Bossware: Use of employee tracking software is growing

Technology that can promote a remote work regime is expanding the practice of employee monitoring and spying

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With the rise of asynchronous and remote work models in the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021, many companies have adopted software and technologies to measure employee productivity, considering peak performance at the expense of well-being. The practice of tracking your team’s performance, which many bosses have used overseas, is known as bossware. The information is from Earth.

The term can be translated to something like “boss software” — a mixture of the English words “boss” and “ware”, in relation to the word software.

remote work
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Although it seems like something new, the pandemic only catalyzed the old habit of companies to keep an eye on their teams. “Even before, with employees working in person, companies already used such tools as curbing dispersive activities,” reports Daniele Nazari, a psychologist at the emotional health platform Zenklub.

Supporting the psychologist’s claim, a 2019 study by Gartner, which analyzed 239 corporations, found that more than 50% of the companies analyzed used some non-traditional tracking technique – well above the 30% reported by the same consultancy in 2015. What has changed since there to here was a search for more modern software in this sense.

A worker’s view

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In March of this year, after discovering that the company was monitoring its employees, employees at one of Amazon’s US warehouses tried to form a union. More than that: portable package tracking scanners served as surveillance tools.

In a report by the British newspaper The Guardian in April, an analyst from the East Coast of the US identified as James (not his real name), who worked for ten years at a large local retailer and had to accept remote work during the pandemic. He noticed that they were watching him after an online meeting to figure out how to fill the time off from work. In particular: avoid periods when the team was not “writing data to the database”.

home office for servers
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Documents published in June of this year by Vice’s Motherboard column refer to the retailer’s “Time Off Task” (TOT) metric. It marked work breaks for employees, including trips to the bathroom or occasional moments of decompression and conversation with colleagues. There are reports of people urinating into bottles to prevent breaks from being counted as “work breaks”.

In times of moral bullying, pressure to perform and expectations of inconsistent delivery, crises like depression and burnout are on the agenda. An InfoJobs survey from September 2022 points out that 60% of professionals do not feel psychologically safe where they work. Of these, 77% claim that there are no actions or support for the welfare of employees. “The pandemic, social isolation and fear of covid-19 have accelerated the discussion about mental health in companies,” notes Ana Paula Prado, CEO of the consultancy.


Privacy policy - Personal data - LGPD
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As controversial as it sounds, surveillance is far from illegal. And practice does not always have an arbitrary purpose – at least not in theory. One of the justifications is to ensure that the equipment provided by the company is used for work purposes. In a survey, for example, 50% of companies say they use bossware for this purpose.

Is it in Brazil?

As reported by Portal Terra, Henrique Fabretti Moraes, a lawyer specialized in privacy and data protection in the office of Opica Blum, Bruno e Vainzof, says that an extract from the Consolidation of Labor Laws (CLT) justifies such control, stating that it is the duty of the company to assume the risks of economic activity . In other words, there is room for practice “primarily for the protection of assets, customers and employees themselves.”

TRT-SP prohibits the firing of IT workers in the entire state of São Paulo for 90 days
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Márcio Cots, professor of technology law at the Centro Universitário FIAP, told the report that in cases where a company, for example, assigns laptops and smartphones to workers, “there is legal support for them to monitor what is being done with their assets, including the level of use — which could correspond to the work performed by the employee”.

The General Data Protection Act (LGPD) provides for restrictions and rules. Proponents say that good faith surveillance should always be reported to the employee, along with the purpose of the data collection.

Find out what GDPR is
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For Daniele Nazari, from Zenklub, “It is understandable that organizations feel the need to adopt this type of monitoring and collect more data on employee productivity, but it must be an integrative management tool,” confirmed the psychologist, stressing that software can be one of the criteria evaluations — but not the only one. “Even because it’s a mechanized resource and we’re talking about people who have lives, emotions and different contexts within their homes in remote work,” he claims.

With information from Portal Terra.

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