People expect to have a modicum of privacy during work hours, whether they go into the office or work from home.
With employee surveillance on the rise, however, it’s more common than ever for supervisors to keep a close eye on how their teams spend their time.
In fact, you might be surprised by just how much information your managers have on you.
Do you suspect that they’re monitoring your productivity?
Here are 8 sneaky signs your boss is watching you at work.
If you notice any of these, you might want to keep side activities to a minimum.
1) You have a company computer/phone
When you receive a laptop or phone from your employer, it’s common for them to implement certain levels of monitoring. They want to protect their assets.
The company might also want to double-check that employees use company resources for work-related tasks and not to shop online during work hours or video call their friends.
Additionally, it’s safe to assume that your boss has access to your work email account, as well as any other communication tool like Slack, even if you only log in from personal devices.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that they regularly monitor these communication channels.
Still, they can access your email and chat history if problems arise – like if someone lodges a complaint against you.
To sum up, if you want to talk smack about your managers, do it on your own time and use personal devices.
Simply being connected to the company’s Wi-Fi can be enough to expose your data to the IT guys.
2) You notice weird apps or notifications
As a freelance writer, I usually don’t have to worry about managers monitoring my work. As long as I send my assignments on time, they’re happy.
Only one of my previous employers required me to install a time-tracking app on my laptop.
I worked for them 4 hours per day, and they wanted to make sure I spent those hours productively.
You might also be asked to use time-tracking software, especially if you work from home or in a hybrid format.
But monitoring isn’t always this transparent – and your boss might not want you to know that they’re checking up on you.
In that case, pay attention to any weird apps or notifications popping up on your device, which may signal that your activity is being tracked.
A few warning signs to look out for:
- You notice computer processes you don’t recognize
- Your camera light is on
- Your computer is experiencing suspicious network activity
- You receive random pop-up notifications from unknown sources
- Your computer is taking longer to perform basic tasks (signaling that apps may be running in the background)
3) It says so in the employee handbook
The legalities of employee monitoring vary from country to country, and your employer is likely required to notify you of the practice beforehand.
But if they buried this little detail in a mountain of paperwork, you might have missed the notification altogether.
How closely did you read your contract or employee handbook?
I’m betting not that close.
When reviewing the contract, you likely paid special attention to things like salary, employee benefits, or vacation policy.
You might have overlooked information that seemed insignificant at the time.
News flash: that information might have conveyed that your boss reserves the right to spy on you.
Similarly, if the employee handbook is 150 pages long, you probably didn’t read all those paragraphs carefully.
If you suspect that your boss is keeping an eye on you, it’s a good idea to look over the contract and all company policies again.
This will help you shed light on whether being monitored is a possibility.
4) Your boss seems to know what’s going on before you tell them
If your boss knows about personal conversations or activities outside of work that you haven’t disclosed, it could be a sign they’re snooping on your communication channels.
For instance, let’s say you show up at work on Monday morning, and your boss asks about your weekend.
Nothing weird so far.
How about if they ask you whether you had fun at your cousin’s wedding – an event you told no one from the office about?
Most likely, they’re spying on you.
Perhaps you used your work laptop to RSVP to the wedding or your work phone to text your date that you’re running late.
This is an invasive form of employee surveillance, and it shows that your boss has no qualms about violating your privacy.
Even when the knowledge is work-related, it’s still creepy for your boss to know about emails you’ve sent or received before you had a chance to inform them.
Or for them to talk about your tasks or projects in a way that suggests they have more information than what you’ve shared.
When that’s the case, the company is definitely monitoring your activity closely.
5) You’re reprimanded for things you thought were private
Employers often have the right to take action when they believe an employee’s behavior negatively impacts the workplace or violates company rules.
If your boss reprimands you for things you did in your personal time and thought were private, it’s a clear sign that they’re watching your every move.
For instance, let’s say you used your work computer or phone for personal purposes outside of work hours, assuming your usage is private.
However, your boss calls you in and gives you a talking-to about inappropriate personal use of company resources.
Obviously, they know what you’re using those devices for at all times, regardless of whether or not you’re on company time.
Here’s another scenario: you’re involved in a romantic relationship with a coworker, which you think is a secret.
Out of nowhere, your manager begins to lecture you for not maintaining a professional attitude or for violating company policies concerning workplace relationships.
You either aren’t as discreet as you thought, or your boss is spying on you.
6) Your supervisor approaches you about your social media activity
If your social media accounts are public, anyone can see your posts.
Including your managers.
Generally, supervisors can reprimand employees for inappropriate or damaging social media activity.
When this happens, it’s undeniable that the company monitors your online presence, even if you weren’t previously aware of the fact.
Granted, you probably know that you shouldn’t bash your employer on social media, but remember that once something is on the internet, it stays there forever.
Even harmless comments could indicate that your boss is keeping tabs on you outside of work.
If you post a picture from the Lady Gaga concert on your Facebook and your boss asks whether you enjoyed the experience the next day, they’re aware of your social media posts.
A few social media rules to abide by if you want to avoid any work-related issues:
- Don’t post negative comments about your job, coworkers, or employer
- Think twice before posting something controversial that your professional connections can see
- Regularly review and update your privacy settings on social media platforms
- Don’t engage in heated debates on social media, especially on hot topics
- Be cautious about sharing photos or videos from work-related events
- Use respectful language in all your online interactions
7) The behavior of your boss has changed
You haven’t done anything wrong, but your boss is suddenly acting weird.
They are more distant or suspicious, and you have no idea why.
While it’s possible they’re just going through a difficult time, their behavior might be due to something they’ve noticed while monitoring your activity.
Are you actively searching for another job? Connecting with recruiters? Looking into other companies?
Your boss probably knows.
They might not approach you directly about your extra-curricular activities to avoid giving away their sneaky ways.
Even so, their attitude towards you will speak volumes.
8) Your colleagues share similar concerns
If you’re worried about your boss spying on you, there’s a good chance you’re not the only one.
Check with coworkers and ask if they have similar concerns.
Maybe they also feel watched, which can signal a broader surveillance issue within the workplace.
But don’t approach them about the issue via work email or another company-related communication channel.
We’ve already covered why.
Employee surveillance is nothing new, with punch cards around since 1894.
Thanks to advancements in technology, though, supervisors can now be sneakier about how they keep tabs on their underlings.
If you have privacy concerns, you might want to raise them with your boss or the human resources department.
Knowing that you’re constantly monitored can cause anxiety and decreased performance.
After all, no one likes to be micromanaged.