Surveillance of Teleworkers: A Grounded-Theory Approach

William Grant Clary, Louisiana Tech University


In March of 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The pandemic mandated teleworking across the world as many organizations tried to social distance. Two years into the pandemic, we have seen quite the increase in telework. Thus, with the benefits being realized, it is reasonable to expect a continuance in telework after the pandemic is over. When forced to work from home, many variables with the work process must be changed, including how managers surveil their employees. My work is an early, exploratory effort to understand how teleworkers are surveilled and how they feel about being surveilled at home.

I conducted seven in-depth interviews with individuals who are working from home. The results are two-fold. First, I provided a description of the two types of surveillance – behavior- and outcome-based surveillance. Next, I create a visual model that demonstrates how surveillance can interact with other constructs to affect well-being. The model suggests perceived surveillance will restrict autonomy, which will in turn reduce one’s well-being. Though the relationship between autonomy and well-being is well-established in the literature, my model suggests this relationship can be moderated by perceived justice. When one feels the surveillance is just, the relationship between autonomy and well-being is weakened. Justice perceptions are influenced by the congruence of surveillance expectations (CoSE). CoSE, as I define it, is the fit between how one perceives they are being surveilled and one’s expectations of how they should be surveilled.

My findings pose several implications for teleworker managers, outlined in Chapter 5. The qualitative data supporting the induced relationships are disclosed in the appendix.