Can Bosses Legally Spy on Home Offices?


Many of us came to know the wonders of remote work in recent months. The transition to a digital workspace was difficult for several people, but many found comfort in a workspace environment that seemingly offered more freedom and independence.

Without having a supervisor present to physically breathe down your neck, many workers thrived. However, don’t let the comfort of your home office trick you into thinking that no one is watching. Could your boss legally soy on your remote working activities?

Learning the truth about what spying activities are legal for your boss helps protect you from any unexpected problems.

Is Remote Work Genuine?

Photo of a person working on a laptop while writing into a notepad

For many people, remote work sounds almost too good to be true. However, this is one of those rare cases where it is totally real—most of the time. Millions of people work from home, and many governments encouraged the practice during COVID-19 (although home offices existed long before the pandemic).

While you should be wary of sketchy job offers, it’s legal for offices to allow you to work from your home office. However, don’t let the comfort of the home office fool you into thinking no one monitors you.

Why Would Bosses Monitor You?

Most obviously, bosses want to make sure you do your work. They want to make sure you do what they pay you for and that you get your work done.

Different bosses have different approaches to “watching” their employees. Some simply decide that as long as you get your work done, you are good to go. Other bosses involve themselves significantly more in their everyday affairs.

Nothing is more annoying than that one boss who has unrealistic expectations on productivity or gets at you for every little thing. It is especially annoying if the boss doesn’t understand much about work or gets upset over simple things that everyone engages in.

No matter how good of employees we are, most of us slip up every once in a while. Talking nonsense with other employees or opening funny links on company time is pretty normal. While you technically shouldn’t do it, it still happens.

In some ways, the home office facilitated sneaky breaks and hidden conversations that were difficult to do with a boss looming around the workspace. However, in some cases, bosses have a bigger spotlight on you than ever.

How Can Bosses Monitor You?

Sure, they may not be physically present, but that doesn’t change the fact they have everything they need to watch you. When you work from a computer, it is not difficult for bosses to use programs or platforms that monitor every part of your online activity (or lack thereof).

Tracking software is not new for remote work. Anyone who ever took an hourly contract at Upwork knows that many contractors expect you to use special tracking software to secure guaranteed payment.

This software would record the “activity” of your computer during logged hours for both you and your employer to see. It records activity by examining your typing and clicking. It may be misleading as some jobs require a lot of reading, where your activity would be minimal.

Likewise, having high amounts of activity is easy to fake by constantly clicking without getting any work done. To help control for this, the software took periodic screenshots of your computer to save (which it always showed you).

The same type of software is available through other programs, and some bosses adopted it into their systems. With such programs, they may see you clicking away at a meeting or failing to register any activity on your computer during work hours.

These activity recorders are some of the more tame and private ways to monitor employees. Some people found out that their bosses used spyware on them, literally recording their computer sessions.

It gets quite invasive when the programs continue working when you should have privacy. Imagine what would happen if your boss decided to read through all your “private” chats at work or continued recording activity during your breaks.

Some shocked people found out bosses continued spying on them when they were off the clock completely.

Is Spying Illegal?

Person wearing anonymous mask sitting at the computer

In many cases, spying on employees is not legal. Spyware is an invasion of privacy that many counties prohibit if no prior permission is received.

However, if you do give your permission, they have the right to track you with spyware. You must review your company policies to know what they have the rights to do. If they ask you to use a particular working platform or download some work program, read the terms and conditions of these sites.

Many companies did not adapt their policies to accommodate the lifestyle of the home office. Don’t let outdated policies act as a sort of loophole to get around monitoring you.

Companies that violate privacy laws get into a lot of trouble, and this is an offense which no one should take lightly. Just because you do everything you should and have nothing to hide does not mean a company can blatantly spy on you.

What Should I Do If I Think My Boss Spied on Me?

The best thing for you to address any spyware concerns is to have a conversation with your boss. If they seem dismissive or refuse to discuss the matter, bring any concerns to the attention of your Human Resources department.

There are ways to detect spyware on your devices. However, it’s best to talk to your employer directly. Companies need to adapt to the digital world, which means reevaluating old policies to accommodate the modern world instead of exploiting outdated wording.

Should I Worry That My Boss Spies on Me?

While you should not live in fear of your boss watching your every move, it’s a good idea to make yourself aware of any policies your workplace has. Bosses can’t spy on you without your permission, so be wary of skipping through those terms and conditions before you click them.

You should always give it your all when you’re on the clock, but that doesn’t mean that having privacy won’t give you peace of mind.


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