'Your boss can visit whenever they fancy' said remote work job ad for Barbie toymaker

Mattel, the toymaker famous for making Barbie and Hot Wheels toys, is likely hoping that it won’t gain attention for another reason after making a u-turn on a job ad that said there could be unplanned home visits from bosses.

Although the US-headquartered firm has since confirmed that the role has been filled and the job advert was adjusted prior to this, social media users noticed that they were advertising for a role that allowed “unplanned visits from a supervisor” giving them the right to inspect home workspaces.

Prospect said its study among 2,400 workers shows new protections are needed because of the increase in employer surveillance.

Although many workers aren’t perhaps getting the full unplanned-visit treatment, around one in seven people working from home are now being monitored by cameras, compared with one in 20 earlier this year, said the union.

Four out of five respondents said the use of webcams to monitor remote workers should either be banned or heavily regulated.

Only eight per cent of those surveyed believe employers should be allowed to decide unilaterally when to use cameras to monitor people working in their own homes.

The finding comes as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is reviewing guidance to employers on the use of new technologies such as monitoring.

Unequal world and new dimensions

This monitoring – i.e. being watched by the boss – is unlikely to be undertaken equally.

Workers aged 18 to 34 are more likely to be monitored than their older colleagues, said Prospect.

And whether that is the boss dropping by or being monitored by camera, Prospect General Secretary Mike Clancy said that it should require new laws.

It appears this isn’t a one off issue. American journalist Anne Helen Peterson, who reports on the state of modern work, added that this is a trend she sees continuing.

She tweeted: “Several people have told me that their (large) company’s WFH policy includes signing a contract that gives the company the right to inspect their home workspace with 24 hours notice - what is going on here??? Actual question!”

It sparked a backlash online with many saying that they couldn’t guarantee that their own remote work environment would fit the standards that Mattel require.

“My actual work office would not fit these requirements, due to...other people working there and the sounds of working in a city which often infiltrate my office,” one person tweeted.

“Visits from the boss… at my house? Um, no,” someone else wrote.

What this means?

A lot of the focus on home, or remote, work over the last year has scrutinised the blur between work and non-work hours – with working hours on average going up for white collar professionals.

However the Mattel furore re-sparks questions over the meaning of the place of work, encroachment into the personal space and surveillance.

In fact, one in three people are now being monitored at work, including many who are now based at home, new research suggests.

He said: “We are used to the idea of employers checking up on workers, but when people are working in their own homes this assumes a whole new dimension.

“New technology allows employers to have a constant window into their employees’ homes, and the use of the technology is largely unregulated by Government.

“We think that we need to upgrade the law to protect the privacy of workers and set reasonable limits on the use of this snooping technology, and the public overwhelmingly agree with us.”

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