Watching you WFH

Surveillance software monitors employees as they work from home.

A recent Stanford University study showed that working from home can increase productivity by up to 13% but companies need to efficiently transform higher productivity into results or risk losing control over their workforce.

In Brazil, this trend has resulted in a significant increase in the use of remote software solutions for human resource monitoring and planning, prompting a new privacy debate. A human resources executive at a large Brazilian firm observed, “Software to monitor employees already existed so it’s natural that some companies rolled them out to monitor what their staff are doing while they work from home. IT companies offering these ’employee surveillance’ platforms have increased their sales volumes incredibly, like 2,000%.”

“Software to monitor employees already existed so it’s natural that some companies rolled them out to monitor what their staff are doing while they work from home.”

Human resources executive, Brazilian multinational

In Brazil, large companies are requiring their employees to activate their company software during their workday. When the software is on, the company sees all the activity carried out by its employees, use of emails, use of apps, internal chats, cameras and even if a system which reports on whether the employee is sitting in front of the laptop screen.

Some Brazilian labour lawyers have described this new phenomenon as a Corporate Big Brother which, in Brazil, is as yet unregulated so that it is not illegal for companies to spy on their employees. Labour lawyers insist that companies have the right to monitor their employees during their working hours as long as they do not use their personal data and do not share internet data generated by individuals during their work hours.

From a human resources perspective these measures have been criticised as implying that companies do not trust their employees, suggesting a larger problem in their recruiting process. Sector specialists recommend that companies inform their workers and give them freedom to use the monitoring software, or not.

“In my view, the opportunity for this software lies in trying to help employees instead of ‘stalking’ them.”

Professor of social communications, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

A Professor of social communications at the University of Sao Paulo (USP), Brazil, saw an opportunity, “In my view, the opportunity for this software lies in trying to help employees instead of ‘stalking’ them. Companies can better understand how employees spend their time and what they are good at. This is a win-win situation as it generates happier employees doing what they like while companies make the most of their talents.”

It seems to be a very different picture in Chile, according to an experienced headhunter in Santiago, “Employer trust has increased in almost all industries in Chile. The pandemic has shown that employees are able to work remotely and still meet the same historic goals. Another interesting phenomenon is the growing interest in working remotely, but not at home, this has led to a market for temporary or shared offices in residential neighbourhoods.”

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