Microsoft executives say it's 'wrong' for managers to spy on remote employees' mouse clicks and keystrokes: 'That's measuring heat rather than outcome'

Satya Nadella
Microsoft Corporation chief executive Satya Nadella speaks during the VivaTech (Viva Technology) trade fair in Paris, on May 24, 2018.GERARD JULIEN/AFP via Getty Images
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said managers are plagued by "productivity paranoia" amid remote work.

  • Microsoft vice president Jared Spataro said worker surveillance measures "heat rather than outcome."

  • NYT previously reported some companies are measuring key strokes and mouse click to spy on staff.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says remote work has spurred "productivity paranoia" among managers, leading to efforts to spy on employees.

"Leaders think their employees are not productive, whereas employees think they are being productive and in many cases even feel burnt out," Nadella said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Thursday.

Video: Microsoft's chief brand officer talks remote work and virtual collaboration

The publication reported that Microsoft held a corporate survey that polled 20,000 people across 11 countries on productivity during the era of remote and hybrid work. The survey found that 85% of managers are concerned that workers aren't being productive and 87% of employees say they are working effectively — a disconnect between workers and managers that Microsoft aims to fix.


Nadella said better communication tools can help bridge the gap. But, Microsoft vice president Jared Spataro said he worries executives are turning more toward worker surveillance instead.

"There's a growing debate about employee surveillance, and we have a really strong stance — we just think that's wrong," Spataro told Bloomberg. "We don't think that employers should be surveilling and taking note of the activity of keystrokes and mouse clicks and those types of things because, in so many ways, we feel like that's measuring heat rather than outcome."

Last month, The New York Times reported that companies are increasingly turning to worker surveillance measures amid the office landscape which has become focused on remote and hybrid work environments. The publication detailed multiple methods companies had employed to measure workers' productivity, from tracking mouse clicks and keystrokes to having staff take random photos to insure the workers were at their computers.

Even as Nadella says managers should resist productivity fears, Microsoft has not given up on its efforts to bring workers back into the office — though it has faced several setbacks. Earlier this year, the company initiated a policy that employees should be in the office at least 50% of the time. In June, the company said "a back-to-office 'normal' may not happen this year." The Wall Street Journal previously reported that workers have been turning down raises in favor of working from home.

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