Spying on employees’ Xboxes

Last Monday's FAQ from John Savill has gotten a bit of attention. If you're not into clicking links, the question was:

Q. I'm a boss who tricked my workers into adding me as Xbox Live friends. How can I spy on them when they're "working" from home to make sure they're not playing Xbox?

First off, some people accused John of being an untrusting boss. I even saw one commenter in the LinkedIn thread about the article who made a Longcat is long-style accusation of trolling on John's part. I should make it clear that John wasn't advocating spying on employees. He pretty clearly states in the FAQ that mean bosses can use the feature to spy on employees, and the word "trick" is right there in the question—doesn't sound to me like he's advocating it.

Regardless of that, the FAQ makes the point that it's easy to check when someone's been using Xbox Live. Steam's community features and the Playstation Network can let you do the same thing. And managers can tell whether employees are on Facebook or any number of other online services.

The consensus among the commentators was that employers can check up on their work-at-home employees, but they shouldn't. Peter Diamond said, "If you have employees who aren't getting their work done, that is a personnel problem, and trying to solve personnel problems with technology rarely works."

Sounds right to me. Keep in mind, though, that not every manager is going to feel this way. Or a manager with a grudge against you might keep track of when you're playing during work hours and document that, even though you're getting your work done from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. IT pros as a group seem pretty likely to be into gaming, so they should remember who can see what they're playing.

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