Author: Gloria Mutuku
Monday, May 24, 2021

Can My Employer Monitor My Work Computer At Home?

Category: Security

Can My Employer Monitor My Work Computer At Home?

An employer has every right to monitor the work computers of their employees at home. The employer will do so for various reasons: they will need to ensure their employees' productivity. It is also for the protection of the organization's software and hardware. For example, certain activities on the computer can compromise on the computer by downloading viruses and malware. Finally, it is also for safety reasons as the employer tries to protect against illegal activities such as losing the organizational intellectual property.

The Legal Aspect

Generally, the law allows employers to monitor their employees' computers, whether personal or belonging to the organization, even when they work from home. The Electronic Communication Privacy Act (ECPA) 1986 provides legal authority and limitations regarding employers' access to employee work-related electronic devices. The act touches on emails, electronically stored data, and phone conversations.

ECPA has three titles:

  1. The Wiretap Act- thus act prohibits the interception of oral or electronic communication and access to email. According to this act, illegally obtained communication can not be used as legal evidence. It follows that the employer has to obtain your consent or inform you if they are monitoring your electronic and oral communications. The exceptions provided by this ACT pertain to the service provider and surveillance government agencies, whereby legal procedures apply.
  2. The Stored Communications Act (SCA) touches on unlawful access and disclosure of stored communications. Every organization has its documented procedures for accessing and sharing files and stored information.
  3. Title III covers the use of pen registers and traps, and trace devices.

ECPA provides two exceptions to this law which make it perfectly legal for employers to surveil the work of their employees at home:

  1. Business purpose exception- the employer should have a legitimate business motive for monitoring their employee.
  2. Consent exception- the employee should provide approval for the employer's surveillance of their work.


How an employer can monitor remote work computers

Can My Employer Monitor My Work Computer At Home?

Technically, employers use computer monitoring software that uses data and information tracking to provide relevant feedback on the employee activities on their computers. The employer will install employee monitoring applications in the employee's work computer with or without their consent, which, as we saw above, is perfectly legal. Then, they have the employees download the software into their personal computers. There are different employee monitoring software, using different features but working towards similar goals. They track employees' attendance and log details, the use of tools and applications, internet and social media, graphical data, screenshots, among other ways we are about to discover.

How does employee surveillance software work?

Once you log into the computer, the surveillance software captures your details and can tell who is using that particular machine at that time. In addition, employers can use different software with different features put together to boost effectiveness.

Monitoring of Computer Activities

This software collects data from the computer regarding the commonly visited websites, the apps used, and the time the employee spends on each website. In addition, these applications are programmed in a way that they can automatically categorize the activity as being either productive or unproductive. The application then creates a comprehensive report on whether the productivity of that particular employee during that given time.

The employer can automatically block websites they don't want their employees to access on the work computer. It is made possible by using employee tracking software that keeps track of the websites visited and automatically blocked others.

The application also provides notifications on the idle time that employees spend on unproductive sites. They also provide data on the security threats posed by clicking and opening such sites.

Employers can also use employee monitoring software to control social media and other time-consuming applications such as YouTube during working hours. The employer can also monitor messaging and email activities on your computer. For example, the applications can record and read emails for playback, blocking certain email attachments from loading. They also block instant chats and messages by the use of certain preset keywords.

Employers use employee monitoring software to ensure the safety of organizational information. The application does so by monitoring and barring the transfer of files. The application can notify the employer of the files downloaded and uploaded onto various platforms such as the cloud, sent out as attachments, uploaded on Google Drive or dropbox. The employer can also use this monitoring software to surveil the printing of documents from the work computer.

Some software will automatically send messages on what is being printed and prevent the employee from printing certain inappropriate information. Employee surveillance software also takes screenshots at certain frequencies to provide information on the employee activities on the computer at given times. In addition, the employer can have a video recorded or live stream of the employee's computer desktop in other cases. They can tell the employee's productivity and take the necessary measures to reward work done.

Time Tracking

Can My Employer Monitor My Work Computer At Home?

The employer can install a time tracking application that automatically clocks in when you open your computer. The same is applied in monitor time in meetings and time away from the workstation. Time tracking is critical for employers as they can easily tell when a certain employee logged in and the number of working hours. It also notifies the employer of days off and helps calculate the amount of payment in salaries, as per the hours worked. In addition, through time tracking, the employer can control undesirable habits of employees, such as logging out during working hours and idling. Some applications will help in assigning employees tasks at given times and providing deadlines. The application will automatically notify the employee when the time draws for the set activity.


Goal Setting

The applications are also applied in setting goals for employees working in remote workplaces. For example, some applications use time tracking features, costs, and budget allocations of certain projects to estimate the progress. The employer can use the results to decide employee working hours and costs against their output to avoid incurring losses.

Time Away from Keyboard

Employee monitoring software recognizes also reports the times the employee stays away from using the keyboard. This time the employee stays without using the keyboard as idle time, classified as unproductive. The employee's activities are gauged using the amount of time the keyboard inputs and the movement of the mouse. The computer automatically calculates the amount of time the employee uses their computer switches to idle time whenever they stop for some time, depending on the organizational policies and procedures.

Remote Desktop Control

Remote desktop control is another method employers use to control the activities of their employees on computers. The employer will keep watch of what their employees are doing on their computers in real-time and close certain sites and undesirable activities. The same also applies to fix certain computer problems remotely. These remote applications are commonly used by technicians when installing certain programs on computers.

Surveillance Software

There are different employee surveillance software. The best software will provide optimum security for passwords and data. Good surveillance software will also provide useful information to the employer, which will help decision-making processes. Employers will seek the help of service providers such as Geek Computers to get customized surveillance software that is more suited for their needs.

How to Maintain Your Privacy

If you are working from home, your employer is most likely to watch what you are doing. Studies show that 66% of companies in the United States monitor their employee's internet, with 44% of these logging their keystrokes and 43% tracking employee emails. You, therefore, need to maintain the safety of personal information by using separate devices for work and personal activities. These include social media, private emails, and the storage of personal documents. You should also make use of strong passwords if you are using your personal computer for work activities.


Employers are allowed to use employee surveillance software to safeguard against abuse of property and losses. They do so by using surveillance software that monitors and provides data on the employee log-in times, activities, and the amount of time they spend on unauthorized activities. The same software bar employees from accessing certain sites and sharing information deemed high security to the organization. While it might not work in favor of the employee, employers with employees working from home would have difficulty achieving targets without monitoring their employee computers.


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