The advances of remote work monitoring tools

The use of remote work monitoring or remote management and monitoring (RMM) systems and tools are not new. RMM have been traditionally deployed to manage remote devices (cars, trucks, computers). Back in 2014, Forbes published an article outlining truckers complaints. They argue that the monitoring systems were intrusive. At the time RMM were utilized by trucking companies to locate corporate vehicles, control speed and even view what the drivers were doing in their cabs remotely.

Almost eight years ago, the remote work monitoring (RMM) technology was considered advanced in its ability to track in real time and up to the minute transactional data such as the precise pick up, delivery times and duration. Managers seeking to improve fleet safety records could download data on speed, braking, turning techniques– and unauthorized stops. At the time, these RMM were credited with a significant reduction in the “severity and frequency” of truck accidents.

Remote Work Monitoring Tools: Nanny Cam the Beginning

Remote work monitoring tools didn’t begin with the trucking industry. In 1992, the first “Nanny Cam” was created. The Nanny Cam was perhaps the first RMM used to monitor an employee / contractor. The Nanny Cam was a small camera with exceedingly high resolution that enabled working parents to hide the device in unsuspecting areas. This allowed them to surveil nannies and housekeepers undetected while they were away.

Remote Monitoring and CCTV

Again, remote monitoring and remote management didn’t begin with the Nanny Cam either. Let’s talk about CCTV. Wide use of video surveillance became prevalent in Europe back in the 1970 with the introduction of CCTV. Closed circuit television or video surveillance gathered steam in England. The main purpose of CCTV was to record and capture criminal acts as they happened. For the next three decades up to 2000, public resistance to the installation of CCTV systems decreased. It became routine for CCTVs to be installed in public locations like banks, schools and malls. An natural outgrowth of installations at public places expanded to ‘open street surveillance’ to include metros, streets, and areas frequented by tourists.

What a difference a day makes! Well, on the account of COVID-19, remote monitoring and management RMM technology has expanded in depth, breadth and scope. While at the same time it has come full circle; from a macro standpoint to monitor an operation system-wide; to a mirco standpoint with the purpose of monitoring an individual’s movements, keyboard taps and screen time microscopically. Much like the RMM systems and tools used to track and monitor trucker movements and work techniques.

Remote Work Monitoring and Management Systems in Vogue

Why are remote work monitoring and management systems in vogue? Because productivity losses due to lowered worker output can kill a business. Science Direct defines productivity loss in one of two ways. We will focus on the just one. The loss of productivity in a corporate occurs when employees are being paid but are not performing up to par. In essence there are workers being paid but they are adding relatively little value for the amount of salary expended.

Lower Worker Productivity can be Linked to Lower Worker Engagement

Another facet to lower employee productivity is lack of employee engagement. Gallup estimated back in 2010-2012 that disengaged employees can cost companies up to a half trillion dollars! Or between $450 billion to $550 billion dollars each year. This is not, however, the most daming news! Gallup determined that:

  • 70% of the American workforce have failed to realize their true potential,
  • 52% are passive and not fully engaged as they carry out their daily job tasks and responsibilities, and
  • 18% are actively disengaged and may be working to sabotage the company; not connected to the firm emotionally, may steal, may drive customers elsewhere, negatively influence their colleagues, and/or ‘bad mouth’ the company.

Remote Monitoring and Management is a way to Connect to Remote Workers

Remote monitoring and management tools may be a way to connect with remote workers. Of the many suggestions Gallup provides to human resource executives and managers interested in improving employee engagement and therefore productivity, one stood out. “Find ways to connect” with employees is a recommended strategy relevant to the remote work monitoring and remote work management tracking systems solution.

Legally, the Washington Post informs us that employers can conduct the following video surveillance:

  • Collect keyboard stroke and mouse data from your corporate issued laptop to identify periods of activity and inactivity,
  • Collect time stamp information to record when a remote employee logs into and off the system,
  • Identify which social media sites visited, scrolled, and for how long (more than five minutes may be too long),
  • Gather video and audio data from your camera, webcam and speaker if using a corporate issued computer to make screen shots of your desktop in regular intervals,
  • Access to your search browser via your corporate issued computer and/or through the unencrypted corporate network traffic,
  • Export messages sent on employee collaboration tools (MS Teams, Zoom, Slack, etc),
  • Initiate random chats and take remote worker photos to check-in on workers working remotely,
  • View which websites you visit if using corporate internet connections, and
  • Access the emails you read, write and send from your company assigned email account.

In the Spring 2021, just 30% of large employers utilized remote monitoring and management systems to track their employees. Now, it is estimated that at least 60% do so. So while remote workers, hybrid workers, those who work from anywhere and work from home; just remember. While you advocate for more remote work opportunities you invite your employer into your home environment. As you do, be on your guard especially when you are on the clock. You can and most likely will be surveilled as your time is not your own.