Employee Wellbeing

Trick or Track: When Employees Outsmart Monitoring Software

April 26, 2023

Are you familiar with the feeling of being watched? That eerie sensation of someone peering over your shoulder, scrutinizing your every move? 

For employees subjected to (often invasive) monitoring systems, that feeling is a daily reality. Managers and employers use these systems to keep an eye on their remote teams, tracking everything from keystrokes and mouse movements to webcam feeds and screenshots. While these systems are marketed as a way to increase productivity and accountability, they often have the opposite effect, sometimes even leading them to cheat the system.

If you’re wondering why surveillance tactics are both unethical and counterproductive and learn about how to trick employee monitoring software, then you’ve come to the right place.


  • Invasive employee monitoring systems are used by managers and employers to track remote teams
  • These systems can include keystroke logging, webcam monitoring, and tracking mouse movements
  • How to trick employee monitoring software? Employees often resort to tactics like covering their webcam or using virtual keyboards to trick the system
  • Studies have shown that the use of these systems can decrease productivity and morale
  • Employers should focus on building trust and open communication with employees instead of relying on surveillance tactics

Why Employees Loathe Invasive Monitoring 

Imagine if you had a personal trainer who followed you around all day, recording every calorie you consumed and every step you took. At first, you might appreciate their guidance and support. But after a while, the constant monitoring would become oppressive. You might start to resent your trainer, feeling like you have no autonomy or privacy. 

That's exactly how employees feel when they're subjected to invasive monitoring systems. Even if they're doing their jobs well, constant surveillance can make them feel like they're under a microscope.

To make matters worse, these systems can be incredibly invasive. Keystroke logging software, for example, tracks every key a person presses on their keyboard. This means that managers can see everything from the emails employees send to the passwords they use to log into their accounts. Webcam monitoring is even worse. Employees are expected to keep a camera pointed at their face all day, every day, creating a constant feeling of surveillance and anxiety.

It's no wonder that employees try to find ways to trick these systems. Some employees will simply turn off their webcam or cover it with a piece of tape. Others might use a virtual keyboard to avoid keystroke logging. Some employees even use bots to simulate mouse movements, so it looks like they're working even when they're not.

You'll also find this interesting: Does Screenshot-based Employee Monitoring Reduce Productivity?

Of course, these tactics aren't foolproof. Managers can often tell when an employee is trying to trick the system, which can lead to disciplinary action or even termination. But the fact that employees are resorting to these measures speaks volumes about the negative impact of invasive monitoring systems.

Let’s Get Ethical: Protecting Employee Privacy & Morale in the Workplace

Before diving into how to trick employee monitoring software, also known as "bossware,"  we’ll first shed some light on the ethics of employee monitoring software

Let’s get one thing straight: employees have the right to privacy, and monitoring them without their consent violates this right. It can also create a culture of distrust and suspicion, which can have a negative impact on workplace morale and relationships. Imagine being watched and tracked all the time, even when you're taking a break or using the restroom. It can feel like your employer doesn't trust you to do your job properly. This can lead to a decrease in motivation and productivity.

Impact of Monitoring on Employees: What Does Data Say?

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies in the US transitioned their employees to work from home. As a result, there has been a significant increase in the use of surveillance software by employers to monitor their workers. Around 60 percent of large companies have implemented such monitoring software, according to the research firm Gartner. This number has, in fact, doubled since the start of the pandemic. Furthermore, it is expected that this trend will continue to grow, reaching 70 percent in the next few years! 

Even as we move towards a hybrid model where some workers are returning to the office, it seems that employee surveillance, as it turns out, isn’t going away any time soon. Nearly 80% of managers utilize monitoring software, as revealed by a 2021 survey conducted by ExpressVPN that included 2,000 remote or hybrid-schedule workers and an equal number of employers.

Employers often cite the need to better understand how employees utilize their time as the primary reason for implementing such software. This trend has been coined as "productivity paranoia" by Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft Corp. Some companies argue that monitoring employees helps improve productivity, but studies have shown that it actually has the opposite effect. Let's take a look at some numbers:

  • Research conducted on employees in the call center industry, which has been at the forefront of electronic monitoring, demonstrates a clear link between intensive monitoring and increased levels of stress.
  • A meta-analysis on the effects of electronic monitoring suggests these tactics don’t have a positive impact on their performance and can instead lead to counterproductive behavior and damage workplace culture.
  • A Harvard Business Review study indicates that monitored employees are more likely to engage in rule-breaking behaviors, such as taking unapproved breaks, disregarding instructions, and cheating, compared to those who are not monitored.

These statistics demonstrate that employee monitoring does more harm than good. Invasive monitoring tactics can also lead to privacy concerns. For instance, keystroke logging can capture sensitive information such as passwords, and webcam monitoring can record employees' personal conversations or actions. This not only violates employees' privacy but also put them at risk of identity theft or other forms of cybercrime.

Alright… What Do Employees Have to Say About This?

A pre-pandemic survey sheds light on how Americans feel about their employers monitoring their digital activity. Surprisingly, 77% of respondents reported feeling comfortable with this practice, but there's a caveat. Employees only approve of monitoring if their employer is transparent about it and informs them upfront.

On the other hand, the survey also revealed that 70% of employees would consider quitting their job if they discovered their employer had monitored them without their knowledge. This highlights the importance of clear communication and transparency between employers and their workforce.

But too much of anything is bad. 

Excessive employee monitoring can lead to a decrease in employee morale and trust, even if it’s consensual. Employees may feel like their employer doesn't trust them, which can lead to a negative work environment. Additionally, monitoring can also lead to burnout, as employees may feel like they have to constantly perform and be "on" in order to avoid being monitored.

To give a relatable example, let's say you work in an office where your employer monitors your computer activity by taking screenshots every few minutes. You might feel like you can't take a break to check your phone or chat with a coworker without being monitored. This can create a stressful work environment where you feel like you're constantly under surveillance.

How To Trick Employee Monitoring Software: 7 Common Ways to Cheat Trackers

As mentioned above, monitoring employees makes them more likely to break rules. And one of the easiest ways to do so is by cheating time trackers. So, if you are a manager looking to uncover employees’ secrets on how they do it, let’s share how to trick employee monitoring software.

1. The ‘Red Herring’ Method

A red herring is a misleading clue or piece of information that distracts you from the real issue. In the context of remote work, a red herring could be anything that makes it seem like an employee is working when they're not. 

For example, employees might watch episodes of "The Office" while simultaneously working on Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, or CRM software. By having a second window open for work-related tasks, it can act as a "red herring" to distract any monitoring tools and create the appearance of legitimate work activity.

2. Dodging Screenshots 

Many time tracking tools use screenshots to keep track of what an employee is working on. However, some employees have figured out how to game the system by learning the intervals between screenshots and only working during those times. To combat this, some tools offer randomized screenshots, which take snapshots at irregular intervals.

Unfortunately, even randomized screenshots aren't foolproof. Employees who are particularly savvy can still learn the intervals and adjust their work accordingly.

3. Cracking the Code

Some employees are skilled at coding and can use their expertise to disable the time tracking software itself. They might delete log files or modify the software's code to prevent it from working properly. While some time tracking tools use advanced encryption to prevent this kind of tampering, many employees are still able to get around the security protocols.

4. Automate Mouse Movements

Another way that time tracking tools keep tabs on employees is by tracking their mouse movements. If the mouse is moving regularly, it's assumed that the employee is working. However, some employees have figured out how to automate mouse movements using special devices. These devices keep the mouse moving even when the employee isn't actually using it, tricking the time tracking software into thinking they're working when they're not.

5. Remote Access 

A useful tool for many employees who need to work from home. However, remote access can also be a way for employees to trick their managers. By accessing their work computers remotely, an employee can work on personal projects or surf the web while appearing to be focused on their work. Unless the manager is closely monitoring the remote session, they may not realize that the employee is actually slacking off.

6. The ‘Dual-Monitor’ Setup

One of the most common ways to trick employee monitoring software is the ‘dual-monitor’ setup. Spying on employee desktops is a common practice for many managers, but it's not always effective. Some employees use a dual-monitor setup to trick time tracking tools into thinking they're working when they're not. By using one monitor to display work-related tasks and another to play games or watch videos, an employee can appear productive while actually wasting time. 

7. Go Virtual

Finally, some employees use a virtual machine to create a separate operating system within their computer. They can install the time tracking software on one operating system (OS) and use the other for personal projects or entertainment. Since the time tracking tool only tracks activity on the primary OS, the employee can appear to be working while actually wasting time on the other OS.

Read More: 9-80 Work Schedule—The Sugar, The Spice, and Everything Nice

While time tracking tools can be helpful for monitoring employee productivity, they're not foolproof. Employees who are determined to cheat the system can often find ways to do so. As a manager, it's important to be aware of these tactics and to take steps to prevent it. 

OK, But How can Managers Prevent Employees from Cheating Tkers?

There are certain measures that managers can take to promote a healthy work-life balance without invading their employees' privacy. These measures include:

Encouraging breaks: Allow employees to take short breaks throughout the day. Encourage them to step away from their workstations and take a walk, get some fresh air, or have a healthy snack. This can help reduce stress levels and increase productivity.

Flexibility: Provide flexible work arrangements where possible, such as allowing employees to work from home or offering alternative work schedules that can accommodate their personal needs.

Training and Development: Offer training and development programs to support employees' professional growth and development. This can help them feel valued and motivated.

Communication: Establish open communication with employees to discuss their workload, and concerns, and offer support where necessary.

Develop trust: Communicate to your employees about the time tracking in place and clearly tell the purpose of it. Help them understand that it is implemented to improve their productivity and performance instead of keeping an eye on their daily routine. 

Technology: Utilize technology tools such as time tracking apps that do not invade employees' privacy but help track their work hours and provide insights into workload management.

By implementing these measures, managers can create a supportive work environment that fosters employee motivation and reduces burnout. A healthy work-life balance is essential for both employees' and businesses' success. It’ll also help prevent employees from googling articles on how to trick employee monitoring software.

By the way, if you're looking for time tracking and productivity management tools that can help you and your team manage your time more effectively, timegram is a great option to consider. 

Learn More: The 7 Ingredients You’ll Need to Create the Ideal Work Environment

Here’s a Time Tracker Your Employees Wouldn’t Want to Trick!

timegram offers a suite of powerful tools designed to help you streamline your workload, manage your time more effectively, and stay on top of your tasks.

With timegram, you can track your time and monitor your progress with ease. Our user-friendly interface makes it easy to see how much time you're spending on each task, helping you identify areas where you can improve your efficiency and productivity.

But timegram isn't just about time tracking - it also offers a range of other features to help you manage your work more effectively. From project and team management to powerful analytics and reporting, timegram has everything you need to provide insights and transparency into your work and achieve your goals.

Whether you're 0a freelancer looking to manage your time more effectively or a team leader looking to boost your team's productivity, timegram is the perfect solution. So why wait? Sign up today and experience the benefits for yourself!


Is it OK to trick employee monitoring software?

No. Trying to bypass or deceive monitoring software is not cool. Not only is it unethical, from your employer’s perspective, at least, but it's also illegal in many jurisdictions. Plus, if you signed a consent form agreeing to the use of the monitoring software, you're essentially bound by it. Most companies require employees to sign a consent form when they're hired that outlines the scope and limitations of the monitoring software, as well as the consequences of attempting to deceive or bypass it. So, if you have concerns about the use of monitoring software in your workplace, it's best to talk to your HR department or supervisor about it. Better be safe than sorry!

Is it legal for companies to use tracking software?

Generally, companies can use tracking software to monitor their employees, but it has to be in compliance with laws and regulations. The laws vary by location, and companies need to make sure they follow them. Some types of monitoring might not be allowed by law. If you have any concerns, check with your HR department or supervisor.

How to prevent employees from tricking monitoring software?

That’s easy: create a positive work environment where employees understand and trust the monitoring software's purpose. Encourage open communication, offer flexibility, and promote work-life balance. Happy employees are less likely to try and trick the system.

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Fatima Mazhar

About the author

Fatimah has over 10 years of experience working with words. When she's not writing, she’s busy setting multiple world records for watching the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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