'When I started working from home, I was secretly being watched by my boss.'

I had been in my previous job for about 4 years and after COVID they wanted to return to face-to-face work. 

I decided to try to find some other work as I knew this arrangement wouldn't work for me, as I'd moved further away and had a baby during lockdowns – leaving me with a really long commute and a demanding young child to care for. 

While on the job hunt, I spotted a few listings for Virtual Assistant positions. The flexibility to work from home looked ideal, and I didn't need much equipment to do the job, so I applied and landed a role.

But my early experience as a VA was far from ideal.

Watch: WFH stretches. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

In my first VA job I worked through an agency. Through the agency my hours were strictly set depending on the clients' location and I wasn’t allowed to have direct contact with the people I was doing the work for. The tasks were really limited and I had to write a report to the agency each week detailing the work I had done.

These reports needed to be insanely detailed, logging every task (big or small) I had performed and the time I had taken to complete the task.


The agency had set up ‘friendly viral software’ called ActivTrak on my laptop that would track all of my online activity from hours worked, websites visited, software used, how long I’ve been offline – essentially everything I was doing on my computer.

Once this spyware is installed it's really hard to delete.

If I did any work outside of a limited scope of tasks, if I worked outside of set hours to make up time, if my computer was inactive for more than 12 minutes I would be reprimanded. I would be notified by the Analyst via email and asked to explain why I had low working hours, passive hours or have been inactive for any period of time.

This protocol is hard to maintain and in order for me to stay ‘active’ if I had to step away from my desk I would have to deploy an elaborate set-up to keep my computer active. My most trusted method was setting my mouse in front of a fan with a tissue to keep it moving so my computer does not sleep. 

Sometimes I felt guilty doing it, but I had no choice because even when my client told me to take the day off, it is not allowed because the tracker is working and we have logged in for work that day.

The thing that shocked me the most was getting a call from an analyst just minutes after accidentally clicking a link to a website about suicide, and they were referring me to seek counselling.


This was the conversation that followed:

Image: Supplied.

I worked like this for about a year and half.

It was so hard to work this way. It was really stressful with the amount of monitoring that was constantly happening – they could even take a screenshot on our screen. 

It certainly started affecting my health because I was working the graveyard shifts because of my client's location. I wasn’t sleeping well, I couldn’t think clearly, I was easily irritated, and I got sick which meant I needed more time off to rest. I felt really guilty because all of this impacted my ability to care for my daughter outside of work hours.


Eventually, I managed to find another VA job. 

Now I get to work more flexibly and on a wider range of tasks and I’m getting experience in social media, content management and even got the chance to develop my first website. I’m so much happier at work now! My new employer bought me a new laptop and monitor, they increased my pay and even though I work remotely I finally feel like part of a team.

I am allowed to work flexible hours and I can communicate with our global team members easily and I’m learning lots of new skills. 

When I started working with Ignite Purpose, my boss Christina asked me “what I need from her”. She's a very supportive and compassionate leader and I was surprised when she bought me my work tools – she bought a laptop for me, she got me a second monitor and she increased my salary. And honestly, all I need is moral support for me to grow. 

I feel so supported now and I’m much happier and more motivated to do my best. Plus, I'm definitely sleeping easier knowing I'm trusted and not being watched every moment of every day. 

Image: Supplied. 

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