Can My Manager Make Me Keep My Webcam On?

Question

My manager sent out a note last night stating everyone needs to keep their “video on throughout the next and every upcoming team meeting.”

I HATE this! I don’t like looking at my face on screen. I don’t like everyone else seeing my face. It means putting on makeup, which I don’t have to wear working from home.

I don’t like everyone being able to see into my house. It’s MY house.   

I don’t think this policy is right or fair. Is it even legal?  

Answer:

Many employers now require employees to leave their video cam on during meetings. Some managers feel it keeps employees more connected to each other and more engaged in the meetings. Some managers want the video cams so they can see whether employees are paying attention. 

Many employees are not comfortable leaving their video cams on for reasons such as those you mentioned. Some consider it an invasion of privacy. Some employees feel embarrassed when managers and coworkers look in on their home lives.

Employee privacy rights have limits even when the employees work from home. Employers need to notify employees concerning when and how they are being monitored. This removes the employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy.

Your employer has the right to monitor your use of employer-provided equipment, including your keystrokes, your active and inactive time in key applications, what you type, your work email and the web pages you visit.

Some employers take photographs to see whether employees are sitting at their laptops while at home.

Some employers even use Sneek, a group video conferencing software that’s always on. Sneek features a wall of employee faces and takes photos of employees through their webcam every one to five minutes.1

Although users can use a static photo or pixelate themselves so others can’t see them clearly, this software seems like it might be “in your face.” I’m curious to hear what blog readers think about Sneek.

1 Companies Are Using Webcams to Monitor Employees Working From Home (businessinsider.com)

Subscribing to the blog is easy

If you’d like to get 3 to 5 posts a week delivered to your inbox (and NO spam), just add your email address below. (I’ll never sell it.) I’m glad you’ve joined this vibrant blog. Thank you!

5 thoughts on “Can My Manager Make Me Keep My Webcam On?

  1. I have been working from a home office for several years but suddenly with COVID, everyone wants video meetings! I hate looking at myself on video too, but I’m getting used to it. You can always bring something up on your screen to cover the faces. Sometimes I put in a little make up, sometimes not. The rest of the folks on my video meetings (some clients) usually look about the way I do, casually dressed, hair combed but that’s about it. I try to have the area behind me somewhat cleaned up (I have a home office that is also part laundry room), but there are backgrounds you can use if your home office is your bedroom or kitchen. . As Lynn says if your employer has provided your computer, and connection then they can require this. You’ll probably be back in the office soon anyway. For me, though, having occasional video meetings beats having to commute to an office everyday.

  2. I hadn’t heard of Sneek. I can see both sides of this. Employers naturally want to know that their employees are being productive. But I wonder if measuring productivity, rather than spying on people, would be a more effective method and it certainly would be less intrusive. As another commenter said, many web meeting sites allow you to have a virtual background that prevents people from seeing what your home looks like. I can definitely understand wanting people to have the cameras on while in meetings. I don’t like virtual meetings, but they’ve become increasingly common and it bugs me to see nothing but black screens. I’m not judging people on whether they wear makeup- I’m a woman that has never worn makeup, I don’t even know how to apply it properly- and I’m not judging their houses. It’s just nice to see if they appear engaged and have some sort of connection there.

  3. Good, balanced, empathetic comments and reactions here. In so many ways, employees do not and cannot (under the law) have expectations of privacy at work. This issue has only become larger and more prevalent. I remember first being challenged to think about it in information science in the 1980s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *