Here's How Not to Get Fired When You're Working from Home

Image:  Vadym Pastukh (Shutterstock)
Image: Vadym Pastukh (Shutterstock)

A lot of us are working from home these days. And as a result, we may have let our guard down a little bit. But that doesn’t mean your boss isn’t still keeping an eye (and probably an ear) on what you’re doing from 9 to 5. Now, more than ever, companies have lots of ways to track the sites their employees visit and the messages they send. And if you’re not careful, you can end up in a lot of trouble.

According to The Today Show, more and more companies have been using “tattleware” to keep an eye on their employees since the start of the pandemic. That means everything, from your keyboard to your webcam could be fair game for your employer to monitor. “When COVID-19 pushed people to work remotely, we saw sales of employee workplace surveillance software more than triple,” said Harvard Business ethics professor J.S. Nelson.

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In a now-viral LinkedIn post, Canopy CEO Davis Bell shared that managers at his software company recently discovered some employees were using their remote work situation to hold down two full-time jobs at the same time, something he considered stealing and a fireable offense. Bell’s post included some of the shady behavior that tipped managers off, including slow Slack/email response times and always having cameras off in meetings. He wrote, in part:

“We’ve caught and fired two recent hire engineers who never quit their last job at at a big tech co when they came to “work” for us. They were following a new trend of picking up a second, full-time job while lying about it to both employers. This is not about side hustles or moonlighting. These were people holding down two, full-time synchronous jobs and lying about it - trying to be in two meetings at once, etc. Their early performance was really bad, and fortunately we have great managers who sniffed them out very quickly.”

You may not be holding down two full-time jobs, but you should know that your company is tracking when and how you work – even when you’re not in the office. Here are a few things you should keep in mind while you work.

Don’t Be Slow With Your Response

If it takes you hours to respond to work emails, you’d better have a good explanation. Employers know that meetings and other important projects may inhibit your ability to communicate quickly. But if they notice that you’re never available, it may send up a red flag that something else is going on.

Watch What You Search

Nine times out of 10, your boss is probably doing a little online shopping during work hours too. But if something goes down, you don’t want to have anything come up in your Internet search history that can be used against you, including your personal social media accounts. So whether you’re planning your summer vacation or looking for new dining room furniture, it’s probably best to do that on your personal computer on your own time.

Don’t Use Email or Business Messaging Apps to Bash Your Boss

Hopefully, you already know this, but in case you don’t, I have to tell you. Please, oh please don’t type anything in Slack or email that you don’t want your boss to know. Employers can access communication from Teams, Slack and other messaging apps, if necessary.

Even if your company isn’t keeping track of every keystroke, it’s best to be clear on their communication policy, so you know exactly what’s ok and what’s not before it’s too late. Don’t sign any agreements without reading them carefully. And if you’re using a work-issued computer, you should know that pretty much everything is fair game.

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