Monitoring employee time can be beneficial to everyone, but only when it’s done correctly.
To monitor or not to monitor employee work time? That’s become the question of the time in the era of COVID-19 and remote work.
So many businesses were thrust into remote work so quickly and unexpectedly. Until just recently, most work has been about figuring things out and putting out fires. It’s only been recently that leaders are beginning to grapple with the questions they need to answer about working remotely in the future.
Some businesses have been struggling with employees who don’t check-in and who seemingly disappear for the workday. Others are more worried about security threats when it comes to critical company data or information. Whatever your motivation, deciding not just whether to monitor remote employee work time or not, but how as well is certainly a tough call.
There are pros and cons to each side. The key is to do what’s right for you, your company, and your employees.
Should I monitor employee work time while they’re remote?
It’s a tough question with no right or wrong answer. You have to carefully weigh everything from your business’s needs and the performance of your teams to cost and culture fit.
If your company culture is all about flexibility and individual accountability, then choosing software that’s going to monitor your employees’ every keystroke is probably not the best idea.
If you’ve been communicating for months about a slip in productivity and there hasn’t been meaningful improvement, that’s different. You might have to opt for tracking even if it isn’t the choice you want to make culturally.
Monitoring your employees’ time at work can benefit them, encouraging them to step away when they’ve accomplished goals.
A good way to think about the decision is like this: If you’re doing it because it will be a benefit to your workers, then go ahead. If they’ve been working themselves to the bone and you want to encourage them to step away after certain things are accomplished, monitoring their remote work can help.
Proceed with caution if you’re looking to use monitoring as an evaluation tool. If the evaluation will be used positively to help employees better manage their workloads, it could be useful. If monitoring is going to be used to demote them, it’s probably a bad idea.
Finally, if you’re looking to track your employees’ workdays in order to penalize them, you should probably avoid it.
Transparency is key
If you do decide to monitor your remote employees’ work time, transparency is key. Generally, remote work tracking has to follow the same legal guidance as in-office monitoring. Most state laws require that employers notify employees of monitoring in advance to protect their privacy. The best thing you can do is get your workers to consent to monitoring in writing.
Things get tricky, though, if your workers are using any personal devices for their work at home, including the internet. If you’re asking them to run another program on what could be their already strained internet bandwidth, you’ve got an issue.
Companies can generally require data security practices and monitoring when a personal device is connected to a company’s network or VPN. But you have much less ground to stand on if employees are using personal phones or computers for their work.
Last, these are trying times. When deciding whether or not to monitor remote employees, consider how much personal and work life has blurred for all of us during the pandemic. It’s always smart to approach the situation with as much empathy and understanding as possible.
How do companies monitor work time for remote employees?
If you type “monitoring remote employees” into Google, what you’ll get at the top is tons and tons and tons of ads. “Business is booming for companies that make software analyzing the data employees generate during the workday,” writes Tatum Hunter in The Washington Post. “These programs present reports to superiors on how often employees are typing, when they log off and on, and what social media sites they look at.”
Taking a non-invasive approach to monitoring time may be a better option for some.Most companies will simply opt for software, but that’s not the only way to do it. You can always ask employees to self-monitor or self-report what they do during a given timeframe. The good thing about this is that it allows you to take a very non-invasive approach.
You can build more tactical monitoring into your existing one-on-one or team meetings. This way you can get a sense for what they’re doing without directly monitoring them. A less direct approach like this might be good if you get the sense that directly monitoring employees through software could feel too invasive for them.
If not — or if you’re set on software tracking because it’s simply necessary — there are choices to be made. You’ll want to choose the right software based on your monitoring needs.
Teramind offers you the ability to track the time that your employees spend on various apps, websites, or email inboxes. It also has functionality that lets users gauge the productivity of their teams as well as reinforce data security.
ActivTrak is another software monitoring company that has been popular since the onset of COVID-19. In addition to its tracking abilities, it has functionality that can help notice signs of burnout or disengagement. ActivTrak does this by noting when and for how long an employee is working on specific tasks on any given day. The company also alerts managers if employees aren’t following appropriate data security practices.
Other software tracking options
Other software tracking options include InterGuard, Sneek, Hubstaff, Veriatom, SentryPC, Work Examiner, and Controlio. Each one offers different payment options, use cases, and subscription plans. Business.com offers an easy way to compare and contrast the most popular products.