Software companies that track staff working from home have all reported a significant increase in their business as remote working has become the ‘new normal’ during the global pandemic. 

With the rise of working from home, an increasing amount of companies have opted to track employees’ work using software. Hubstaff has said that, since February, their amount of UK customers have quadrupled from its typical year-on-year figures. Similarly, ActivTrak reported seeing a tripling of sales requests and license increases from current customers. Due to this rising trend, HRreview has asked the experts whether this is acceptable – from a legal standpoint and for the professional relationship between employers and employees.

Sally Mewies, head of technology at law firm Walker Morris, encourages employers to err on the side of caution:

Data protection laws detail certain checks and balances that an employer will need to carry out, including; a detailed assessment of the impact on the individual’s privacy as a result of the monitoring, and a balancing of the interests of the employer against those of the employee.

Even when employers are satisfied that the monitoring is both justified and lawful, they will need to update privacy notices and policies and ensure that the employees are made aware in an open and transparent way about the undertaking of the monitoring.

Alan Price, employment law expert and CEO of BrightHR, offers an alternative to tracking employees:

Technically, it is legal for employers to monitor computer usage of their employees to keep track of productivity and protect legitimate businesses interests. However, employees may feel untrusted by management, especially if they are getting work done and there have never been any issues with their productivity in the past. This could if poorly managed, be very damaging to the overall employment relationship.

Instead, it may be better to explore other options. For example, remote employees could be given clear targets to work towards during the day and asked to justify why these have not been met. If management is not satisfied with these explanations, they could then seek to take further action against these employees.

Robert Ordever, managing director of workplace culture consultancy, O.C. Tanner Europe, strongly advises against tracking employees:
Any employer that requires tracking software to assess productivity, has much bigger problems than productivity. The leaders should instead focus on creating a culture of trust, empowerment and collaboration in which there is a greater purpose that connects everyone towards a common goal. And there needs to be ongoing recognition so that those performing well are ‘called out’ and rewarded, encouraging positive behaviours to be repeated. This then creates a desire to do well rather than a fear of simply being ‘inactive’.