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Jakob Attkinson
Jakob Attkinson

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Work from home - or how intrusive monitoring can be

I'm looking for a new opportunity, a job that challenges me in a few different ways, but that also yields some satisfaction at the end of the day.

I've never been shy of moving around the world. After working "from home" for over 3 years, I decided I want a job that has an office, regardless where. It can be anywhere, I wouldn't mind moving.

A bunch of interviews later, I started to freak out. While the companies that I applied so far were quite "random", all of them seemed to have a similar plan on how to "deal" with new employees. And, weirdly enough, that bothers me.

Here's what I'm talking about:

The companies that I talked to want me to work "at least for a year" from home. I need to register as self-employment, however I would work as an "actual employee", but paid according to the country I live in (assuming I live in a country where life is cheaper than where the company's HQ is). I would subject to the same rules and conditions as any other employee from their office, except the "monitoring" part.

People working "from home" need to earn their trust. In order to do so, the "hiring" company wants to keep tabs on me. What does this mean? That I have to install a premium app, called HubStaff.

While I am used to (and have nothing against) time tracking in apps like JIRA, HubStaff monitors my "input" activity: keyboard and mouse. Moreover, the app takes random screenshots of my screen(s) and sends them to my employers. Of course, the app does much more, but these 2 features is were I draw the line.

I find this kind of "monitoring" very intrusive. I take issues when I'm being "monitored" like that and I feel very uncomfortable having to work under such circumstances. Moreover, I take issues with having my location being monitored and shared, especially if my first option was to actually move to their HQs.

While one of the companies mentioned that I have to earn their trust, I can't stop but feel like they didn't earn my trust in order for me to share all these information with them. Especially since like they want me to act like a "self employed".

Are you or did you have to deal with similar circumstances at a work place? Do you / would you agree to work under such conditions or is there a place where you'd draw the line?

I'd love to hear your thoughts

Discussion (5)

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ahferroin7 profile image
Austin S. Hemmelgarn

Being paid based on where you're working from (what country/province that is) is not hugely unusual. In fact, I'd actually be worried about companies with people working from home that didn't do this, as it might result in tax complications for their employees.

Registering as self employed though is a HUGE red flag here. In most developed countries, the arrangement they're trying to push on you is not you being an employee of that company, it's you being an independent contractor working for them, and there are a whole slew of potentially problematic implications to this (lack of employment benefits in most cases being a big one).

The obsession with monitoring what you're doing is also a red flag. Earning the company's trust is one thing, but even if you were at the office this type of monitoring shows a lack of understanding of how programming (or any type of true engineering work beyond trivial stuff) actually works, and it's not even a small misunderstanding.

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attkinsonjakob profile image
Jakob Attkinson Author • Edited on

Thank you for your input.

Being paid based on where you're working from is not hugely unusual.

Shouldn't this work both ways? Say, if I live in a country that has a higher cost of living than the company's country, shouldn't I earn more in order to afford rent?

Registering as self employed though is a HUGE red flag here.

This was requested of me multiple times. The thing is, I don't know how is it possible to be an actual employee and live in a different country (working from home) or even a different city? If I am an employee, I'd have to pay tax and get the state benefits (like medical healthcare) in the city where the company is registered and not where I work. Unless I miss something?

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ahferroin7 profile image
Austin S. Hemmelgarn

Shouldn't this work both ways? Say, if I live in a country that has a higher cost of living than the company's country, shouldn't I earn more in order to afford rent?

In general yes, but not all companies are this smart or this generous.

This was requested of me multiple times. The thing is, I don't know how is it possible to be an actual employee and live in a different country (working from home) or even a different city? If I am an employee, I'd have to pay tax and get the state benefits (like medical healthcare) in the city where the company is registered and not where I work. Unless I miss something?

Whether or not it's possible is dependent on how the company operates, but it's generally really unusual for it to truly not be possible. I can speak from personal experience in this case, given that I work for a company consisting of a single legal entity that has employees in more than a dozen countries spread across more than 10 time zones (and all the employees pay taxes based solely on where we live and work, not where the company is incorporated). Requesting that you effectively work as a contractor simplifies this because it pushes the requirements for handling your taxes to you (as well as insurance in most jurisdictions, among other things), thus meaning that the company doesn't need to go to the trouble of getting a tax ID in your country or farming payroll for you out to an entity that does have one.

The issue I have with this is not so much that they're asking you to do it, it's that based on your description they're not calling it what it is and properly explaining the implications to you. If you're a self-employed contractor working for them, then in most cases that means that, at least in the US (and I believe in many parts of Europe too):

  • You're legally responsible for handling your own income taxes relating to working for this company.
  • You're legally responsible for handling other types of withholding relating to your income from the job (such as social security and medicare in the US).
  • You're legally responsible for handling your own health insurance if you live somewhere that requires you to have it.
  • The company is not legally obligated to provide most of the benefits they might be required to provide normal employees, such as retirement plans and insurance.
  • You probably don't have the same legal protections against wrongful termination that a regular employee would.
  • The legal liabilities surrounding workers' compensation may be different from those that would be present if you were a normal employee.
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attkinsonjakob profile image
Jakob Attkinson Author

Thank you for taking the time and explaining this.
At least now I know it's possible for the company to handle such situations. Thus, if they want me to work remote, they should handle it. Self-employment seems like a PITA to handle for someone that doesn't have multiple "clients".

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brandinchiu profile image
Brandin Chiu

Run away.

This is not the kind of company you want to work for. They are actively attempting to exploit you, and the monitoring suggests lack of confidence in the people they themselves vet.