Best ways to manage & monitor employees - WorkTime

March 9, 2023

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11 min read

Work-from-home: are you ready for it? Best ways to manage & monitor employees

How is work-from-home different?

On the face of it, a work-from-home (WFH) model seems to be alluring for both organizations and employees as it offers a range of unbeatable benefits. Employers can significantly cut operational costs, get access to a greater pool of talent, improve performance and reduce turnover. Workers save time and money on commuting, are less stressed and generally find this working format much more comfortable.

Work-from-home comes with many pitfalls that can frustrate both employers and employees.

At the same time, WFH comes with many pitfalls that can frustrate both employers and employees. Some of them include a lack of proper working space and equipment, data safety issues, worker disengagement, communicational gaps, team coordination problems and possible employee productivity drops. The other cluster of problems is related to remote team supervision difficulties, and also privacy and legal concerns when tracking worker productivity. It can be addressed by introducing ethically compliant monitoring tools like WorkTime, the only non-invasive employee monitoring software on the market. In this article, we offer you the best ways to better manage your work-from-home teams by applying the best practices and technologies. Let’s explore!

Work-from-home teams supervision issues can be solved with ethically compliant tracking tools like WorkTime, the only non-invasive monitoring software on the market.

Work-from-home: why & who?

The WFH format is represented unequally across countries, industries, professions, gender and age. It is more typical for high-income information industries like IT, communication technology and finance. For the simple reason that, due to the nature of these businesses, for many positions, office visits are not as essential to completing tasks. On the other hand, working from home is difficult to align with manufacturing, agriculture, construction, and tourism, as these industries require employees to be physically present at work facilities. Accordingly, in well-off European countries and in the US where highly profitable industries capitalizing on knowledge prevail, work-from-home is in favor. By contrast, in regions heavily reliant on agriculture and manufacturing like poor Asian and African countries, the WFH format is the least common. A lower level of internet penetration is another strong reason for this.

Working from home is more typical for well-off countries where highly profitable industries capitalizing on knowledge prevail.

As for the differences depending on the employee's profession and status, knowledge workers like writers, developers, designers, architects, etc. are more likely to work remotely because of the specifics of their jobs. Managers and financiers can do their work from home, while those who work in retail, healthcare and services have to attend to their business premises. Besides, seniors tend to work remotely more often than people in lower positions. Gender and age also matter. Younger employees are more into remote work than older ones because they are more engaged in information-based areas and usually work in forward-looking, less conservative environments. Women are more likely to opt for remote positions because they often need to balance work and motherhood. According to Zippia research, 80% of women claim remote work to be their top job priority, compared to 69% of men.

Why is work-from-home good?

Generally, the WFH model is beneficial in many ways for both employers and employees. But only in case, you and your workers are ready for the challenges including the on-obvious ones that come with it and apply the right approach to effectively address these issues. Let's first look at the benefits.

63% of employees declared they would definitely seek a new job if they didn’t have the opportunity to work from home.

One of the advantages of remote work comes from the fact that most employees find it much more attractive than the office one. They claim to be more satisfied with their job when they have the opportunity to work from home. For employers, this means that by implementing the WFH format they can considerably reduce turnover in their organizations. For the same reason, the work-from-home option can be crucial for hiring top professionals, as most of them consider it one of their job search priorities. For 84% of employees, the opportunity to work remotely is one of the major factors when choosing a job.

By implementing the WFH format employers can considerably reduce turnover in their organizations.

It is also easier to recruit the best specialists because, with a remote format, the employer is not limited to the local labor market. A much wider choice of specialists from other cities or even countries is accessible. Operational savings is another WFH privilege employers can enjoy. They save on office space (reducing rental costs), equipment since remote workers typically use their own devices, and other office-related expenses, including electricity, Wi-Fi, water, cleaning, etc.

The opportunity to work from home can be crucial for hiring top professionals, as most of them consider it one of their job search priorities.

For employees, remote work brings comfort in many ways. To start with, they save time, money, energy and nerves on commuting. Plus, with more flexibility in terms of schedule and location, they enjoy a better life-work balance, are usually less stressed and distracted than in the office environment and in general, claim to be healthier and happier. Most employees say working from home has a huge positive impact on their overall quality of life. Though employers also benefit from those perks as the more happy and healthy an employee is, the more likely he will be productive.

Why is work-from-home bad?

However, remote work also comes with challenges, some of which are not always acknowledged by both company leaders and workers. One of the major problems for employers is difficulty in monitoring remote staff productivity. The AT&T's research in 2022 showed that employee supervision was the number one challenge for executives who had to manage people working from home. Other include difficulties in team management. Since the workforce is distributed across different locations, and sometimes time zones, additional efforts and technology are required to coordinate team members, maintain their concerted work, and ensure seamless collaboration on tasks.

In 2022 employee monitoring was the number one challenge for executives who had to manage people working from home.

Although in general WFH can drive worker productivity, in many cases it leads to performance decline due to less face-to-face interaction with colleagues and lack of a shared workspace. This is especially true when it comes to younger employees and long-term efficiency. New security risks are another challenge associated with the WFH format. As employees are mainly using their personal devices, working from home comes with more potential vulnerabilities to company data. Executives also should be ready for team-building difficulties. It is more challenging to involve remote employees in non-work-related socializing which is also important for a healthy work atmosphere.

As many as 78% of employees working from home declare home technical problems negatively affect their collaboration with colleagues.

While most people find the home environment comfier to work in, it can at the same time be fraught with the weakening of self-discipline. Remotes fail to separate work and leisure. On average, they take longer breaks and spend more time on meetings than on-site workers. Not to mention that they can get distracted by family and household matters.

WFH can lead to lower employee productivity due to less face-to-face interaction and a lack of shared workspace.

Lack of a proper workplace and equipment is another common pain of remote employees. Less than 30% of them have home offices while others have to work in bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms or even basements. As many as 78% of them declare that technical problems considerably affect their collaboration with colleagues. According to Stanford News, only 65% of employees working from home in the US have the internet good enough to support video calls.

Less than 30% of employees have home offices while others have to work in bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms or even basements.

8 tips to manage your WFH staff

With the work-from-home model, managerial practices need to be significantly reviewed and updated. New collaboration strategies, new policies, and new technologies are required to keep operations going smoothly. At the same time, most companies have not prepared properly for the grand shift toward the WFH format. According to the AT&T research, up to 75% of organizations haven't developed detailed strategies for introducing it. Below, we'll go over the main points to consider for better managing remote teams. 1. Review the collaboration policy so that the transition to a remote format is not painful for the organization. Establish channels for all necessary types of communication, consider platforms to effectively and seamlessly collaborate on all tasks and think of ways you are going to assess employee work. Provide all the needed technologies and tools to comprehensively support the above. 2. Implement productivity monitoring software. It will help you keep workers more organized and conscious of how they are spending their work hours, find reasons for low productivity, boost performance and engagement. It's important to use a non-invasive tool and be transparent about it to avoid privacy and legal concerns. When people see that monitoring software is being used with respect to their personality in order to create a healthier and better employee experience, they become more enthusiastic about their work.

Non-invasive tracking with WorkTime creates a healthier and better employee experience, making workers feel more enthusiastic about their job.

3. Use various channels to maintain communication on a proper level despite the inevitable disengagement. Keep emailing to share important news, employ video conferencing for regular meetings for planning and reporting and use chat software for quick massaging. Consider setting an allowed message response time limit to avoid communication delays. 4. Utilize project management software to keep collaborative work organized and controlled. If you already use it, assess whether it is appropriate to maintain a remote format or if you need to switch to a more advanced solution. Leverage cloud storage to collaborate on documents. 5. Provide regular check-ins, one-on-ones and personal feedback. Daily or weekly check-ins allow you to keep abreast of work progress. One-on-ones and regular personal feedback help ensure that you are on the same page with your employees regarding your expectations and how workers meet them. Supporting your feedback with data obtained by WorkTime you’ll sound more constructive while workers will be more accepting.

Supporting your feedback with data obtained by WorkTime you’ll sound more constructive while workers will be more accepting.

6. Provide support and assistance. Remote workers require more help and guidance from you. Make sure they have everything they need for their work including equipment and technologies, provide mentorship for newcomers and give them opportunities for training and growth. 7. Manage data safety risks by developing a remote worker security policy. Ensure devices accessing the enterprise network have antivirus software. Use cloud-based file sharing, encourage workers to backup files, use encryption and set two­-factor authentication on their devices. Implement a zero-trust framework. 8. Maintain company culture and encourage team unity. For employees working from home, it could be challenging to avoid a sense of isolation when they have little to no in-person communication. Therefore, foster a spirit of community in every possible way. Hold non-work virtual gatherings, team buildings, common virtual breaks and happy hours.

8 tips for employees to stay productive

When working from home, employees need approaches and practices somewhat different from those used in the office. They require better self-organization, more communicational effort and they have to focus more on results. Managers can help remote employees adjust to WFH format by sharing with them the following tips on how to better organize work at home. 1. Arranging the workplace. It has already been said that most remote workers don’t have a dedicated and properly organized working space. Even so, it's essential to separate the zone where they work from the rest of their living space. Thus, their workplace will be associated exclusively with work. On the other hand, staying in the rest of the house won't make them feel like they're at work all the time.

It's essential to separate the work zone from the rest of the living space.

2. Making sure all necessary equipment and technology are in place. Is the equipment that the employee has at home sufficient to carry out his duties? Is the Internet speed high enough for full-fledged work? These questions need to be clarified as they are crucial. If something is missing, you need to find ways to make up for it. 3. Strictly following a work schedule. A flexible schedule does not mean being disorganized. Workers can adjust the schedule to their own convenience, but once established, it must be accurately followed. 4. Avoiding distractions and staying focused. Remote employees should establish a work-from-home policy that obliges them not to get distracted by household matters during working hours. Family members should be warned not to disturb an employee during his working hours.

Make sure all equipment and technology necessary to carry out job tasks are in place.

5. Communicating proactively with supervisors and colleagues. When working from home, employees tend to reduce communication to the bare minimum. Encourage them to be more active and initiative. 6. Focusing on productivity, not hours worked. You can check how employees are following this recommendation with WorkTime. It can track idle time and unproductive activities on an employee's work computer and thus detect “false work”.

Use WorkTime and share monitoring results with the employees. This is a proven effective productivity booster!

7. Maintaining work-life balance and avoiding burnout. Encourage employees to take breaks, avoid overworking, play sports, spend free time with family and socialize with friends. 8. Using focus apps. Advise workers to use tools helping to self-organize like to-do list applications, note-taking apps, and applications that schedule your computer activities.

Employ tools-organizers like to-do list applications, note-taking apps, and applications that schedule your computer activities.

Employee productivity monitoring helps!

Productivity tracking software when used correctly helps not only to find out how efficiently employees use working time but also to improve their performance. According to a Digital.com survey, 81% of organizations that employed monitoring software saw an increase in worker productivity. This explains why the demand for such tools is rapidly growing. The global employee tracking software market was valued at USD 1.12 Billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 2.10 billion by 2030. Now, 60% of companies with remote work models are using employee monitoring platforms.

According to a Digital.com survey, 81% of companies that implemented monitoring software saw an increase in worker productivity.

The positive impact of monitoring on worker performance is easy to comprehend. Employees tend to be more responsible in terms of spending their time when they are aware that their work is being tracked. But it is not only about supervision. By setting goals and sharing the results of monitoring with employees you can provide them with a clear understanding of your expectations and get them more engaged, focused and motivated. You also make workers accountable as you can always refer to productivity reports generated for every employee by monitoring software.

By sharing the results of monitoring with employees you can get them more engaged, focused and motivated.

However, it is worth considering that improper use of monitoring can backfire, destroying the enthusiasm of employees. It is important to use only non-invasive tools such as WorkTime. Focused on pure productivity tracking without violating employee privacy they help significantly improve worker efficiency.

Focused on pure productivity tracking without violating employee privacy WorkTime helps significantly improve worker performance.

By using monitoring software you can identify employee productivity trends and detect problems behind poor performance and areas that need improvement. It also helps keep remote employees’ workloads balanced making sure that they are working to their fullest potential and at the same time aren’t overworking.

Tips to work-from-home monitoring

When employees work from their home environment, they might behave differently from the office staff. They often wear casual clothes, use their personal equipment, are more relaxed, etc. That is why it is especially important not to invade personal space when monitoring employees working from home.

When monitoring employees working from home, it is especially important not to invade their personal space.

Thus you will avoid any embarrassing situations as well as uncovering employees’ personal data. For instance, monitoring capability such as video surveillance is the number one privacy killer. It is very important to comply with ethical standards, keep the monitoring process business oriented and use a tracking tool with non-invasive features. Only privacy-conscious tracking can improve employee productivity, increase motivation and reduce turnover.

It is critical to keep the monitoring process business oriented and use a monitoring tool with non-invasive features.

To use employee monitoring to its fullest, involve the employees themselves in the process. Encourage open communication and transparency on this matter. Share with them your concerns and vision. Clarify your expectations for key monitoring metrics. Announce goals and keep employees informed of progress toward achieving them.

When work-from-home monitoring is done properly, this helps to avoid staff turnover and low productivity problems.

Take into account that when being monitored, employees may feel stressed which in turn may lead to poor work efficiency. To avoid it, explain to the workers your intentions behind monitoring. According to a report by Gartner, employees feel more comfortable and are more productive if they know what is being monitored and why.

8 must-have features in WFH monitoring software

When choosing a monitoring tool, pay attention to the ease and convenience of its use, as well as the characteristics that will allow you to best assess the responsibility and productivity of employees. Make sure the software has the following features. 1. Ease of use. Check out whether the tool is easy to try, install and use. There are not many solutions on the market that can boast of the convenience of use and lucidity of the interface. 2. Clarity of reports. Working with the tool will be inefficient if you receive intricate poorly designed and difficult-to-understand reports. On the other hand, clear concise intelligible reports make it much easier to work with data.

WorkTime is characterized by ease of use, clarity of reports and provides all the necessary features for productivity monitoring.

3. Attendance tracking. Poor attendance is one of the possible reasons for remote workers' low productivity. By measuring this metric, you can define the time of logging in and logging out of the employee's work computer. To put it simply, you can see when the individual started and finished working on his device and determine whether he is following the work schedule. 4. Computer activity tracking. Another possible reason for employee low productivity is an overly large proportion of idle time during working hours. Some individuals when working from home can log in on time, but after that do nothing for a long period. The active/idle time detector enables you to define how active an employee was while his computer was on. 5. Productivity tracking. However, activity is not always productive. A working-from-home employee can be active using non-work-related applications or visiting inappropriate websites like social networks. Productivity tracking helps determine such activity and classify it as unproductive.

WorkTime significantly reduces employee unproductive time making them much more focused.

6. Distraction score monitoring. This feature helps to measure and improve employee focus on work tasks. It shows you how often an individual is distracted during working hours: intensely switches between tasks, sites and apps, goes from productive websites and apps to unproductive ones, gets distracted by frequent meetings, etc. If you share with an employee his distraction score and the reasons behind it, he can become more organized and focused. 7. False overtime monitoring. This feature helps to identify cases when an employee is working longer than scheduled, but at the same time uses working hours inefficiently, with a big share of idle and unproductive time.

With WorkTime you can track idle time and unproductive employee activities and thus detect falsework.

8. Screen productivity monitoring. This capability is especially useful in monitoring remote employees. It detects which websites and applications are open and visible to the worker on his screen and also the productivity rate of the whole screen and its visible part. The feature encourages the employee to be more focused while working.

3 features to avoid in WFH monitoring software

Most employee monitoring software on the market provide features that grossly violate the privacy of workers and can cause serious anxiety and stress and, as a result, lead to a decrease in motivation and productivity. Moreover, they have nothing to do with measuring productivity and are completely redundant. We strongly advise against using tools that have at least one of the following features. 1. Keylogging. This spy-like capability enables you to obtain all information typed by a worker on his keyboard. This way you can access his passwords, the content of personal messages and other private data. 2. Screen recording and screenshots. Recording everything that is visible on a worker’s monitor, you get excess to all open documents, web pages, private letters, and messages. This capability is absolutely redundant if you use the screen productivity feature. 3. Webcam monitoring. This highly invasive feature allows you to record everything a worker does in front of his computer, including non-work activities. Employers who use it definitely go too far. We consider this capability absolutely excessive and unacceptable especially when it comes to WFH monitoring.

WorkTime does not compromise on privacy, it does not provide a single invasive feature that could disturb employees and destroy the reputation of the employer.

Check-list: are you ready for the work-from-home format?

Make sure you're well-prepared for the remote working format by checking out the key steps to its implementation. Below is everything you need to take into account. 1. Establish the working hours Decide whether the schedule of employees working from home is fixed or they can shift it, and to what degree. You can check if people follow the schedule by tracking their working time with the WorkTime attendance feature. 2. Set up clear responsibilities and expectations The more clearly workers understand their duties, the more focused they will be when working remotely. Design job descriptions for each position. Inform your personnel if any changes happen. 3. Set channels for communication Decide which channels you'll be using and for what type of communication. Choose platforms for online video meetings, messaging and emails. 4. Decide on platforms for collaboration on tasks Consider project management software that best suits your business needs taking into account all nuances related to the WFH model. Pick other collaborative tools if needed, decide on the cloud storage you will use for collaborative work. 5. Decide on how you will monitor worker productivity Define metrics you need to measure and select a software that suits your needs best. Be sure to opt for a non-invasive monitoring tool that will not violate worker privacy and will not ruin the trust between you and your employees.

WorkTime is aimed at pure productivity monitoring without invading employees' personal life

6. Establish time off rules Decide in advance on holidays, breaks, vacations and sick leaves. It’s better to have it all agreed upon beforehand to avoid misconceptions. Provide at least a few unscheduled days off, paid or unpaid. Ask staff to request their days off in advance. 7. Set up meetings rules Plan how often various types of meetings should be held. It is better to set up a regular meeting schedule for team updates. 8. Check your employees’ workspace Make sure employees have all necessary equipment and good speed of the internet. If something lacks, consider ways to make up for it. 9. Think about remote onboarding Plan introductory video meetings and training for your newcomers to help them become familiar with your company quickly. Create guidelines for each position. 10. Provide technical support Provide your employees with a list of support team contacts so that they can resolve technical issues quickly and conveniently. Provide them with details: contacts in messengers, email address and phone number, etc.

Your steps towards better work-from-home management

1. Go over the above check-list To succeed in managing employees working from home, a lot needs to be done ahead of time. Decide in advance how often and through what channels members of a remote team will communicate with each other, what platforms they will use for collaboration and project management. Plan all organizational moments, including working hours and time-offs. Make sure your employees have the facilities they need to work from home and provide them with technical support. Last but not least use non-invasive practices and tools to effectively monitor and increase employee productivity. 2. Request our free e-book with a complete guide to Working-from-Home Employee Monitoring! In the guide: employee monitoring policy sample, announcement sample, employee monitoring handbook, employee consent form sample. 3. Start using WorkTime to monitor and boost your employee productivity!

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