Employee tracking apps surge as telecommuting continues

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In the U.S., businesses can ask their employees to download software that records which websites they’re on, takes screenshots of their computer, and tracks their cell phones. Photo by Pixabay.

An increasing number of companies are turning to tracking software to measure their employees’ productivity as they’re working from home. In the U.S., businesses can ask their employees to download software that records which websites they’re on, takes screenshots of their computer, and tracks their cell phones. 

“It runs right up to the line in terms of the creepiness factor, but it is legal,” says New York Times tech reporter Adam Satariano.

He tested the app called Hubstaff, which took screenshots of his computer every 10 seconds, tracked his location on his phone, and sent a daily productivity report to his manager. He said after three weeks, he was glad when the experiment was done.

“It made me more productive, but it also added this ickiness factor that was I think counterproductive,” he says.

Satariano says his productivity score was usually under 50% because it only tracks things like keystrokes and mouse movements, and not time he spent doing phone interviews.

Even so, companies making the apps say they’ve seen surges in trials and sales since the pandemic forced many employers to manage people working from home for the first time.

He says the tech analyst firm Gartner found that 16% of companies were using similar software in April. By June, that was up to 26%.