Monitoring Remote Employees: What’s Best for My Team?

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The unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyday life for people all over the world. Shutdowns, stay at home orders and other shifts have halted normal interactions like meeting for lunch or working in an office. Many employees are instead working from home to slow the spread and protect their loved ones. Schools have also sent many kids home and shifted to distance learning solutions.

This results in full households trying to work, learn, and live all at the same time without much breathing room away from each other. There are certainly pros and cons to staying home. In addition to clear safety reasons, staying at home cuts down commute time, allows employees to work more comfortably, and gives them more time to be around loved ones.

However, working from home is difficult for those who are used to working in a traditional office setting. Remote work requires self-discipline since employees aren’t around peers or managers who can see if you’re on your phone or scrolling through social media.

There are also minor disadvantages to working from home as well. For example, you’re unable to ask your desk neighbor a question, you’re out of luck if you run out of ink or need to borrow a charging cable and you don’t have the luxuries of the fast office internet or any other perks you had in the office.

These obstacles require business leaders to make important decisions about managing their team and their productivity. Moving your workforce home inevitably means adjusted expectations and protocols to match the new work environment. This may also mean implementing a monitoring system for employees.

A monitoring system can include new guidelines, new tools, and increased protections for the business. The way you choose to monitor your employees depends on your goals, your team, and your industry.

Benefits and Risks of Monitoring

Remote employee monitoring is how project managers and business leaders alike can keep an eye on employee activity and the progress of ongoing projects. However, increased monitoring can come at the cost of employee trust and morale if it’s not well-implemented.

Monitoring comes with many benefits for managers since you can get a clear view of the project’s progress and employee activity at home. It can result in a more productive workforce and much-needed cost savings.

  • Better budgeting for projects: Some project management platforms allow you to compare the time spent on tasks against the amount of money budgeted for the project. Knowing this can inform decisions to adjust budgets and team members needed on projects, making your overall operations more efficient.
  • Adjust employee workload: Monitoring also gives you an objective view of your team’s workday. Although your employee could tell you everything is fine, seeing the amount of time spent on projects could tell a different story. It also allows you to ask questions and start conversations you might not have otherwise thought to do.
  • Improve security: You can use monitoring tools to track your team’s online activity and restrict access to sensitive files. Now that everyone is at home, the temptation to look at social media or open restricted documents may be higher for some. Data breaches can even happen when employees make honest mistakes. For example, if an employee falls victim to a phishing scam and accidentally reveals their login credentials, they could give hackers access to all of your company’s files. Implementing restrictions and increasing monitoring can crackdown on data breaches, both intentional and unintentional.
  • Free up time from administrative tasks: Using tracking tools like time and budget trackers can take out the guesswork and human error of manual reporting with real-time data. This also allows your team to focus on their actual work instead of spending time filling out time tracking sheets and other administrative tasks that can eat up a lot of time.

JW Surety Bonds put together a flowchart to walk you through important questions to ask before deciding whether to monitor your remote workforce. It’s important to honestly ask yourself why you think you need to monitor your team and if the issues have better solutions. Take a look at the guide below and learn if your team could benefit from increased monitoring.

remote employee monitoring flowchart

Risks

Cost-effectiveness and improved efficiency are great. Unfortunately, increased monitoring can have a negative impact on your team.

  • More stress: Some employees may not respond well to increased monitoring. They may have difficulty going about their day as normal knowing that their bosses are watching their every move. Stress isn’t always a bad thing, but stress to the point of inefficiency or even to the point of failure can hurt your company and your relationship with your employees.
  • Legal issues: Monitoring employees might get you into hot water if it violates any employee rights in your area. Read up on local and federal laws and rights to ensure you’re following them.
  • Micromanagement: Managers may get overzealous with the new data available at their fingertips. Seeing more specific information like their employee’s online activity might encourage them to point out minor inefficiencies more often. This micromanagement can result in push back from employees and may impede an employee’s efficiency.
  • Dropped employee morale: You put your relationship with employees and their trust at risk when you begin monitoring them if it’s not implemented well. For example, launching a policy and a new monitoring platform without consulting your team may result in employees feeling like you don’t trust them. It may also feel like an unnecessary invasion of privacy if you’re not upfront with your goals and expectations.

Check out these remote employee management software:

Top 10 Software To See If Remote Employees Are Working

How to Effectively Implement a Remote Work Policy

Understanding the pros and cons of monitoring can help guide your decision-making process. It’s also helpful to get a sense of what actually goes into implementing a policy. We’ve broken down the general steps below.

  1. Settle on your goal: Your policy should bring your team closer to your goal. For example, a time tracking platform might be all that you need if your goal is to make employee scheduling more efficient.
  2. Get your team’s thoughts: Gathering early input from your team gives you insight on what they are and aren’t comfortable with as well as how their ideal monitoring policy would work. This is also your opportunity to explain the goals of this potential policy and ease any uncertainty your team has towards it.
  3. Pick the right tools for the job: Select tools and software that align with your goals. A sophisticated project management platform might not be necessary depending on what you need. It’s also important to avoid common mistakes when buying new software that most organizations make. For example, you should consider if the new tool is something that could be useful in the long run when you eventually get your team back in the office.
  4. Test the new policy and tools with your team: Using your new tool’s trial policy on a small part of your team is a good way to get real feedback without disrupting your entire business. It’s also a good way to get insight on how your new procedures and expectations affect your team’s work.
  5. Implement the new policy company-wide: Once the initial kinks are worked out, it’s time to implement the new policy and tools. Give your team time for training and a learning curve while everyone gets situated.
  6. Make changes as necessary: Keep an open line of communication with your team and listen to any complaints and difficulties they’re having with new tools or the new policy.

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