What is bossware and how can it affect remote employees?

Charlotte Miller

Bossware refers to software programs that allow managers to monitor their employees’ behavior and work productivity when working remotely. Bossware can track things like:

  • What programs and websites employees are using
  • Number of keystrokes typed per minute
  • Contents of messaging apps and chat logs
  • Random screen captures and video recordings
  • Browser history and search terms
  • App and system usage
  • GPS location data

The goal of bossware is to give managers more visibility into how remote teams are spending their time and enable them to monitor productivity. It aims to improve accountability, performance, and security compliance. However, excessive monitoring through bossware can negatively impact morale, trust, and invasion of privacy. Insights from industry guides on its impact on remote employees, Employees may feel micromanaged and stressed when bosses can surveillance their activity without reasonable boundaries.

Examples of Bossware

Some common bossware programs managers use to track remote employees include:

Controlio – Controlio offers robust features to capture detailed analytics on employee device usage.

TimeDoctor – Tracks application and web usage, takes screenshots and records productivity metrics to monitor employee work patterns.

TSheets – Logs time spent on projects and tasks via manual time entries, computer usage tracking, GPS location data and more.

Hubstaff – Features activity levels monitoring, screenshots and activity logs to quantify productivity.

ActivTrak – Monitors all employee computer activity including apps used, websites visited, files accessed and meeting times.

Teramind – Captures employee desktop activity in video recordings, tracks website and chat usage while flagging excessive inactivity.

Veriato – Logs every keystroke and creates detailed forensics of computer usage to measure individual productivity.

Pros and Cons of Using Bossware

The rise of bossware, such as employee monitoring software, raises concerns about its impact on remote employees’ privacy and autonomy in the workplace. There are a few potential advantages for managers using bossware:


Improved productivity and accountability: Bossware provides data to identify productivity gaps so managers can address issues. Employees may feel more accountable knowing their activity is being tracked.

Better insight: Bossware gives managers visibility into how employees spend their time and where productivity lags. This allows them to identify problems.

Security compliance: Some bossware helps organizations comply with security and compliance standards by monitoring activity.

At the same time, there are significant downsides to using bossware:


Decreased morale and trust issues: Employees can feel that bossware implies a lack of trust. This can negatively impact company culture and morale.

Privacy concerns: Collecting data on employees’ activities, keystrokes, screenshots and more raises red flags around privacy violations.

Added stress: The feeling of being watched can place extra stress and anxiety on employees.

Data inaccuracies: Bossware data isn’t always accurate. For example, more keystrokes doesn’t necessarily equal higher productivity.

How Bossware Can Affect Remote Employees

Using bossware to closely monitor remote employees can seriously impact their morale, privacy, stress levels, and workplace trust. Even small reductions in autonomy, privacy and control can diminish engagement, wellbeing, and performance. Many remote workers value flexibility and independence, so bossware can make them feel micromanaged.

Excessive monitoring through bossware signals a lack of trust in employees. High performing teams are built on mutual trust between managers and staff. Bossware can deteriorate that trust. Employees may feel distress knowing their boss can review screenshots or video of their work at any time. This hyper-monitoring makes it difficult to take breaks, chat with co-workers, or do personal tasks.

The pressure of constant bossware surveillance often increases stress and anxiety. While some monitoring is reasonable, excessive tracking can take a psychological toll over time. This may ultimately result in higher staff turnover.

In some cases, bossware monitoring may be so extreme that it violates labor laws. There are a growing number of legal cases where employees allege unfair privacy invasions through bossware. Laws have not necessarily kept pace with monitoring advancements. Employees should be aware of their privacy rights and managers need clear guidelines on legally monitoring remote workers.


Bossware tools clearly offer some advantages in terms of providing visibility into remote employee activities and ensuring security compliance. However, overly strict bossware monitoring frequently backfires through decreased morale, trust issues, heightened stress, and privacy problems. Used judiciously with clear guidelines and consent, bossware can offer useful employee activity insights. But excessive monitoring without reasonable justification usually hampers engagement, wellbeing, and performance for remote staff. Managers need to strike the right balance between oversight visibility and intrusive employee surveillance.