Working from an office used to be expected. But that time feels so far in the past that it would be naive to think we will ever return to our former state. 

Looking back, many people have started to wonder if going to work every day in person was more about control than productivity. It gave managers a bird’s eye view of what employees were doing all day, and it kept employees working with fewer outside distractions. 

An interesting twist to working from home is that some employers are looking for new ways to feel that they still have control over employees. I first heard about this when friends discussed their managers calling them on video at random times during the workday. The purpose appeared to be monitoring the employee rather than anything helpful.

The real shocker comes from employee monitoring software. The Washington Post released an article documenting the monitoring of employees in the remote work environment. Employees shared stories about keystroke tracking, screenshots and facial recognition. 

One employee shared a story of trying to find something on their computer. He was clicking around, trying to find the spot where he needed to be. Suddenly, his boss started to speak to him through his headset, instructing him where to go. 

Another employee described her company using facial recognition software. To get paid, she would have to look toward her screen while working. If she looked around for too long, she’d have to log in all over again. Not only was her photo being taken, but the tiny light coming from the camera was on while she was working. 

The thing about remote work is that it has the potential for employees to be more productive. But the relationship between employee and employer is built on trust. If someone is going slack off, they will be able to do that whether they’re being monitored or not. Beyond that, people are not machines. They may have less productive days, and they may have other days that are very productive.  

Employers should consider decreasing monitoring and increasing trust by setting realistic goals and holding employees to them. Measure results, not keystrokes and create a culture based on mutual respect. You’ll increase productivity and save a little money on rent at the same time.

— Angela Copeland is a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching.