When it comes to remote offices, you clearly can’t keep an eye on your team’s productivity in the same way as you can in an in-person format. Therefore, for a well-functioning remote or hybrid team, it’s important to monitor employees working from home, and there are a range of tools and strategies for doing so. However, it’s essential to not slip into micromanagement tendencies, which will lead to a drop in motivation and a rise in turnover.That’s why we’ve put together eight effective ways to monitor employees working from home — without being overbearing. We’ll cover employer monitoring software as well as the more human strategies you can put in place to make fair and reasonable monitoring a part of your company culture.
It’s much easier to monitor employees working from home if you know precisely what their tasks are. We’re not advocating a second-by-second update of what everybody is working on, but a smart use of technology to ease the burden on you as a manager and to reduce stress on your team.
Project management tools are designed to do exactly this. Assign every task to all those involved with a named responsible person and any contributors. As everybody has a clear idea of what is expected of them, it is much easier to question or celebrate someone’s performance with confidence.
Gantt charts are a favorite tool of managers who like to stay on top of their team without lowering team morale. It works as effective employer monitoring software by displaying the length of every task each individual undertakes on one handy, customizable calendar. This way, you can reliably assign a day’s worth of work without overloading one person while leaving another with a few hours of free time. However, it’s important to not overlook time-consuming tasks that aren’t part of a project, like going through emails.
Now you’ve planned out each of your team members’ day, you can check in with informed comments and questions. If the estimations of how long tasks should take are accurate, you know how each individual should have progressed, so a quick one-to-one check in should give you an idea of whether your team is up to date or lagging behind.
With the best project management tools, you can often take advantage of time tracking tools as standard. It’s a simple concept: employees set a built-in timer running as they start their task, then turn it off when they’ve finished. When time trackers are natively integrated into your other apps, you get ready-made data and reports on performance without lifting a finger.
The main advantage of time tracking software is that you can view how each of your team members is spending their time throughout the day. If you see dead time outside of breaks and lunch, you might need to investigate. On the flip side, time trackers are often excellent motivators for your team as they create a tangible framework to finish their tasks in. Completing a task well within the allotted time gives a great sense of achievement.
However, time tracking software has two main drawbacks for monitoring employees in the workplace. The first is that sales agents often receive unexpected but essential calls that distract from their daily routine. As a manager, you should find ways to accept the reality of the job and be flexible in what you demand. This way, you’ll reduce stress on your team while still setting challenging targets that help the company as a whole.
The other issue is that employees can try to game the system, allowing the time tracker to run while they sneak out for a break. However, as long as all tasks are complete within the allotted time, a serious intervention shouldn’t be necessary.
Productivity tracking encompasses all kinds of activities that lead toward your overall company KPIs. The metrics you use in this form of tracking depend on the department and role of each individual, but each should be measurable and relevant for maximum impact.
For example, you could look at calls made and received. This is a great way of checking how active your sales team are as they reach out to potential customers. The more productive an employee is, the more calls they will make and receive per day. For those who are trailing far behind, it’s worth arranging a meeting to get to the root cause. Perhaps they are slacking off, but they could also be overworked in terms of tasks.
Similarly, email systems often allow you to measure average response times, which is a great indicator of how busy your team is. By identifying team members with quick responses, you can extrapolate extra information, such as the time they spend at their desk as well as how energized they are in their work.
Of course, productivity in this sense has to be taken in context. Combine your productivity tracking alongside tasks completed to make sure people aren’t dropping the ball in other areas and you’re sure to improve performance across the board.
Rather than manually tracking each and every step in your workflows, you can cut out a huge amount of work by implementing automations in each task. Start with notifications for when a task is approaching its deadline. This means you can check in on the responsible person for the task when it matters, rather than spending valuable time spot monitoring each of your team members throughout the process.
Managers who make use of automations to monitor employees working from home save huge amounts of time compared to those who take a more manual approach. Not only is it beneficial for managers, but employees enjoy not feeling an ever-present eye on what they are doing.
One of the more strategic methods to monitor employees working from home is to require them to self-report. This is much better for employee morale as they don’t feel that their manager is watching over their shoulder. Instead, your team has a sense of autonomy in providing an evidence-based report on what they have completed in a day.
For self-reporting to work efficiently, we’d recommend setting standards for what is delivered. This will avoid brief or incoherent reports and allow you to get a clear idea in a short amount of time. On the employee side, self-reporting can also lead to a greater sense of ownership in their work, which is often a productivity booster.
Similar to time tracking, there is of course a possibility for your staff to overegg their own performance throughout the day, but there are ways of reducing this to a minimum. Therefore, center self-reporting on your productivity metrics for the most reliable feedback.
Of course you don’t want to be on your team’s back all the time, but certain activities are a drain on your resources, so it’s more than justifiable to restrict access to them.
One of the most obvious examples of these time sinks is social media. Billions of dollars have been spent on making these platforms as addictive as possible, and very few people are immune to them — especially when there is no physical supervision. Therefore, we’d advise you to nip the issue in the bud at an early stage by banning social media use on company computers.
Most security systems come with page blockers that allow you to restrict access from your company VPN to sites such as Facebook, Tiktok, and Instagram. You can even create notifications that are triggered by people accessing their personal social media accounts. This way, you don’t need to constantly monitor who is accessing what. Instead, you only get notifications for breaches of company policy, and you can deal with them easily.
When considering how to monitor employees working from home, it’s easy to focus all your energy on tech solutions that give you tangible data. From time tracking to website banning, they are all effective, but ignore some of the more human tactics.
In physical offices, monitoring employees in the workplace is rather easy. They’re in your line of vision and you can pick up on a whole host of subtle cues that you simply can’t see in remote offices. That makes it even more important to monitor employee morale.
Remote workers are often less likely to raise their hand and share when they feel overloaded, so as a manager, it’s up to you to reach out to them. Organize frequent one-to-one meetings or group stand-up meetings on a video call to address individual or group concerns. We’d also recommend giving staff the option to fill in anonymous feedback forms to monitor opinions that people don’t want to raise publicly.
As our final piece of advice, we’d strongly urge you to be transparent about what and how you monitor employees working from home. While it may be technically legal in your area for you to monitor your staff in increasingly complex ways, you shouldn’t want to sacrifice a positive company culture for more invasive data collection.
Company surveillance technology already exists that allows you to:
Read emails and private messages
Record background sound from your home
Track keyboard and mouse use
Internet browser activity
However, if your staff consistently hit their targets, you need to ask yourself whether these measures are worth implementing. When you get immersed in the world of work from home monitoring tools, it’s easy to convince yourself that more data is better data, but that’s not always the case.
As we have explored throughout this article, there are many more soft tactics that can allow you to monitor remote employees without creating a 1984-inspired sense of “us versus them”. Your staff aren’t robots, and if they feel unnerved about being observed or that their privacy is being encroached upon, you’ll see a highly predictable drop in creativity and motivation.
Therefore, rather than micromanaging your remote staff, stick to what is necessary for the overall benefit of your company, and communicate the steps you take to avoid a culture of mistrust.
One of the easiest places to begin your employee monitoring mission is with the right cloud-based business platform. With Bitrix24, you get a full suite of connected apps and tools that allow you to put systems in place for effective, but not overbearing, employee monitoring.
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