Remote work has reached a peak in popularity in recent years, alongside the 4-day work week and other hybrid work models.
The benefits are clear: no commute, full flexibility, and greater work-life balance (in theory).
But of course, rarely anything is this picture perfect.
Having a remote workforce carries several potential difficulties, such as:
- Maintaining regular communication
- Integrating the workforce
- Tracking productivity
Fortunately, at least one of these problems could be solved by a simple, inexpensive and easy-to-use employee tracking solution that promotes remote work time tracking.
Using remote computer monitoring fixes the issue of tracking the progress of telecommuters and keeping track of how much time they spend on tasks. It also gives you a clear and accurate report on their billable hours if they’re paid on an hourly basis, so that’s just one more perk.
Curious how to use time management software effectively in your business?
Presenting the do’s and don’ts of tracking remote employees.
DO Track Remote Employees’ Progress
The main purpose of remote work time tracking should be to track progress, and use the time data to provide personalized feedback.
It can be difficult to gauge how remote workers are doing on their tasks and projects in a remote work environment and constant check-ins may impede progress. That’s why having software for tracking employees is a convenient solution.
Needless to say, you shouldn’t use it to spy on your employees and virtually look over their shoulders, but rather to ensure that they stick to their deadlines and don’t commit time theft throughout the work day.
Use the time data you collect and the insights you glean to provide consistent feedback along the way, indicating what team members can do to improve and praising instances of good performance.
DO Give Employees Access to Their Data
You can also go one step further and let team members in on their progress by encouraging them to log into the remote computer monitoring system as an employee to see their performance.
Giving them access to their own data not only shows them that you trust them and are willing to be transparent but it also gives them an opportunity to try and improve their performance without your input.
When we see our performance levels put into numbers, it can be hugely motivating and give us a sense of accountability - both to ourselves, and to our coworkers and superiors.
DO Set Remote Work Standards
With a remote work team, you’re bound to encounter new challenges.
For instance, getting everyone together will probably take more time and resourcefulness than it would for an in-office team. Yet you should hold your remote team to the same standards as you would your in-office employees.
For example, if your in-office employees are allowed a half-hour lunch break, so should be your telecommuters. Similar tasks should be expected to take the same amount of time regardless of where an employee is.
If you don’t mind in-office workers chatting amongst themselves for five minutes every hour, then you shouldn’t make a big deal about seeing remote employees using Facebook for the same amount of time either.
These expectations should be reflected in how you conduct remote monitoring of computer activity.
DO Encourage Open Dialogue About Concerns
In an ideal work environment, transparency is the glue that holds everything together.
Two-way communication helps employees feel heard and understood, and allows management to convey their expectations clearly. That’s why it’s important when implementing time tracking that you encourage open dialogue about any concerns team members may have.
While you may be well within your rights to introduce time tracking software under workplace law, it can still feel like an invasion of privacy to some. To alleviate these concerns, open the floor to discussion and let team members know that their input matters.
Even after you’ve been using the software for a while, regular check-ins and surveys can be useful for gathering feedback and helping you to refine the tracking process for all parties involved.
DO Provide Training and Resources
Whenever you introduce a new software solution, you’re likely to field a lot of questions from team members. Questions such as:
- How does it work?
- What will it help us achieve?
- How can we use it as a team and as individuals?
Answering these questions over and over again is redundant, so providing the relevant training and digital resources is an excellent way to accelerate the onboarding process and ensure everyone knows how to use the software.
This will help to minimize misconceptions team members may have about the software, too. Plus, you can use everything from online webinars to articles or FAQs to educate your team about the benefits of using the time tracking software and what it means for them.
DON’T Track Remote Workers’ Time Outside Office Hours
There are strict boundaries when it comes to tracking time - both legally and ethically - and one line you should never cross is tracking worker time outside of office hours.
Monitoring employee activity even when they’re not officially ‘at work’ can be considered an invasion of privacy at best, and illegal at worst.
Some employee tracking systems allow you to set the working hours and the software stops working automatically after the official clock-out. This employee tracking technique is especially worth considering for remote workforce because it ensures their personal privacy stays intact.
DON’T Install Monitoring Software on Their Personal Computers
It’s pretty simple - if you want to monitor employee computer activity while they’re working, provide them with company computers. If you can’t afford to do this and they have to keep using their own personal machines, then don’t track them using the software.
Forcing the implementation of remote employee monitoring tools on personal computers can be seen as extremely intrusive, even if you assure them that you’ll track their time during working hours.
Bottom line: if you can’t afford to provide business computers, trust is your best tool for performance tracking.
DON’T Track Remote Workers Without Consent
This one almost goes without saying, but it can’t hurt to reiterate.
You should always have the consent of your remote workers before proceeding with the time tracking process.
Even though not telling your workers about employee tracking can seem like a good idea for keeping the performance sample untainted and preventing stress - it’s a risk not worth taking.
You can make assurances to your teams by explaining what you’ll be tracking and why. Informing employees about monitoring protocol is particularly crucial for remote workers because they’re working from home and their private files and activities are on
the line too.
DON’T Use the Data for Micromanagement
There are precious few instances in which micromanagement is the best approach for optimizing productivity and operational efficiency among the workforce.
As such, the worst thing you can do when tracking employee time is use the data you collect to scrutinize every detail of your team members’ days and micromanage how they spend every minute of their time.
The more you micromanage your employees, the less autonomy they can operate with. You also diminish their capacity for creativity as they’ll feel as if they’re constantly under the microscope and that kind of pressure can dull any creative spark.
Instead, you should use the data you gather to identify broader behavioral and productivity patterns and offer employees support where necessary.
DON’T Ignore Signs of Burnout
While you implement time tracking for work-related reasons such as improving productivity and operational efficiency, you should also use it to keep an eye on employee wellbeing.
Most of the time, employees won’t come to you when they’re feeling overwhelmed at work. Instead, they’ll internalize the feelings of pressure and stress, and take them home each day.
As you might imagine, this can be mentally exhausting and lead to a state of burnout. That’s why it’s important not to ignore the precursors to burnout when using time tracking software.
For example, if you notice that an employee is working long hours with few breaks, this could be a sign that you need to intervene and promote the goal of sustainable productivity. The last thing you want is a workforce that prioritizes short-term overexertion over long-term productivity.
Time Tracking Made Easy
Having a remote workforce can be great for your company because you get motivated, productive and happy employees. Which is exactly why you should be careful not to ruin it by implementing and conducting employee tracking the wrong way.
Updated: Sept. 12 2023