.

“There is a widespread misconception that remote work leads to a decrease in employee productivity, despite data showing remote work leads to positive productivity outcomes,” said, Gartner distinguished VP analyst, Helen Poitevin.

Bossware bad for your health

With the squeeze on tech talent, the message to organisations is that now is not the time to adopt bossware, if they want to attract and retain their talent.

More than half of respondents in the Morning Consult survey would decline a role in an organisation using employee monitoring technology.

Remote monitoring is also bad for the health of workers.

Employee monitoring has been linked to job strain and mental health issues, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the US has found.

There are also very few enforceable regulations and standards that relate to employee monitoring, as well as job strain and mental health requirements in how to record, classify and protect employees.

More research is needed as well as action around enforcing standards in home offices where employers use bossware to monitor and control the activities of their workers, argues the Center for Democracy & Technology in a report.

Lack of transparency and data privacy fears

Employees are also put off by privacy concerns, with Gartner research showing less than half of employees trust their organisation with their data.

There’s also a real lack of communication, with 44 per cent having no information about what data is collected, according to the survey.

When there is communication on these topics, it tends to be poor, resulting in limited employee understanding and awareness of personal data usage.

With the growing adoption of bossware, Gartner expects to see new regulations emerge to introduce limits on what can be tracked about employees.

Organisations have too much leeway when it comes to adopting remote monitoring technology, Electronic Frontiers Foundation has said in its report on bossware, with protections needed, particularly in relation to data privacy laws.

It says surveillance must be necessary and proportionate and there should be tools available to limit what personal data is also scooped up during the surveillance.

Addendum 22/06/22: ’At present, NSW and ACT have workplace surveillance laws that cover general requirements on notifications and policies to do with employee surveillance.