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Are you being watched?

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Friday March 19, 2010 )

Reading this from work or at home on a company computer? Here’s something to keep in mind.

All the studies that have been churned out over the last few years about worker productivity and the distraction of the Internet have taken their toll and it has becoming increasingly common for companies to monitor their staff’s computer activities.

I remember a few years back a colleague lamenting a new job he had started where all his keystrokes and mouse activity were logged. It wasn’t sneakily implemented, it was mentioned in the contract. This sort of monitoring seems to be a more common occurrence now according to an article on USA Today that gives the example of a single company providing monitoring solutions to over 10,000 US businesses.

Unlike in the past, monitoring staff computer activities doesn’t require high tech skills or a bunch of cash – there’s very easy ways and and cheap software applications that can do the job now.

Sometimes monitoring isn’t an official company program as such. I’ve known companies where the guys in the IT department get their kicks by checking logs and caches of any staff member that brings in a company computer for repair or updating. If you have ever wondered how a rumor has started up within a company, sometimes that’s where it comes from.

I’m not up to speed on any relevant privacy laws and they would differ from country to country, but unless you are a contractor working off site via your own connection and using your own equipment, work on the premise you are being monitored – whether its in your contract or not.

I think while employers have a right to getting their money’s worth from an employee and company equipment shouldn’t be abused, these issues should be approached with an even hand. If employers are working in a cubicle type arrangement or their only view from the window is a brick wall, cutting a little slack and letting them surf a bit in a micro-break can actually help improve productivity.


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