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Déjà Leonard is a copywriter and freelance journalist based in Calgary.

You log in to your work computer, coffee in hand, sweatpants on, ready to work. It’s just you, your tasks for the day and anyone else you might share a living space with – or is it?

According to a recent report from, an internet security firm that reviews VPN services, the demand for employee surveillance software is up 59 per cent since the pandemic started.

While this may seem sinister to some, and unsurprising to others, the uptick in interest isn’t completely unwarranted. One study reveals that eight in 10 remote workers in the U.S. admit to slacking off during work hours, and more than 43 per cent admitted to visiting pornographic websites on their laptops.

The problem with surveillance software

“The rapid rise of such invasive software risks setting new standards of workplace surveillance and dramatically undermining employees’ right to privacy,” the top10vpn report states.

While privacy is a concern, when you dig deeper, the more prominent issue for both employers and employees may be withdrawal.

Research from behavioural Scientist suggests that when people know they are being monitored, the breakdown in trust can lead to disengagement, which ultimately, and somewhat ironically, leads to even less productivity.

The report shows two of the most popular software for monitoring employees included Hubstaff and FlexiSPY. Here’s a quick look at some of the features of these software.

  • Screen monitoring
  • Keystroke logging (recording the keys struck on a keyboard)
  • Location tracking
  • Time tracking

Everything Hubstaff can do, plus:

  • Remote-control take over
  • Call tapping
  • Webcam surveillance
  • Instant messaging (IM) monitoring

How governments and people are taking action

Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta have long required employers to be transparent about their personal information collection practices. Recently, Ontario became the first province to require companies with more than 25 employees to disclose if and how they are being monitored electronically including through computers, cellphones, GPS systems and other devices.

“It is another step forward in our fight to rebalance the scales, put more workers in the driver’s seat of their careers,” Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said in a news release.

If you are wondering if your employer is monitoring you, there are a few tricks you can use, such as checking the background processes running on your computer.

You can also consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to evade monitoring of internet activity, but that may raise red flags for your employer. Another common measure is to put tape or a webcam cover over the camera on your computer when it’s not in use.

There are also many ways to make it look like you’re working when you’re not, including apps like Mouse Move, which simulates user activity.

With working remotely continuing to be the norm, transparency will be key as we see company and employee expectations and legislation evolve around the issue.

What I’m reading around the web

  • Football – or soccer depending on where you’re reading this – meets therapy in an impactful initiative called Time to Tackle. Read on to discover how Aaron Connolly, who tried to take his own life in 2019, is bringing people together to get active and share their stories without judgment.
  • Are we back to normal? Apple says no in their latest move, deciding to delay their plan that requires U.S. workers to head back into the office three days a week because of an increase in COVID-19 cases. Plus, they’re requiring workers at some Apple store locations to wear masks again.
  • Potential employees have been flocking to the Airbnb site after the company announced they would allow remote work, permanently. There’s no doubt the competition for a role there will be high, but the CEO recently shared the top trait you need to land a job there.
  • When it comes to sports, people tend to be all-in or puzzled as to why anyone could be so invested in a team they’re technically not part of. This fandom is about more than entertainment; according to this article in CNBC, being a sports fan comes with many benefits and is a “very psychologically healthy activity.”

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