At the beginning of the Corona pandemic, many employees had to move from their offices to the home office. Data protectionists are now criticizing Microsoft Teams, which is popular with many companies and is designed to enable managers to spy on their own employees via an analysis tool.

In December 2020, around 19 million employees worked at least partly in a home office, according to the digital association Bitkom. That’s 45 percent of all employees in Germany. A quarter – or around eleven million – worked exclusively at home at the end of 2020.

Software boom in the crisis

It wasn’t just applications such as Zoom or Skype that gained massive new users during the crisis. Microsoft Teams is also one of the winners of the pandemic. The service was able to more than quintuple its total user numbers in 2020 with around 100 million new users.

Surveillance at the workplace

What led to huge scandals at Lidl and Schlecker is now to be possible for every boss in the home office version: monitoring one’s own employees.

The analysis tool MyAnalytics from Office 365 makes it possible, as Bild reports. Employers could now use it to spy on their staff while they are working from home, data protectionists fear.

MyAnalytics collects data, for example, on how long a document is processed, who chats with whom, the speed with which requests are answered, and whether employees show up on time for appointments and meetings.

When asked by Bild, Microsoft discloses that this data is not shared with executives. “MyAnalytics is not intended to enable scoring, tracking, automated decision making, profiling or monitoring.”

Anonymized, the respective team leaders can still access the data.

Only the boss has access

However, only the team leader himself can change this setting. Individual employees cannot determine or limit what data goes into the analysis.

Do supervisors have too little trust?

In the summer of 2020, the personnel service provider Robert Half surveyed a total of 300 managers in Germany about the home office situation.

31 percent of the managers surveyed think that their employees use their working time at home for private calls. Just under one in five even assume that employees take a nap during their working hours.

Nevertheless, managers are apparently satisfied with productivity. Only 24 percent of respondents say their opinion of working in a home office has worsened. For 41 percent, expectations have been exceeded, and for 35 percent, nothing has changed.

The popularity of home office is nevertheless on the rise

After the pandemic, 3.2 million employees would like to continue working from home, compared with only 1.4 million before. For many, this would also have a serious impact on their social lives.

In another survey, Bitkom found that as many as one in five employees would move – if remote working remained possible.

This trend is particularly apparent among 16- to 24-year-olds – here, one in three would even move to live in the countryside or closer to family instead of the office, for example.