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How remote workers are outfoxing company spyware

(BUSINESS NEWS) As employers implement more invasive spyware to monitor remote employees’ at-home activity, some employees are giving the finger to Big Brother with savvy and sneaky workarounds.

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Glasses sitting on an open laptop with potential spyware

In 2020, with office employees around the world working full-time from home, companies are stepping up their spyware game. Accordingly, employees are maneuvering mightily to outfox their own corporate Big Brother.

If you didn’t realize that companies were tracking their employees’ online activity already, well, bless your heart. I have a secret. Pssst, everything you do online is likely being tracked by somebody, somewhere. Companies have long had tracking systems in place, reportedly to use for an aggregate report for company executives, to try and help employees maximize productivity.

According to CNBC, Gartner reported that approximately half of large corporations monitored online employee activity. By the end of 2020, they predict at least 80% of companies will use some sort of internal tracking systems.

For companies with more than 1,000 employees, internal spyware has been the norm. However, internal spyware sales have had a boom since March. Some of these programs, like Time Doctor, ActivTrak, Sneek, and Teramind, are popular versions.

Companies with zero chill can also use a program called StaffCop. These programs allow a variety of services for the companies: Video monitoring through the employee webcam (yikes!), remote screen shots, login trackers, and even keystroke activity. It’s a lot.

Employees are onto this, though, and have become equally resourceful at showing The Man up. Anti-surveillance software programs are flying off the virtual shelves as employees seek out ways to keep corporate noses out of their business and their homes. Nobody likes a micromanager or a tattletale, especially an omniscient one.

The ingenuity of the human mind is mighty impressive and people are finding creative ways to block the intrusive snitchware.

One super simple way to foil the unwanted scrutiny is merely to do any non-work activity on a second device, be it a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. The spyware will still track your hours online and collect other data, but they won’t know everything. It’s good practice not to conduct personal work on a company machine anyway.

More tech-savvy workers are installing anti-surveillance programs that build a ring-fence around the spyware. This will show that you are online but won’t allow the software to track your every move. According to Wired, these and other programs that create fake mouse movements make workers appear like they’re tied to their desks, even when they aren’t.

Presence Scheduler sets your Slack status to permanently active. Slack caught on at one point and updated the system; Presence Scheduler then updated their system to counter Slack’s update. Another Slack hack is to keep your status set to “Away” even when you’re working. This works for most IM systems you may have. Your team and higher ups should get used to seeing the Away indicator, even when you’re replying to them. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Reddit has a whole thread on privacy measures and software to use for working and studying from home. One tip is to open Notepad and place something heavy on the space bar.

Then there’s this genius on a Reddit subthread who attached their mouse to an oscillating fan. It sounds funny, but intrusive software isn’t.

In fact, employers are required to let employees know they are being monitored. Best practices tell us to always be aware that our movements are being tracked, especially on a work computer.

Most employees are not trying to take advantage of the company. In a recent KPMG American Worker Survey of more than 1,400 people in large companies, 79% of workers report an improvement in their quality of work, and 70% say their productivity has increased since moving to a home office. However, 74% also report an increase in work demands, and 45% report that their mental health has suffered.

Of course, some of that is pandemic-related. Knowing they are being constantly monitored definitely is another factor – it breaks down trust. Most employees aren’t blowing off work at all; they are merely trying to stay sane. With the whole family at home, combined with the extra stress and labor that COVID-19 has heaped upon everyone’s plates, doing their actual jobs is most likely a mental getaway from daily drudgery.

Of course, you will always have your scammers, rapscallions, and lazybones. They have a way of making it into every company. However, they are just as skilled at getting away with not doing their work in person as they are remotely. Some people will work twice as hard to not do their actual job. This is not your average employee, though. Most people are not going to mess around and risk losing their job, especially now.

Employers need to start considering the end goal and lay off the nitpicking and spying. Is the work getting done? Is it getting done at roughly the same rate or faster than it was getting done before remote work became the standard? Okay, then maybe pump the brakes on all this snitchware. It only serves to heighten mistrust and adds to employee stress.

Of course, companies should have some ways of keeping track of productivity and employee hours. They are paying for the work to get done, and some workers are paid by the hour. However, human nature will rebel against too much intrusiveness, especially in their own homes. Employers need to realize that they can only go so far and scrutinize so much when they are “entering,” at least virtually, their employees’ personal space. In the meantime, there’s always the oscillating fan scam.

Joleen Jernigan is an ever-curious writer, grammar nerd, and social media strategist with a background in training, education, and educational publishing. A native Texan, Joleen has traveled extensively, worked in six countries, and holds an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. She lives in Austin and constantly seeks out the best the city has to offer.

Business News

How to stop reeking of desperation when you job hunt

(CAREER) Hunting for a job can come with infinite pressures and rejection, sometimes you just want it to be over – here’s how to avoid reeking of desperation.

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desperation when job hunting

Whether you were one of the millions of people who quit their job this year in The Great Resignation or you’ve been unemployed since the pandemic began, when you’re looking for work, it can feel hopeless after a while. Just like that student in class who raises their hand at every question, you don’t want to come across as desperate, “pick me, pick me!” Money might be tight. You want to be eager, but you don’t want to be so anxious that you sabotage your job search.

Right now, job seekers have the upper hand, but you want to show off your skills and professionalism, not your neediness.

5 ways you come across as overly desperate for a job:

  1. Applying for multiple positions at the same company. Employers want you to be a fit for a particular job. Instead, tell the hiring manager that you’re open to other positions that might be a good fit.
  2. Checking in with the hiring manager too much. Follow up after an interview, but don’t keep checking in. If they have news, they’ll share it.
  3. Talking about how much you need a job. Don’t bring up your personal issues in an interview. Stay focused on why you are the best person for the job.
  4. Being willing to accept any offer. You should negotiate and go to bat for yourself when you get an offer. Explain why you’re worth more money because you probably are.
  5. Forgetting to ask questions about the bigger picture. You don’t want to be so eager to impress that you don’t think about the company culture and perks. You might be desperate, but getting into a job that doesn’t fit your needs and personality won’t help your situation.

Desperation can make you appear to be in the clearance bin at the store. Sure, you may get something for a great price, but will you actually be able to fully use it when you get it home? As a job seeker, you want to be the premium brand on the shelf. Maybe not every buyer (employer) can appreciate you or even afford you, but when the right one comes along, it’s a good fit.

Employers want team members who will be assets for their company. Your job search needs to start with a strong resume and impressive cover letter. Instead of going for quantity, choose job openings for quality, where you can bring something to the table for the company.

Ask a Manager’s Alison Green has some great resources for getting a job, including a free guide to preparing for interviews. Practice interviewing. Make a great first impression. Know that there is a job out there for you.

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Business News

Study: Employers are inadvertently punishing women that suffer from Endo

(BUSINESS NEWS) A new study reveals the widespread impact of Endo (Endometriosis) in the workforce as well as the entire economy. Change must be made. Quickly.

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endo endometriosis pain

Women still face many barriers in their career. It’s been more than half a century since federal law addressed gender discrimination in the workplace, but it still occurs. Whether it’s lack of access to training, an inability to speak up, or pay inequality, it’s all wrong. Sadly, a new study identifies another potential barrier to a woman’s career path – endometriosis.

What is endometriosis?

The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) reports that “endometriosis happens when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (womb) grows outside the uterus.”

Endo, as its often called, causes varying levels of pain, often chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis. The tissue outside the uterus grows in areas where it can cause even more problems by blocking fallopian tubes and forming scar tissue. There is no cure, but there are some treatment options that can work.

Endo affects about 11% of American women who are ages 15 to 44. Despite the fact that the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology describes endometriosis as “nothing short of a public health emergency,” data suggests that about 60% of endo cases go undiagnosed.

I repeat: 60% of endo cases go undiagnosed.

More than 6 million American women are living with the symptoms of endo without knowing the cause or having the capability to manage their symptoms.

Endometriosis was once considered a career woman’s disease, but a two-year-long study from Finland shows that the disease shapes a woman’s career, not the other way around.

Women with endo take 10 or more sick days than women without endo. They also use more disability days. Other studies support these findings. A 2011 analysis reported that women with endo could lose almost 11 hours of work each week because their endo made it difficult to complete tasks. One US study estimated that women with endo experience more sick days each year, up to 20.

These women often have a lower annual salary and slower salary growth.

How can employers address endometriosis in the workplace?

It’s difficult enough to discuss any type of health problem at work, let alone one that relates to menstruation. Employers have a big problem just dealing with short-term illnesses. It’s hard when a key employee is out for one or two weeks from a surgery. Long-term chronic illnesses, especially those that are invisible, are challenging in the workplace.

Most workplace cultures aren’t designed for people with chronic conditions or disabilities.

It’s going to take a major shift in thinking to deal with endometriosis in the workplace.

Endo isn’t painful period cramps. It’s a serious condition without a cure. Employees who are dealing with endo may be battling intense pain or fatigue. Yes, work needs to get done, but when people are living with a chronic condition, they need accommodations.

Endometriosis may be a woman’s disease, but it does impact the entire economy. One study found that endo had a similar economic burden to that of heart disease or diabetes. Most employers would not think twice about a man who needed extra time to deal with coronary disease, but women often don’t get that consideration, regardless of the condition.

Women with endo aren’t incapable or shirking their duties. They may just need to deal with their pain to stay focused at work. Let’s drop the stigma and help accommodate women who deal with endo.

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Business News

Everyone should have an interview escape plan

(BUSINESS NEWS) A job interview should be a place to ask about qualifications but sometimes things can go south – here’s how to escape when they do.

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interview from hell

“So, why did you move from Utah to Austin?” the interviewer asked over the phone.

The question felt a little out of place in the job interview, but I gave my standard answer about wanting a fresh scene. I’d just graduated college and was looking to break into the Austin market. But the interviewer wasn’t done.

“But why Austin?” he insisted, “There can’t be that many Mormons here.”

My stomach curled. This was a job interview – I’d expected to discuss my qualifications for the position and express my interest in the company. Instead, I began to answer more and more invasive questions about my personal life and religion. The whole ordeal left me very uncomfortable, but because I was young and desperate, I put up with it. In fact, I even went back for a second interview!

At the time, I thought I had to put up with that sort of treatment. Only recently have I realized that the interview was extremely unprofessional and it wasn’t something I should have felt obligated to endure.

And I’m not the only one with a bad interview story. Slate ran an article sharing others’ terrible experiences, which ranged from having their purse inspected to being trapped in a 45 minute presentation! No doubt, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mistreatment by potential employers.

So, why do we put up with it?

Well, sometimes people just don’t know better. Maybe, like I was, they’re young or inexperienced. In these cases, these sorts of situations seem like they could just be the norm. There’s also the obvious power dynamic: you might need a job, but the potential employers probably don’t need you.

While there might be times you have to grit your teeth and bear it, it’s also worth remembering that a bad interview scenario often means bad working conditions later on down the line. After all, if your employers don’t respect you during the interview stage, it’s likely the disrespect will continue when you’re hired.

Once you’ve identified an interview is bad news, though, how do you walk out? Politely. As tempting as it is to make a scene, you probably don’t want to go burning bridges. Instead, excuse yourself by thanking your interviewers, wishing them well and asserting that you have realized the business wouldn’t be a good fit.

Your time, as well as your comfort, are important! If your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. It isn’t easy, but if a job interview is crossing the line, you’re well within your rights to leave. Better to cut your losses early.

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