Workers are not prepared for the future of working from home

2 October 2020

New polling shows that workers are both unaware of the kinds of new remote monitoring technology which could be introduced by employers and find it deeply uncomfortable.

Remote working infographic showing how workers feel about monitoring and surveillance technology

Two thirds of workers are uncomfortable with workplace tech like keystroke and camera monitoring and wearables being used when working remotely.

New polling commissioned by Prospect, has revealed the depth of the resistance to these technologies among UK workers.

With greater remote working likely to now be widespread for at least the next six months, this debate will take on a renewed urgency.

We asked about different forms of monitoring technology which are already in use across the UK and are being actively considered for more widespread introduction by employers and found that:

  • Only a third (32%) of workers had heard of keystroke monitoring and camera tracking technologies, while a quarter (26%) had head of electronic tracing
  • Two thirds (66%) of workers would be uncomfortable with keystroke monitoring with nearly half (44%) very uncomfortable
  • Four in five (80%) workers would be uncomfortable with camera monitoring with 64% very uncomfortable
  • Three quarters (74%) of workers would be uncomfortable with electronic tracking with wearables with 61% very uncomfortable

The polling also found that around half (48%) of workers said that they thought that introducing monitoring software would damage their relationship with their manager- this rose to 62% among younger workers.

There was some evidence that more consultation could reduce the level of apprehension around these technologies, with one third (32%) of remote workers saying they would be more comfortable with monitoring software if trade unions or worker representatives were involved in conversations about how it would be implemented. This number rose to 36% of young workers.

Prospect has been calling for businesses that are thinking of introducing such technology to consult with their workforce, and for proper regulations about the use of monitoring software, including a ‘right to disconnect’.

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said:

“Having your every keystroke or app usage monitored by your boss while you are working in your own home may sound like a dystopia- but there are precious few controls in place to prevent it becoming a daily reality for millions of workers across Britain.

“Employers are beginning to think about how their workplace will operate in the future, including a far greater prevalence of blended working and exclusive working from home. As the new reality takes hold we will see more and more debates about the use of technology to monitor workers – the evidence suggests the workforce are simply not ready for it.

“The changes have been thrown into sharp relief by the new government advice advocating a further six months of remote working. If government is going to tell workers to stay home, then it needs to get serious about this issue, by bringing businesses, unions, and tech companies together to discuss what modern workers’ rights should look like in this new world of work.”

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