The Work-From-Home Conundrum
The Work-From-Home Conundrum

There are many reasons why a business may hire a private detective. It could be to chase down a debtor, or to investigate thefts from warehouses, or even to counter corporate espionage.

But one of the more mundane yet essential tasks that a private investigator can be used for is employee absenteeism. This is when an employee claims to be unable to work due to sickness or otherwise poor health, but you believe they are lying.

Yet in the modern world it isn’t just outright absenteeism that can be a problem, but an aversion to office working. And a private investigator could be the solution for these problems too.

The Work-From-Home Movement

This all stems from the events of 2020 and the global shutdown. At the times, businesses had to react very quickly to the developments all over the world, essentially shutting down offices to limit contact between workers and minimise the risk of the virus spreading.

Suddenly, people were being asked to work from home, often for the first time. And with the shutdown clearly set to last for months, people invested heavily in their home office setups, making their home a comfortable place to work.

And so people became used to it, they adjusted to working from home and started to enjoy it. The lack of a commute, the increased flexibility, and for some even the chance to slack off and earn a wage without being monitored as closely as they would be if in an office situation.

Many businesses managed ok with this change, and most workers did not abuse the position they were in. But then things began to change.

The Contemporary Problem

As the shutdown eased, the working world had changed, and it was impossible for everyone to go back to how it was.

 People had enjoyed a taste of how different their work life could be. While some couldn’t wait to get back to the office, to rekindle those social relationships and set boundaries between their work and home lives, many others felt that they no longer wanted to go back to the office lifestyle.

Some businesses accepted this and adapted. Home working became a perk that could be offered. But others did not. By necessity or principle, they were unable to offer a permanent work-from-home solution, and asked employees to return, either in a phased approach or just back to work at once.

A stand off threatened, but businesses hold the power. And so some employees began to look for accommodations – reasons they had to work from home when others were not permitted to.

Some may be genuine, but what about the employees who were manipulating the system? The ones who knew what loopholes could be exploited to get them special permissions even if they weren’t needed?

In those cases, a private investigator could be the answer.

How a PI Can Help

If you have an employee that claims they need to work from home, despite it being against your policy, then a private investigator could be used to verify they are being honest, or to gather evidence that they are lying.

It could be that the employee claims to need to work from home because of an illness or injury. In those cases, a PI could monitor them to see if they go out in public and seem to be faking their condition with you.

 If they claim to have been hired remotely, and have no means of getting to your offices, a PI could check whether they own a vehicle and are seen to use it.

Or it might be that they claim they have to stay at home to balance childcare, but in actual fact have other family members living at home who appear to be capable of looking after the children.

A private investigator could offer surveillance services and then gather the photographic evidence you need to begin an investigation. If it’s then found that the employee has been lying or exaggerating their situation so you could either force them to return to the office, or begin a disciplinary process.

Key Caveats

Any employer will know that you must tread carefully with these sorts of situations. Often the employee might be telling the truth about their situation, even if evidence suggests otherwise.

For example, an employee might claim that they can’t return to work due to medical anxiety, and a genuine panic disorder over potential mingling with others. But they may be observed to interact with others in non-work situations.

A doctor might justify this, so wading into a disciplinary immediately could actually end up becoming a discrimination case against you.

It’s important to see the work of a private investigator as the provider of supporting evidence, and not the Jury. The responsibility of carrying out an actual investigation lies with the employer.


One of the main reasons that an employee could be angling to work from home is because they are moonlighting, working for a second business or setting up a freelance business whilst claiming a salary from your own.

This is certainly an area where a private investigator could be valuable – they could use their range of skills including surveillance but also potentially undercover work and interviewing to determine exactly what work the employee is carrying out.

Employing someone who is reluctant to tow the company line and work in an office is one thing. Finding out they’re doing it because they want to get paid by someone else at the same time – that’s something you need to stomp out immediately.

In Summary

The world has changed, and not every company now needs employees to work in an office. But if you do – for your culture or for your productivity – and you have some key workers dragging their heels, then a private investigator might be of use.

You need to be careful to act within the framework of the law, but the benefit of working with EJM Investigations is that we’ll be able to guide you on what we can and can’t do, and advise you on what you need to check within your own business policies.

Give us a call on 01772 334700 if you want to know more.