As a business owner or an executive, what does your typical day look like?
We’re willing to wager you have a laundry list of responsibilities that seems to grow with each passing day.
You’re in charge of a raft of employees and it’s your job to monitor projects from a high-level overview and ensure progress towards the business’ strategic goals. And maybe, sometimes, you wish you could swoop down from your vantage point to pick up the slack and move projects forward yourself.
But you can’t.
So, you might have made a decision to implement monitoring software to oversee your employees’ activity, as the work from home productivity statistics you stumbled upon back this up as the best approach.
Yet it’s easy to fall into the trap of micromanagement - especially when you can see what your employees are working on down to the exact minute.
That’s why we created this guide: to help you use time tracking software without giving way to micromanagement.
Micromanagement Hinders Productivity
You can imagine how directing every single move and focusing on every single aspect of every task of all your 1,284 employees can take up a lot of your time. Doing this for only five people directly under you is not much different. You’re basically doing six jobs. And paying five more people for it.
It’s understandable if you want everything done to perfection, but you’re not being your most productive self. Apart from wasting a lot of time, micromanagement also affects productivity by enforcing multitasking.
You don’t need to dive into the work from home productivity statistics to understand how constantly looking over your employees’ shoulders could lead to the opposite intended effect: lost productivity.
But this style of leading a company is not only bad for your productivity, but it also negatively affects the working conditions of your employees. With somebody constantly over their shoulder, telling them when to do this and how to do that, it’s hard to stay focused and it gets really stressful really fast.
All in all, micromanagement and productivity don’t go well together. But you already knew this. What you might not have known is how monitoring computers in the workplace, if done wrong, can very slowly lead you closer to that cliff, and how, if done right, it can jerk you away from it and provide the basis for truly great management.
How to Use Monitoring Software the Wrong Way
Monitoring employees’ computers with Insightful or other similar tools can give you a lot of data. Think apps used, websites visited, time spent on tasks, screenshots, productivity levels, inactive time, clock-ins, unproductive activities. This is just to name a few.
With all this monitoring software data, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Theoretically, you’re able to know what everyone is doing on their computers. And it works the same way whether you’re running a remote team, or working from an office. It might even be easier to fall into the remote employee monitoring software micromanagement trap when your team is far from you.
This can be enticing and it could lead you down the wrong path. If you know that employee X has been using (gasp!) Facebook for the past 3 minutes instead of doing something else, you might feel pressured to act on this information. While this would be acceptable if it were 30 instead of 3 minutes and the project they’re working on was super urgent, doing this in all scenarios for everyone is, well, pretty much a definition of what micromanagement is.
So, how to resist the urge?
Monitoring Computers the Right Way
In order to avoid falling down the pit of micromanagement and destroying not only everyone’s productivity but also the office atmosphere and employees’ trust, there are eight things you should pay special attention to when using monitoring software.
1. Track Progress
As we’ve said, monitoring work computers can give you a lot of data. But instead of focusing on every little task, your attention should be fixated on the overall progress.
Need to run a marketing campaign for that one client? Don’t try to oversee the writing of every ad, the design of every visual or every instance of outreach. Instead, aim to track whether all the milestones are reached, how much has been done and whether the deadline is going to be met. And act only if you see that the whole project is at risk.
2. Focus on Improvement and Accept Occasional Unproductivity
Short-sighted question in the form of ‘Why have you been browsing Reddit for the last 7.5 minutes?’ can be met with an answer such as ‘Um, but I’ve just finished sending 150 unique emails’. Who’s the bad guy here?
First of all, you need to come to terms with the fact that occasional breaks are natural and, if properly timed and managed, should even be encouraged. This includes the use of unproductive apps from time to time. As long as it’s not too much, of course.
Secondly, direct your efforts towards improvement of overall productivity, not eliminating every tiny distraction (which is impossible, by the way). As long as your employees are getting better and doing higher quality work, that’s all you should care about.
3. Set Expectations
Having some sort of ballpark for employees’ expected performance can prevent you from focusing on little details. If you know what your employees are capable of and what you can reasonably expect from them, you’ll be able to detect low performance and only react to that.
Monitoring software can help you both set those expectations based on employees’ past performance records and detect performance issues.
4. Aggregate Data
One of the best ways to avoid micromanaging is to look at collected data. Monitoring software lets you aggregate data on a team or even on a company level. This way, you can see that your financial team is falling behind with their workload, for example. This is a much more valuable piece of information than, say, John Doe creating an invoice for 12 minutes longer than usual.
Aggregating data like this will also help you with the final consideration:
5. Always Look at the Bigger Picture
If your teams are finishing projects on time and their work has a high level of quality, that’s all that matters. Forget about 9% of unproductive time, forget about leaving the office 10 minutes earlier than that one time, forget about the small things that don’t affect the bigger picture in any meaningful way.
Why should you monitor program activity then anyway?
To track progress, to set reasonable expectations, to detect major performance problems, to get an idea of how your teams are organizing their time and allocate work accordingly. This is what good management is all about.
6. Build Trust with Employees
Sometimes it can help to analyze the underlying causes of micromanagement, to reveal the real reasons behind your compulsion to check in on employees.
Often, it’s due to a lack of trust between you and your managers and your workforce.
It’s not necessarily that you don’t believe they’ll get the work done, but you wonder whether they’re really applying best practices every day and using the right methods to optimize for productivity.
As such, if you want employee monitoring to be a tool to support employees rather than watch over them, you need to work on building trust through open communication and clear expectations.
When everyone is on the same page, and knows what needs to be done - and how it should be done - there’s less need for you to look over your employees’ shoulders as they work.
7. Empower Employees with Data
Another way to reduce micromanagement with employee monitoring software is to encourage employees to examine their own productivity data.
This can have two benefits:
- Extra accountability - It’s hard to see your productivity data and how you spend your time and not want to challenge yourself to do better - especially if the numbers aren’t what you expected. This time data transparency breeds individual accountability, but also collective accountability as it’s easy to feel guilty when you feel as if you’re not picking up the slack.
- A chance for self-reflection - Empowering employees with access to their data allows them a unique opportunity to assess progress towards their own professional goals. When you transfer this power over to your employees, you can trust that they will do what’s in their best interests regarding professional development.
By empowering your employees with access to their own data, you can spend less time closely watching them as you can trust that they’ll be more accountable for their actions - mindful of their impact on professional development and the collective workforce.
Mitigate Micromanagement When Tracking Time
With the multitude of insights that employee software monitoring provides, it’s easy to want to focus on the details. But a micromanager leading a company doesn’t help anyone. Forget acting on every tiny ‘alarm’ and monitoring every activity closely. Instead, let PC usage tracking software show you the big picture and guide you on your way to becoming the best manager you can be.