As we find ourselves in the fast-paced, ever-changing landscape due to COVID-19, many companies are struggling to stay open, maintain operating costs or adapt to remote work.

Amid these challenges, one industry is booming: employee monitoring software.

This all started in late March. As I was scrolling across Reddit, I happened to notice a post by someone discussing their anger over a recent initiative at their workplace involving software called Sneek.

Sneek describes itself as a workplace connectivity tool, more akin to Skype or Microsoft Teams than Spyrix Free Keylogger (a keystroke counting software tool). However, when evaluating these products, it appears that their purpose is blurred.

Consider the following: Sneek uses webcams to take pictures of the employee at their remote workstation every 1-5 minutes. Is this socializing? Is this monitoring productivity? If so, how is productivity measured?

Should workplaces invest in these types of tools? What are the implications—for employers and employees?

One thing is obvious: Employers are clearly investing in these types of tools as well as others that count keystrokes, record screens, or monitor or block the use of websites and apps.

In addition to Sneek and Spyrix, other popular products include InterGuard, Hubstaff and VeriClock. Nearly all of them include metrics to assure management that employees are fulfilling their duties.

Are these tools something your organization is interested in? Should they be? Employee monitoring software helps hold employees accountable, highlight trustworthy employees, create performance standards, and provides data to make organizations more efficient. However, these tools also raise privacy concerns and erode trust.

My advice is to decide what kind of organization you are and what is in line with your mission, vision and values. Leadership is deciding what kind of organization you are and emulating those characteristics.

I’ll leave you with quotes from two different leaders with two different viewpoints on the topic, which you can reflect on during your decision-making process:

  • “It’s not because of lack of trust,” Miller said, who compared the software to banks using security cameras. “It’s because it’s imprudent not to do it.”
  • “It’s not about spying on the user,” Sutton said. “If you hired them, you should trust them. If you don’t, they have no reason to be part of the organization.”