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should employees be worried?


It is highly debatable whether or not remote work affects employee productivity. On the one hand, employers argue that remote work makes it simpler for individuals to avoid working. On the other hand, avoiding the commute and concentrating on work may increase productivity. Some employers attempt to answer this query by utilising software for employee tracking. This is referred to as Bossware. It is popular because it reduces squandered time and increases efficiency.

“Bossware” refers to software or tools that employers use to monitor and track the activities of their employees when they are working remotely or on company-owned devices.

Typically, these tools are intended to increase productivity, monitor employee performance, and guarantee that work-related duties are completed efficiently. It also incorporates more sophisticated software that monitors the user’s every action. It is ideally installed on a user’s computer with their consent, but it can also be used to monitor users without their knowledge. However, the use of Bossware can pose substantial privacy and legal issues.

Bossware Implementation

Notably, Bossware is simple to implement. It may be installed on a work computer before an employee receives it, or the employee may be required to install it as a condition of employment.

Some products are intended to notify users when they are being tracked, while others are intended to do the contrary. If the latter is installed on a computer, the user may be ignorant that it exists.

What is the Purpose?

Vendors of Bossware market their products for a variety of purposes. The most prevalent include time monitoring, productivity tracking, compliance with data protection laws, and prevention of IP theft. Some use cases may be valid; for instance, companies that deal with sensitive data frequently have legal obligations to prevent data leakage or theft. This may necessitate a certain level of device monitoring for remote employees. However, an employer should not conduct such monitoring for security purposes unless they can demonstrate that it is necessary, proportional, and tailored to the problems they are attempting to solve.

Must employees be aware of data collection and its purpose?

Common Bossware applications include time tracking, employee productivity monitoring, system monitoring, and compliance with data protection laws. Companies use it to monitor employee labour, but they cannot disclose the information. The instrument ensures that sensitive data is not leaked or stolen from company systems when used by businesses.

This may necessitate a certain level of device monitoring for off-site labourers and remote employees. A manager or employer should not monitor devices for security purposes unless absolutely necessary. Employers should inform employees that their devices are being monitored. Therefore, they should attempt to avoid accessing any personal files during working hours.

Here are some key points to consider regarding Bossware:

Legality of Bossware:

1. Legal Use: In many jurisdictions, it is legal for employers to monitor their employees’ work-related activities during working hours, especially when using company-provided equipment or networks. However, there are typically legal limits and requirements that must be adhered to.

2. Consent and Notification: Employers are often required to obtain the informed consent of their employees or provide clear notification about the use of monitoring software. Consent may be implied if it is part of the employment agreement or explicitly obtained from employees.

3. Privacy Laws: The use of Bossware must comply with applicable privacy laws and regulations. These laws vary by country and region but generally require employers to respect employees’ privacy rights and ensure that monitoring is reasonable and proportionate.

Privacy Issues with Bossware:

1. Intrusion on Privacy: Bossware can potentially intrude on an employee’s privacy by monitoring not only work-related activities but also personal activities and communications. This can include tracking websites visited, keystrokes, email content, and even webcam or screen capture.

2. Data Security: The data collected by Bossware may contain sensitive or personal information about employees. Employers have a responsibility to safeguard this data and protect it from unauthorized access or breaches.

3. Employee Distrust: The use of Bossware can lead to a lack of trust between employers and employees. When employees feel like they are being excessively monitored, it can create a negative work environment and impact morale.

4. Overreach: Employers must strike a balance between monitoring for legitimate business purposes and avoiding overreach. Overly invasive monitoring that goes beyond what is necessary for legitimate purposes can lead to legal and ethical issues.

5. Compliance with Data Protection Laws: Employers need to ensure that their use of Bossware complies with data protection laws, such as the GDPR in Europe or HIPAA in the United States, which have specific requirements for the handling of personal data.

Addressing Employee Concerns Regarding Bossware

The key to using Bossware is to be transparent and equitable about it. You want to educate your employees about the tool and ensure that you are communicating with them openly, so that there is no resentment or confusion.

Here are some strategies for promoting Bossware as a tool that will benefit your organisation:

Be Transparent

As an organisation, it is essential to explain to your employees how and when you collect their personal information using software, and to obtain their consent to these terms. Employers should provide employees with training on how the monitoring software operates and what to expect. This will help ensure the technology is used effectively and employees are on board with its use.

Remain Optimistic

It is essential to emphasise the benefits of Bossware to employees when communicating with them. If they believe they are being observed, they will become uneasy and less productive. Everyone will be more receptive and invested in their work if you emphasise that Bossware is a tool that establishes a positive standard in your organisation. Such as monitoring productivity and project management to ensure that everyone is working as expected and receiving payment for their efforts.

Implement Safety Measures

Attempt to optimise your employees’ work schedules by configuring your software to monitor employee activity during specific hours of the day. Your solution should have reasonable restrictions so that it does not compromise the privacy of employees outside of work hours and only monitors their usage during work hours. Ensure that this data is backed up on an external device that the appropriate administrators can readily access. The employees should also be aware of what information and data their managers are collecting about them.

In summary, while the use of Bossware is generally legal when done within the bounds of applicable laws and with employee consent or notification, it is essential for employers to strike a balance between monitoring for legitimate business purposes and respecting the privacy rights of their employees. Employers should be transparent about their monitoring practices, use monitoring tools responsibly, and ensure that they follow privacy laws to avoid legal and ethical issues. Employees, on the other hand, should be aware of their rights and seek clarification from their employers about the use of monitoring software in their workplace.

Author: Emmanuel K. Gadasu

(CEH, CDPS, CIPM, BSc IT, MSc IT and Law*, LLB*)

(Data Protection Officer, IIPGH and Data Privacy Consultant and Practitioner, Information Governance Solutions)

For comments, contact author via  or Mobile: +233-243913077