More South African employees to be “watched” by their bosses while working from home

South Africans working from home should be wary of the increase in surveillance software being used by companies to keep tabs on their activity, a report from City Press has warned.

With many people working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have turned to remote monitoring software – also called tattleware – to get insights into worker productivity.

Typically, these programs allow companies to get an analysis of the time users spend on certain online tasks.

This is then compared with with other staff members who have the same work responsibilities.

In addition, certain programs can track inputs on the keyboard, movements of the mouse, take screenshots of a user’s computer, and even be used to read social media messages.

According to estimates from research firm Gartner, around 80% of companies worldwide have introduced a form of remote monitoring software on their employees’ computers.

Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr director of employee practice Phetheni Nkuna told City Press that the influx of tattleware has been particularly noticeable in the US – but it will likely spill over to South Africa.

Nkuna warned businesses they would have to ensure they did not infringe on employee privacy when using this software.

“In South Africa, no law is absolute – there are limits. It will be interesting to see how the courts handle such cases,” Nkuna said.

Only 4% want to return to the office

The impact of the switch to remote working as a COVID-19 safety measure is likely to remain long after the pandemic has passed, particularly in South Africa.

According to a recent study from Boston Consulting Group (BCG), The Network, and CareerJunction, only 4% of South Africans want to work completely on-site at an office after the pandemic.

Over 53% of South African respondents said they would prefer a job which permitted them to work from home on occasion, while 44% said they wanted to work fully remotely.

“Workers and managers alike have seen that flexible work models are possible, and in fact desirable,” said BCG Johannesburg principal and recruiting director Rudi van Blerk

Remote working visa

The Western Cape provincial government has embraced this trend, and is seeking to introduce a remote working visa aimed at international digital nomads who want to work remotely from Cape Town.

Thanks to its solid Internet infrastructure, range of quality restaurants, and idyllic setting, the city is well positioned to support people who work remotely.

A remote working visa would give applicants access to all services in the city – including schooling and telecoms. A similar programme was launched in Dubai in 2020.

Western Cape tourism company Wesgro has also partnered with Airbnb to attract more international workers.

It is offering people up to 50% off stays longer than 28 days through Airbnb.

However, the city is struggling to get national government onboard with the idea.

Thus far, requests to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi have been unsuccessful.

The city’s council said it would continue to put pressure on government to make the visa a reality, and also called for an electronic visa system for visitors from abroad.

Now read: ANC wants to ban smartphones and gadgets from meetings

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More South African employees to be “watched” by their bosses while working from home