WorkTime - non-invasive ways to monitor remote employees

March 1, 2023

12 min read

6 non-invasive ways to monitor remote employees & boost their productivity

Why do companies engage remote employees?

It's not just the pandemic behind the demand for remote work. A variety of other strong reasons incline company leaders to use this collaboration format. A recent study by McKinsey & Company conducted in the US proves that the remote work option is no longer a stopgap but a long-term feature of contemporary reality. One of the major reasons behind this trend is that most professionals including top performers consider the opportunity to work remotely as their priority when looking for a new job.

To hire and retain the best talent and stay competitive, leaders need to consider adopting a remote or hybrid model in their organizations.

According to the Growmotely report, 97% of employees are not willing to work in the office full-time. For employers, this means that in order to hire and retain the best talent and stay competitive, they need to consider adopting a remote or hybrid model in their organizations. Access to a worldwide pool of professionals is another good reason for this. In the remote paradigm, companies are not limited to recruiting local specialists. A much wider selection of qualified workers from all over the world is available. In addition, for companies operating internationally, it is also much easier to attract and retain new clients with employees based in other countries. Also, remote workers in some ways prove to be more productive as they feel happier and are more satisfied with their job. Without being distracted by office noise, they can also be more focused and organized. Finally, the remote model allows businesses to cut costs on office rent and equipment.

Remote work challenges

At the same time, remote work presents a number of challenges that leaders don't experience in traditional office settings. First of all, they are associated with difficulties in communication, collaboration and coordination of employees’ and teams’ work. Let's look at the shortcomings of the model in more detail.

Remote work presents a number of challenges that leaders don't experience in traditional office settings.

Communication difficulties

Without face-to-face contact in a physical office, managers and workers may experience communication challenges, especially when they are located in different time zones. Increased response times, difficulties in sharing information and experiences are more common when people work from a distance. Therefore, more efforts should be made to organize and maintain constant interaction and avoid misunderstandings.

Collaboration issues

Managing remote teams also comes with challenges in coordinating employees and teams that are not typical for office work. It can be more difficult to align efforts and keep the workflow up to par without the introduction of additional technology and adjusting interaction algorithms.

Performance monitoring

With employees operating from different locations, it could be a problem for managers to properly track their work. This problem can be solved by implementing monitoring tools that will help keep abreast of how employees spend working hours and how productive they are.

According to the BBC, it's much more challenging for young employees to move up the career ladder when working from home.


In some cases, telecommuting can leave workers feeling isolated and detached from the team. This in turn can lead to reduced productivity, especially when it comes to younger professionals. While working from home, they tend to show less creativity, learn more slowly and have a lower professional growth rate than in an office environment. According to the BBC, it's much more challenging for them to move up the career ladder when working from home.


While some employees tend to be more focused when they work from home, others, on the contrary, are more likely to loosen up, they are distracted by non-work activities and concentrate less on work. In general, the remote work model can bring many benefits to companies. But organizations will be able to take full advantage of them only if they take into account all the challenges mentioned and get prepared for them properly. We will return to this issue later. Below you’ll find some tips on managing remote teams.

Do employees like remote work?

Many employees prefer working from home rather than going to the office. They appreciate the comfort this work model provides. According to studies, most workers would like to stay remote even when the COVID-19 pandemic ends. According to the research by Buffer, 98% of remote employees prefer to keep working from home or at least hybrid for the rest of their careers. Employees value a more flexible schedule and the ability to work from home or any other convenient location. In this way, they achieve a better work-life balance and get more satisfaction from doing their job. Since there is no need to travel to the office, workers save the time and money required for these journeys. In addition, they are relieved of the stress that everyday commuting can bring.

Remote work does not suit everyone. Some workers experience a lack of communication, have difficulty with motivation or don't have a comfortable workspace.

Most employees feel better physically and mentally while working from home. They are less tired, get sick less often, and generally, claim to be happier. However, remote work does not suit everyone. Some workers may experience a lack of communication and interaction. Someone may have difficulty with motivation and self-organization. Many of them complain that they don't have a comfortable workspace or that they lack the necessary equipment. According to the survey by Nulabof, 72% of remote workers don’t have a properly organized workplace in their homes. In addition, young employees are more likely to prefer working in the office. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, they seek active social interaction, as it helps them to better get used to the workflow. Secondly, they need mentorship, the ability to receive feedback from more seasoned colleagues and generally the possibility to grow professionally in the work environment. Finally, they value access to the latest tools and technologies that an office setting can provide them.

Young employees are more likely to prefer working in the office.

7 tips to effectively manage remote teams

It is important to realize that managing remote workers is different from managing office staff. To handle it, leaders need to update their administrative practices taking into account all the peculiarities and challenges that come with remote work. You will have to pay more attention to communication and collaboration, provide additional support and guidance, build trust and relationships, strengthen company culture, regularly recognize and reward employee performance.

1. Clarify expectations

With remote work, it is vital that employees clearly understand what their leaders expect from them. Therefore, it is especially important to set guidelines for teams and individuals. Explain by what criteria you will evaluate the quality of their work and make sure that there are no understanding gaps on this issue.

2. Communicate more often

Ongoing communication with remote workers is essential. Conduct regular team meetings for weekly planning and reporting, schedule one-on-ones with individual employees, send corporate newsletters, hold general meetings to announce important news.

3. Encourage team spirit

Remote work can make employees feel isolated. To avoid this, foster a sense of community in every possible way in the team. Hold non-work virtual meetings: team building events, team breaks, virtual happy hours and celebrations.

Communication, collaboration and monitoring software become critical when it comes to remote work format.

4. Give regular feedback

It will help you stay on the same page with your subordinates in terms of assessing their performance. It is important not only to provide remote employees with constructive criticism but also to recognize and reward their achievements.

5. Use tools

Communication, collaboration and employee monitoring software become critical when it comes to remote work format. Utilize video conferencing and chat platforms to facilitate communication; leverage project management tools to assign tasks and track their progress, use monitoring tools to assess employee productivity.

6. Provide assistance

Remote workers need more support and guidance. Develop the onboarding process for newcomers, introduce mentorship, provide opportunities for training and development.

7. Trust your team

Don't be too suspicious or invasive when trying to control remote teams. Show employees that you respect their autonomy and give them freedom of action.

Technology & remote team management

As stated above, technology is vital in managing remote employees. A range of advanced tools helps managers maintain and streamline workflows despite all the challenges that come with the remote work model. These tools can be divided into several categories.

Technology is vital in managing remote employees.

Video conferencing

The work of remote teams is impossible without regular virtual meetings. With teleconferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet, employees can see and hear each other, brainstorm and discuss current tasks with colleagues from the comfort of their homes.

Project management platforms

Online tools like Asana, Trello or Wrike provide virtual working spaces for collaborative planning and project management. They allow users to assign tasks, allocate responsibilities, track progress, discuss related issues, set deadlines and reminders, etc.

Instant messaging

Chat platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Chat allow employees to quickly exchange messages, discuss tasks in groups or individually, and share files.

Productivity monitoring software

When managing remote teams, it is especially important to understand what employees are working on and how effective they are during working hours. With tools like WorkTime, managers can non-invasively and efficiently monitor time spent on tasks, track worker activities and understand how productive those activities are.

With WorkTime employee monitoring software, employers can non-invasively monitor worker performance: track time spent on tasks, capture computer activities and understand how productive those activities are.

Cloud-based document management

Cloud-based storage tools like Dropbox or Google Drive will help you organize your work with documents in a shared cloud space. They provide a secure and easy way to store and collaboratively work on files with colleagues. Using these technological solutions, leaders can more effectively manage their remote teams, provide them with convenient communication and collaboration channels, and thus increase their overall productivity. However, it is important to note that each of these tools should be carefully selected based on the specific needs of the team and meet the challenges facing the company.

Remote work & employee productivity

Are remote workers more productive? Some studies show that overall performance tends to increase. A study by Airtasker showed that remote employees worked 1.4 more days per month, compared to in-office staff. It also found that remote teams’ productivity improved by 1.4 times compared to in-office people. Yet the level of productivity can vary from employee to employee and from team to team. In many cases, remote staff can perform worse when working from home. Especially when it comes to long-term productivity.

Remote work while bringing possible immediate benefits can dramatically reduce productivity in the long run.

One of the reasons why this can happen is a lack of communication. Without personal interaction in the office, employees can become less involved in work processes. Such isolation can lead to misunderstanding, delays in completing tasks, lack of focus and motivation. Another reason is home distractions. While working from home, people may be exposed to various distractions such as household chores, children, pets or other family matters. It can be difficult for employees to clearly separate work from personal life. The home environment itself can have a relaxing effect on some individuals, which also leads to a drop in performance. Another important factor must be taken into account. It has been observed that remote work while bringing possible immediate benefits can dramatically reduce productivity in the long run. According to The Washington Post study, working from home negatively affects employee creativity, innovative thinking and professional development.

The Washington Post: working from home negatively affects employee creativity, innovative thinking and professional development.

On the other hand, new ideas and insights are more likely to occur when people work together in the office. In addition, the remote format is bad for the development of young employees, it slows down the process of learning new knowledge and skills and as a result, can cause a delay in their professional growth. In other words, the productivity of remote employees is in question. Managers should carefully weigh the pros and cons before moving employees to a remote format.

Productivity monitoring software for remote teams

One of the ways to improve the productivity of remote workers is to implement monitoring tools. Since these tools help maintain the proper level of intensity and quality of work processes, they are increasingly used by large companies worldwide. According to Gartner research, 60% of major employers leveraged monitoring software in 2022, which is twice as much as at the beginning of the pandemic. This number is expected to increase to 70% within the next 2 years. Another study by The New York Times found that 8 out of 10 US private companies used productivity tracking platforms in 2022.

According to Gartner and The New York Times, the use of productivity monitoring software is increasing.

These tools not only allow you to track the employees’ activity and performance but ultimately positively influence these indicators. However, the positive impact of monitoring is only possible if it is used responsibly, with respect and trust in your employees. It’s important to carefully choose the right productivity-tracking software to balance the need for monitoring with the privacy and autonomy of team members.

It’s important to choose the right productivity monitoring software to balance the need for monitoring with the privacy and autonomy of team members.

Employee monitoring software: how to choose

You can find many employee monitoring solutions on the market. Therefore, it is not so easy for managers to make the right choice, especially if they have not come across such tools before. Our tips will help you decide on the software that suits you best. Before you start looking for the right tool, define your needs first. Determine what exactly you want it for. What exactly are you going to track? You may be interested in data such as employee attendance, absenteeism, active/idle time ratio, sites visited, apps used, etc. Once you have identified your needs, look for the right features. Choose the solutions with characteristics that best suit your requirements.

Choose the solutions with characteristics that best suit your requirements.

Their functionality may include tracking the time spent at work, the productivity of the sites visited and the applications used. Also, it is important to consider the ease of use. Choose a tool that is easy to try, install and utilize. Pay attention to the convenience and clarity of dashboards and reports. Find out how user-friendly this solution is in general. Does it support various devices and platforms? Can it be easily integrated into your existing systems? Consider privacy and data security. Since productivity monitoring software collects data from team members, make sure it does not violate privacy boundaries, ethical norms, and current laws. It also deals with sensitive information that needs to be protected. Therefore, check the tool for data security, whether it allows you to control access to confidential data and notifies you of its unauthorized use.

Consider privacy and data security when choosing employee monitoring software.

Test customer support to find out how effective the support team is. How prompt and responsive is it to user requests, how professional and helpful is it? Check reviews which are an invaluable source of information that you won't get any other way. They allow you to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of the tool directly from those who have tried it.

When remote employee monitoring is too invasive

When monitoring remote workers, executives can be tempted to be overly suspicious and invasive. Some monitoring tools provide features that violate employee privacy. They allow you to extract information that has nothing to do with productivity and is redundant. Moreover, such tracking usually backfires. It can negatively affect employees in several ways. Its saddest consequence is the loss of confidence. Invasive monitoring can irreparably destroy trust between workers and employers. Excessive surveillance makes employees feel like they are constantly under suspicion. This approach significantly decreases their commitment to work and enthusiasm.

Invasive monitoring can irreparably destroy trust between workers and employers.

The other consequence is increased stress. Working under the watchful eye, employees will feel unsafe, assailable and will experience constant anxiety, which will negatively affect their health and ultimately their efficiency. A drop in productivity also happens due to a decrease in motivation. Invasive monitoring creates a negative emotional background, which will inevitably demotivate workers. They will also be less creative in their approach to completing tasks. Surveillance kills innovative thinking, the desire to experiment and go beyond the necessary minimum. It also leads to increased employee turnover. Excessive control can encourage workers to start looking for other employment opportunities in order to find a job where managers will trust them and respect their privacy and autonomy.

Examples of invasive features in monitoring software


This function allows you to intercept and record all information typed by an employee on the keyboard, including passwords and the content of personal correspondence.

Screen recording

With this feature, you can record everything that appears on an employee's computer monitor, including open documents, web pages, personal emails, and chats.

Webcam surveillance

Video monitoring allows employers to track every step of an employee, including non-work activities during breaks and private communication. All these features are too invasive because they violate the privacy of workers.

Invasive features violate employee privacy. At WorkTime we only offer socially responsible monitoring.

Also, they are inefficient. Instead of monitoring productivity, they allow you to literally spy on workers, extracting information that is not directly related to employee performance. In addition, they create an atmosphere of oppression and distrust, demotivating employees and reducing their job satisfaction. Therefore, managers should mindfully select monitoring software and use it with respect for the worker's personality and rights.

6 non-invasive monitoring techniques

To effectively monitor the work of your employees, focus on features that enable you to measure productivity without crossing the line of privacy. With this approach, you will get only the necessary data to evaluate the performance of employees, and at the same time contribute to their commitment and motivation.

To effectively monitor the work of your employees, focus on features that enable you to measure productivity without crossing the line of privacy.

1. Employee attendance monitoring

What does it do?

The capability allows you to define the time of logging in and logging out of the employee's work device. In other words, it reports when the individual started and finished working at the computer and allows you to determine whether the worker is following the schedule.

Is it invasive?

No. The attendance feature only defines the time when the work was started and completed, without disclosing any information that could be classified as personal.

How does it help?

In some cases, it is poor attendance that leads to a drop in the productivity of remote employees. If the manager finds that some workers are not keeping to the schedule, he can notify them and clarify his expectations regarding attendance. As a rule, most employees respond to this with improved discipline.

WorkTime monitors employee attendance by means of the first and the last computer use throughout the day.

2. Monitor employee computer active/idle time

What does it do?

This indicator helps to find out how active a worker was between logging in and logging out and what is the share of idle time when the computer was turned on but there was no activity on it.

Is it invasive?

No, it is not. The active/idle time feature only shows how active an employee was on the computer during the working day, without violating his privacy.

How does it help?

One of the reasons for the low productivity of employees is an excessively large proportion of the idle time. Some remote workers can log in on time, but then do nothing for hours. This is exactly what was happening to one of our clients in the banking sector. Having discovered the cause of poor performance with the help of WorkTime, managers discussed the issue with employees. As a result, worker activity more than doubled!

With WorkTime, you can track the excessive share of idle time when the employee’s computer was turned on but there was no activity on it.

3. Monitor employee productivity

What does it do?

This feature helps identify the productivity of sites visited and applications used during work. It also shows the total share of productive and unproductive time per day.

Is it invasive?

No. This monitoring capability doesn’t capture any content, including any personal information. It only shows the amount of productive and unproductive time, as well as the top productive and unproductive sites and applications.

How does it help?

Being active doesn't always mean being productive. A remote employee can actively use a computer to visit social networks, entertainment sites and perform other non-work-related actions. After discovering that workers are using their time inefficiently, supervisors can have an explanatory conversation with them and warn them against inappropriate activities.

WorkTime monitors and calculates employee productivity based on the applications and websites used.

4. Set & monitor goals

What does it do?

With WorkTime, you can not only track the attendance, activity, and productivity of your people but also set goals for these indicators. Determine the current results of your team and set the results you want to achieve. Then monitor progress against these three metrics.

Is it invasive?

In no way. This is a completely transparent and non-invasive feature.

How does it help?

You can familiarize employees with goals for attendance, activity, and productivity so that they have a clear picture of what is now and what they should strive for. With a comprehensive understanding of your expectations, employees will be more focused, results-oriented and motivated.

With a clear understanding of your expectations, employees will be more focused and motivated.

5. Monitor employee behavioral patterns

How does it work?

Use a distraction score feature which is also an effective motivation and engagement tool. By measuring this metric, you can see how often an employee is distracted while working: chaotically switches between sites and applications, moves from productive sites and applications to unproductive ones, keeps a lot of tabs open, etc.

Is it invasive?


How does it help?

When employees recognize their distraction score and understand what influenced it, they become more focused on tasks, get rid of interfering factors and become more productive.

WorkTime calculates distraction score to estimate employee focus on work.

6. Skip guesswork, compare!

WorkTime is a research tool! You can skip the guesswork and actually measure whether your employees are more productive in the office or remotely. Just compare different indicators (attendance, active/idle time, productivity, distraction score) of remote teams with those of office ones. Based on our expertise, we can say that this may vary. In some cases, remote workers are more productive, in others less so.

WorkTime is a research tool! You can skip the guesswork and actually measure whether your employees are more productive in the office or remotely.

The bottom line

With the right monitoring software, you can not only track the productivity of remote employees in various ways but also significantly improve it. When employees know what metrics you are monitoring and what you expect from them, they become more conscious, organized, committed to company goals and, as a result, more productive. However, if you want employee monitoring to really work for the benefit of the organization, it is important to be transparent on this issue and maintain a healthy balance between control and employee privacy.

A healthy balance between control and employee privacy is super important. WorkTime productivity monitoring offers this healthy balance while boosting employee productivity.

If you want to see in practice how non-invasive monitoring can boost your business, try WorkTime, the software aimed at pure productivity.

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