During the pandemic, we saw a shift to people working from home. One of the issues with this is that there’s no physical way to ensure employees are doing their work. As a result, employers asked employees to install tracking software on their computers. Similar tracking technologies also exist in the workplace to track performance.
The White House has said that it’s concerned about this extreme level of tracking and has issued a public request for information (RFI) to learn more. It wants input from employees and employers as well as research information to help develop new policy responses. Ultimately, it wants workers to be treated with dignity and have a chance to form a union, if they want, without pressure not to by their employer.
Listing some examples of where pervasive tracking is utilized, The White House said:
- Nurses have been required to wear RFID badges that track their location and proximity to other hospital workers or patients;
- Rideshare and delivery drivers have their speed, location, and acceleration monitored;
- Office workers have software on their computers that records their mouse and keyboard activity;
- Call center workers are intensively tracked by electronic monitoring; and
- Warehouse packers and stockers use scanners that also track their pace of work.
According to The White House, these technologies can pressure employees to work too fast. It said this poses risks to physical and mental health. It also highlighted that when employees’ conversations are monitored, this can deter them from exercising their rights to form unions. It can also lead to employees facing discrimination when it comes to things like pay, discipline, and promotion.
Just like artificial intelligence, technology in general has already shaken up relations between employers and employees. By policing the use of monitoring technologies, it could help to level the playing field between these two groups of people.