How Employers Track Employees
Be Careful about Slacking Off
1. Why Employers Track Employees
Remote work is no longer a new phenomenon. Managers are aware their employees are often slacking off, especially with the rise of “quiet quitting” and the antiwork movement.
Additionally, there is no longer cheap money circulating because of tightening interest rates. The risk of investing has increased. Therefore, companies have less runway and are deploying less capital.
The situation will become worse because the fundraising environment is expected to become even more tight in Q3/Q4 of 2023. Investors are expecting to hold onto their cash, especially for Series A startups. However, this tightening applies to startups at all stages of fundraising. Thus, all companies are becoming more strict about quantifiable metrics (“key performance indicators,” also known as KPIs).
If you’re familiar with UpWork, there are two options: either an employee tracks their hours manually, or they can press a button to “start working.” When they start working, UpWork software periodically takes screenshots every n minutes, where you can see the person’s screen while they are “working.”
This kind of tracking has not only expanded to tech, finance, and sales roles in general, but it has become more sophisticated.
2. Tracking Techniques that Employers Use
2.1. Mouse Movement
Be careful using a rotating platform that spins your mouse.
Managers can see that your mouse is behaving erratically.
You opened Notepad/TextEdit and put a stapler on your spacebar to keep yourself online?
Your manager is going to have a log and be alerted that you pressed spacebar a thousand times within two minutes.
2.3. Application Tracking
You figured out a way to use random keystrokes instead of only pressing spacebar on Notepad/TextEdit. But why do you have that application open for 8 hours?
2.4. Calendars are Now Public
You blocked off time in the morning for “focus” so that your online status shows “busy”?
Managers can see your calendar. Expect to explain why that’s there.
2.5. Progress Reports with Detailed Information About Your Work
You’ll need to start sharing your progress regularly on Slack to tell the team how you’re doing.
You’ll need to start explaining how you’re doing with your task, and if you’re too slow, you will be required to ask for help. Ask too many times, and they’ll wonder if you’re capable of doing the job.
Additionally, when you submit your work at the end of the day, you’ll be expected to detail what you were working on and your roadblocks. In the case of a pull request, it will need to be attached to a Jira/Linear/Azure task or other task management software.
2.6. Manager Monitoring
Managers might remotely access your computer to see what you’re doing.
In sales, your call logs will be audited and they may listen in on your calls.
2.7. Zero Tolerance for Manual Logging
All of your work will need to be logged by software. You can no longer manually input “this task took n hours to complete.”
2.8. Random Meetings
Expect to have meetings on short-notice so they can make sure everyone is at their desk.
2.9. Late Meetings
Meetings will be set between 16:00 or 17:00, so they can ensure that you aren’t leaving early.
2.10. More Frequent Performance Evaluations
Expect your employer to discuss your performance with you more often, and require you to complete self-evaluations and set your own goals.
3. How to Avoid Employer Tracking
You’ll see tracking more often with big companies, because they can afford the software and can give their HR department something to do.
I suggest performing your tasks on-time and doing them well, so that you’re in the top 10% bucket of your coworkers.
Once you build a reputation as a high-performer (maybe 6 months), it’s very hard for them to think of you otherwise. You can take your foot off the gas pedal to avoid additional responsibilities.
In contrast, if you’re the best of your team, you will be given additional responsibilities without a proportional increase in pay–unless, of course, you’re hoping to stack startup equity. If you’re interested in maximizing your career, you could do this, but I would rather start a business.
If you want to be hyper-efficient, you’re better off at at a startup or as a contractor where you can complete tasks early, then spend free time working on something else.