Information Technology and Ethics/Remote Work

Remote Work


Remote work refers to working from a remote location or commonly from one's home. Remote work allows an employee to work from an off site location.

Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic many businesses and offices had to be closed and companies had to shift employees to remote work and work from home. “In 2019, fewer than 6% of Americans worked primarily from home, per the American Community Survey.” [1]

Company Monitoring of Employees


Due to the Covid-19 pandemic remote work from home has increased in prevalence since 2020. According to the Pew Research Center, “57% say they rarely or never worked from home prior to the coronavirus outbreak.” [2]

With business concerns over how productive employees are productive when working from home, monitoring software has been implemented with work from home to monitor employees' engagement to and making sure they are working.

“Monitoring ensures that the company’s resources are being used efficiently. Employee monitoring also includes checking the activities of the employees working outside the office to identify if the provided resources are used well.” [3]

Some of the ethics concerning monitoring employees require transparency of monitoring, effective policies, and communication with the employees.

Network Monitoring


As per the statistics from the United States Census Bureau, the number of people working from home has increased thrice from 2019 to 2021[4]. The primary reason is the COVID-19 outbreak. Moving forward some big companies are giving options to their employees for Work From Home. While employees are working from home on their company-managed resources, networks, and the internet is one of the big concerns for them and Monitoring of these networks becomes a major concern for organizations. As long as employees are working from the office, they are connecting to the internal organizational networks, in that case, employees can only be able to connect to authorized connections. For example, if JIRA is widely used by the company for managing support and engineering tickets, it will have access to the JIRA portal. However, some organizations restrict the use of third-party websites or applications like WhatsApp, Facebook, Youtube, etc., so that these websites are not accessed and this will reduce the risk of cyber attacks. When employees are working from home they are asked to sign in to a network or a VPN connection to connect to the internal organizational network.

However, even if employees are not connected to a VPN connection, some organizations still allow them to connect to third-party websites or applications. In that case, there is still a risk of cyber attacks as employees are using third-party applications on organizations' resources. For these concerns, companies put some restrictions and monitor every network that the resources connect to. IT administrators in organizations are experts in these types of tasks and they customize company-managed resources in such a way that every connection is monitored. Every single IP address that the machine connects to is recorded and tracked regularly by the IT team people to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks and prevent further damage to resources. They track every single activity that users perform on different networks with company resources like Mobiles, Laptops, desktops, etc.[5]

Packet sniffers are one of the best examples of network monitoring or surveillance tools that are used by companies[6]. These keep track of Websites visited, frequency of websites visited, page views, emails sent, messages sent, any unattended network, downloads, etc. These tools help companies to determine how much time an employee is online and whether are they performing any inappropriate activity or not. Apart from these, companies use firewalls and network/router logs to monitor overall internet traffic. They also periodically scan resources and networks to determine if any unethical behavior is performed or if any forbidden websites have been visited. They write firewall rules to block a third-party website that is regularly visited by people.

Remote Connection Monitoring


Remote connection monitoring also known as end point monitoring is the use of software tools to manage how each remote device connected to the network behaves. While it is crucial to use remote connection monitoring to save on time and money, employers should not use the opportunity to infringe on their employee’s rights to privacy and security.

Below are some of the ethical considerations organizations and employers can take into action for remote connection monitoring.

1.Establish clear remote monitoring policies:

Companies should strive to develop a clear set of policies on the purpose and scope of remote connection monitoring. The policy should define what activities need to be monitored and also outline activities that would be deemed inappropriate [7]. A clear policy not only builds employee trusts but also removes the vagueness of blanket policies.

2.Protection of sensitive information:

Companies should ensure that the monitoring procedures in place maintain data confidentiality by limiting access and having strict policies to ensure data security.

3.Communicate with employees:

Open communication by companies to employees about the remote connection monitoring policy ensures that employees understand and know the extent of monitoring.

4.Balance privacy considerations:

Monitoring should only be carried out to the intended goal and nothing beyond that as it would constitute an infringement on private data.

5. Application of a uniform monitoring:

Companies should apply remote monitoring uniformly across all employees to avoid singling out some employees or groups which could lead to legal issues and cause resentment among employees which could create a hostile work environment.

There is clearly no doubt that remote connection monitoring usage has grown in the recent years and also the growth of monitoring software which has made monitoring easier more accessible than ever. However, companies should always put in place ethical policies when remotely monitoring employees.

Employee Abuse of Company Devices


Any improper or misused use of equipment provided by the employer for work-related reasons such as computers, smartphones and tablets are referred to as employee abuse of company property. These behavior's might be as basic as utilizing company equipment for personal use while at work to more significant ones like intentionally introducing virus or stealing company data. Employee asset misuse can be big or small. All instances of misuse are detrimental to an organization. Any abuse of company assets for personal gain qualifies as asset misuse. Some types of misuse:

  • Renting out firm resources or equipment to third parties.
  • Making rival or fake products using business resources or the facilities.
  • Using your corporation to run a rival business.
  • Directing subordinates or workers to do out duties for a ghost firm while they are unaware of it.
  • Giving family members or acquaintances unauthorized discounts or free goods.

When an employee takes their power within your company. Although you might be tempted to act right away, it is often preferable to wait as long as it is reasonable. An expertly executed employee asset misuse investigation will gather proof of prohibited or unlawful behavior's within your company giving you leverage.  If you select a lawsuit against the offending employee, information like this will be required.[8]

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) prohibits purposeful access to a computer without authorization or with more authorization than necessary although it doesn't specify what "without authorization" implies. Although the CFAA does not define the term "without authorization" it does state that "exceeds authorized access" means using permitted access to a computer to obtain or modify information that the user is not authorized to do so.[9]

One way to address technology abuse in the workplace is to use web filtering software to block access to undesirable websites. Employers can also create internet use policies that eliminate internet misuse and addictive behavior's while still allowing for the positive benefits of internet use in the work environment. Additionally, supervisors can reinforce these policies and internet filters can be used to monitor internet use. By implementing these steps, employers can reduce the risk of employee abuse or misuse of company devices and protect their company's data and assets.[10]

Employees committing Time theft while at home


The term Time Theft is a rather loose term describing a specific type of theft by an employee on the employer. This term applies primarily to two separate means of theft. The first way is in the case that an employee misrepresents his/her hours worked in order to gain larger sums of money for time that the employee did not work. The second way, is where an employee shirks responsibility and avoids doing their job while participating in paid company time. The latter term has also been dubbed Quiet Quitting by many media outlets in recent years.

Both of these methods behave as theft as the employee betrays their responsibility in the capitalist transaction of labor for credit, by failing to uphold their commonly contractual agreement to provide services for the money in which they are receiving. And as such are of negative ethical impact.

With the growth of remote work it has become more difficult for employers to detect and prevent time theft. As they cannot physically monitor their employees' activities as easily as they could in an office setting, employer's have begun to look for new methods to prevent Time Theft. Some companies have implemented new technologies such as time tracking software and keystroke monitoring tools to ensure that employees are working productively.

The ethical repercussions of remote work aided time theft are multifaceted. On one hand many employees would seek to argue, that they deserve the dignity and respect to be trusted with managing their own time and allowed to work in the way that best suits them. This is regardless of whether that involves employees taking breaks or engaging in personal activities during work hours. However arguably speaking, employers reserve the right to expect their workers to work attentively and productively during work hours, especially if those employees are compensated for that time.

As it currently stands, it remains the company's decision regarding how they want to handle time theft in a remote work setting. Some companies have chosen to be more lenient and allow their employees more flexibility, while others have taken a stricter approach and use technology to closely monitor their employees' activities.

[11] [12]

  4. Bureau, US Census. "The Number of People Primarily Working From Home Tripled Between 2019 and 2021". Retrieved 2023-04-22.
  5. "What Are the Methods Used by Companies to Monitor Employee's Computers?". Small Business - Retrieved 2023-04-22.
  6. "How do Employers Monitor Internet Usage at Work?". Easy Tech Junkie. Retrieved 2023-04-22.
  7. Mbunge, E.,; Muchemwa, B. (2022). "Towards emotive sensory Web in virtual health care: Trends, technologies, challenges and ethical issues". Towards emotive sensory Web in virtual health care: Trends, technologies, challenges and ethical issues.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. "Employee Asset Misuse - ASG Investigations". Corporate Services. Retrieved 2023-04-25.
  9. "Computer Fraud & Abuse Act: Unauthorized Use by Employees". Retrieved 2023-04-25.
  10. "Technology Abuse At Work - HR Service Inc". 2017-08-09. Retrieved 2023-04-25.
  11. Xu, Chenqian; Yao, Zhu; Xiong, Zhengde (2022). "The impact of work-related use of information and communication technologies after hours on time theft". Journal of Business Ethics. doi:10.1007/s10551-022-05167-1. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  12. Nadia Harris (2022). "Time theft and remote work – a serious problem or nonsense?". Retrieved April 20, 2023.