Until recently, working at home was a privilege allowed to only a few lucky people by their employers. The advantages of doing work away from an office were numerous: The grind of a daily commute could be avoided; on-the-job hours could be juggled to accommodate personal appointments and children’s schedules; annoying, time-wasting meetings were no longer an issue; and any dress code was non-existent.

Most studies indicated that people working from home were at least as productive as those contained in drab office cubicles under the watchful eyes of managers. But managers being what they are, most tended to resist letting their underlings off the leash.

Now, with stay-at-home orders as the prime method of beating the coronavirus, a large share of the people who have hung on to their jobs in the pandemic-driven economic slump are working at home. Economists are predicting this will mark a permanent shift toward employees doing their jobs remotely.

This may sound like a positive, humane development, but those suspicious managers are still running things, and they can now turn to high-tech tools to track all those errant employees. Monitoring software will allow them to keep track of the number of keystrokes used on a keyboard and take measures of productivity. They can get screen shots to see which applications a worker has opened on his computer. Cameras and GPS trackers will show them exactly where the employee is and what she is doing at any given moment.

In other words, the independence of working at home is going to be steadily undermined and replaced with a spy system that will make home-sweet-home feel like a dystopian nightmare.

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