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Is your boss spying on you?

Is your boss spying on you?

Imagine arriving at work tomorrow to find a black box under your desk that monitors your every move. Big Brother is now your boss. But this is not a dystopian future, it is now. The same scenario surprised her journalists from Telegraph in 2016, who quickly discovered the purpose of the mysterious boxes and complained enough that management will give back .

Such a move will not make workers fall in love with their bosses, but it could have more psychological effects beyond adding to their list of reasons why they do not like senior management. In fact, academics agree that while electronic monitoring may seem like the right step to increase productivity, the demotivation it causes could nullify any benefits.

But what kind of technology is available to your employer and how much supervision can you legally use? Here we answer these questions and take a look at what all this means for the inside of the skull.

Big Brother boss: office espionage technology

The black box that journalists from Telegraph discovered under their desks was OccupEye, a heat and motion detection device designed to record how often an employee stays at their office. Generally used to see how well space is used in an office, such as how many people can be crowded.

Of course, not only workers are monitored Telegraph . Companies have long monitored employees through connections and keystrokes on laptops, GPS to track trucks or delivery cars, call recording or just the traditional security camera in the break room. But thanks to advances in sensors, algorithms and other technologies, much more can now be monitored.

Australian miners, drivers and others use SmartCaps to scan their brains for fatigue and increase safety, while an application from Plasticity Labs analyzes workers around the clock to track their happiness and try to improve. well-being. NCR software sees a large number of canceled sales in stores and restaurants, a sign of a possible theft, and BP in the US handed Fitbit trackers to staff as part of a health campaign. Even truck telematics is used to monitor drivers’ behavior, allowing bosses to send a message asking them to lock up; while the AIG insurer invests in the safety of human conditions, which carries safety vests aimed at preventing injuries with sensors.

All of this may sound more like a worried mother than an older brother, but there are others: companies can even use GPS on smartphones at work to see where employees have gone out of office. Although it is an extreme use of technology, this article in the Wall Street Journal About a pest control business owner who used GPS to track and trigger drivers who are hesitant at work will provide a scam during business hours.

Big Brother Boss: What can your employer do?

Not surprisingly, emails sent between employees on the company’s server are a fair game, but your boss can do so much more than that. According to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, employers «have the right to control their activities in many situations at work», listing the possibility of opening a post or e-mail; recording phone calls; see which websites you visit and record it on your camera.

«Big Brother bosses don’t get the best employees. Staff who are spied on are less productive and less healthy. «

The European Court of Human Rights ruled this week that a company can read private messages sent during working hours. The case surrounds a Romanian engineer who claimed that his employer violated his right to privacy by accessing Yahoo Messenger. The court disagreed, given the company’s claim that since the account was originally created to talk to business contacts, the company should have access to it in the same way as the work email, even though the worker he also used it for private conversations.

This doesn’t mean that your boss can access your personal Gmail account, simply because he or she checks it from time to time at work, but if your company has a policy against personal communication during business hours, you could you lose your job. no matter how unreasonable it is.

In fact, General Secretary of the Congress of the Union, Frances O’Grady, warned companies not to see the decision as a green signal to spy on workers’ emails. «Big Brother bosses don’t get the best employees,» he told the BBC. «People who are spied on are less productive and less healthy.» And academics agree.

Big Brother boss: mental health and monitoring

Monitoring technology can catch late employees, fool salespeople and sleepy drivers, but can also affect everyone’s mental health under the supervision of the boss.

Kirstie Ball, a professor of organization at the Open University Business School and director of the Research Center for Information Surveillance and Privacy, has studied in detail how monitoring makes staff feel. Employee observation is part of a manager’s job, he notes, but can become controversial when there is little trust between employees and management. These trust issues may arise when jobs are exposed to risk, on-the-job supervision has not been explained or staff feel powerless to challenge decisions made from this data and information collected by the supervisor.

«The main issue is how supervision at work can increase workers’ stress, including things like low self-esteem, anxiety and depression,» he told Alphr. If monitoring intensifies physical work, the consequences may also include musculoskeletal pain and discomfort.

«The main issue is how supervision at work can increase workers’ stress, including things like low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.»

Researchers Debora Jeske and Alecia Santuzzi noted that covert, continuous or unpredictable surveillance tends to generate «more negative attitudes at work and towards the organization», which is not surprising, but clearly did not occur to The Telegraph management. . Their research also suggests that close supervision causes employees to report more stress and feel out of control over the organization of their workload.

“EPM [monitoreo electrónico del desempeño] it can have indirect influences to the extent that employees can organize work activities according to their own preferences, which could have negative effects on employees’ reactions and performance results, ”adds his report.

The study also found a «harmful» effect on staff due to phone, camera and IM / chat monitoring, especially «in-flight» checks that do not allow staff time to correct a mistake before a manager detects it. However, less invasive monitoring, such as recording connection times to computers and tracking locations, has not been harmful, potentially because they have been used in specific and sensitive industries, such as healthcare or finance, where and the employee saw the need.

And whether or not management cares about your mental well-being, Jeske and Santuzzi’s research finds that job satisfaction «has been shown to have a modest, but relatively consistent, positive influence on job performance.» They add: «Therefore, the informational benefits of implementing EPM functions should be considered in light of the potential unexpected costs of performance due to negative psychological reactions of employees.»

Big Brother Boss: Welfare Stalking

Of course, as sensor technology improves and becomes more ubiquitous, the effects can worsen. «The most important thing for me right now is corporate health, which is linked to the sensor technology that has caused controversy at The Telegraph,» says Professor Ball. «However, many of these programs are based on staff using portable technologies that expose their built-in outdoor practices for bosses to see. I feel less comfortable with this due to the level of knowledge of what a person is doing, the type of conclusions that can be drawn about it, the possibilities of pursuit, etc. «

Although the technology may be new, the challenge is not, he notes. «There will always be a struggle to maintain the limits of the self that works and does not work, but human beings are very cunning. We are now in an age where people need to consciously manage their work and non-work identities. «

«Today there is a lot more work involved in managing your identity at work and maintaining personal boundaries when you work.»

And while Ball points out that there is no «agreed definition» of privacy, the idea is useful for drawing a line between work and play. «Employers can get a much more detailed picture of who works for them, how they are, where they are, etc.,» he said. «Today there is much more work involved in managing identity, including electronic identity, at work and in maintaining personal boundaries when working. It has also changed the boundaries between work and non-work environments, making it more difficult to manage. «

«Confidentiality is a useful concept to implement not only to protect time away from work, but also the spaces in which we live, close personal and family relationships, non-professional life in general,» he added. In other words, keeping your privacy away from your Big Brother boss may be the only way to keep your health at work. It may be wise to resist the temptation to take home that «free» step counter that management offers.