POLITICS
02/10/2020 07:59 BST | Updated 02/10/2020 08:05 BST

Public Uneasy About 'Dystopian' Home Working Spy Tech, Poll Suggests

Ministers told to get on top of monitoring technology as majority of workers “simply not ready” for it, YouGov polling shared with HuffPost UK suggests.

Workers are both unaware of and uncomfortable about remote monitoring by their employers while working from home, new polling shows.

Ministers have been urged to get to grips with the issue of employers spying on their staff following Boris Johnson’s advice that people should again work from home if they can to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Most of those surveyed expressed deep unease about employers keeping tabs on their keystrokes or app usage.

A vast majority also said they were unaware keystroke monitoring, camera tracking technologies and wearables even exist, despite suggestions that more employers are looking to introduce the tech to monitor productivity as more people work remotely. 

The Prospect Union, which commissioned the poll, warned that while monitoring of home working sounds like a “dystopia”, it is increasingly likely to become a topic of debate, while there are “precious few controls” in place to prevent it becoming a reality for many workers.

Only a third (32%) had heard of keystroke monitoring and camera tracking, the YouGov poll for the Prospect union warned.

Two thirds (66%) said they would be uncomfortable with keystroke monitoring while four in five (80%) felt the same about camera monitoring.

Only around a quarter (26%) had heard of electronic tracing with wearable tech, while three quarters (76%) said they would be uncomfortable with it.

The polling also found that around half (48%) of workers said that they thought that introducing monitoring software would have a negative impact on their relationship with their manager. This rose to 62% among 18- to 24-year-olds.

There was some evidence that more consultation could reduce the level of apprehension around these technologies, with nearly a third (27%) 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 (18- to 24-year-olds).

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy urged the government to “get serious” about the issue by bringing businesses, unions and tech companies together to review workers’ rights in a post-Covid world.

“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,” he said.

“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.”