Which software can monitor the working hours of the employees

monitoring : How employees are monitored in the home office

Berlin - A few weeks ago, the employees of the bank holding company Axos Financial received an email from the boss. It said: You are under observation! We evaluate your keystrokes! We save your visited websites! And every ten minutes we take a screenshot of your screen!

The reason for the strict employee monitoring: an apparently somewhat too literal understanding of home office. "We saw individual employees who took unfair advantage of flexible working time arrangements," quoted the Bloomberg news agency from the circular. The tone of voice sounds anything but friendly: workers who do not do their daily tasks can expect disciplinary measures.

Monitoring in the workplace is not a new phenomenon. For example, investment banks in London had rows of motion detectors installed on their desks to check whether the bankers were at their workplaces. But now that most office workers work from home, this form of physical surveillance is hardly possible. The supervisor cannot see whether an employee is taking long breaks or constantly having private conversations in the kitchenette. Therefore, spy software that monitors employees in the home office is currently booming.

In the Corona crisis, numerous companies are relying on the Sneek video chat tool, which takes a photo of the conference participants every five minutes. In this way the boss can see exactly whether his employees are currently sitting at the screen.

Company laptops can also be controlled remotely: With the Interguard software, for example, all kinds of activities can be tracked: e-mails, website visits, programs called, open folders, keyboard entries. This allows real logbooks of usage behavior to be created. Who was on Facebook for how long? Who read the sports news during work hours? Who was on the shopping site? The computer program can be configured in such a way that when certain keywords such as "customer list" or "pricing" are entered, screenshots are automatically made, which are then saved for possible internal investigations.

The software is not only used to uncover violations of labor law in the area of ​​compliance, but also to measure productivity. At the end of the 19th century, the American engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor was still standing in the factory halls with a stopwatch to measure the productivity of workers. Today there is no longer any need for complex series of measurements - computer programs are sufficient.

In addition to Interguard, there are a number of other software providers such as Time Doctor, Teramind or VeriClock that record productivity metrics such as working hours or the number of emails sent. Applications such as Time Doctor also rely on nudging techniques: Employees get a nudge if they spend too much time on Facebook or YouTube. A reminder message then pops up on the screen: "Are you still working on ...?" It is as if the boss is paying a control visit.

Sometimes programs run in the background that learn from employees' routines and recognize anomalies. Interguard's software warns managers when employees engage in suspicious behavior, such as printing a confidential list of customers and printing out a résumé, suggesting that the person is leaving the company and wants to benefit from the customer base. Algorithms keep records on an ongoing basis.

In China, digital surveillance goes one step further: with the DingTalk office software, presence and absence can be precisely controlled. The system administrator defines a wifi network or GPS coordinates as the place of work. When the employees come to the office in the morning and automatically log into the WLAN with their smartphone, they prick the digital time clock without any further action. If employees go to lunch or to the toilet and are therefore out of WiFi range, they unconsciously stab again. Tricks on the digital time clock are virtually impossible - login or location data do not lie.

The fact that Taylorism works more efficiently with digital technologies than with analog measuring devices such as the stopwatch has above all to do with the fact that digitization itself operates like a Tayloristic program by continuously carrying out time and movement studies and expressing serial action steps in numbers. How long an employee read through an instruction manual was difficult to quantify in the first industrial revolution. In the digital age, it is not only possible to quantify the reading time, but also to determine which words are marked. A simple example that shows how close time tracking and control are.

In 1914 the automobile pioneer Henry Ford sent out inspectors who were supposed to examine the living environment of the workers: how they live, whether they are tidy and whether they spend their wages on alcohol and cigarettes. Today you no longer have to send out inspectors - management can simply use computer technology.