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Employee Monitoring: 6 Questions Every Employer Should Ask

Cybersecurity / Work From Home & Remote Access

Employee Monitoring: 6 Questions Every Employer Should Ask

Whether your business is moving employees remotely by choice or circumstance, there is little doubt that Covid has affected the way your company operates. Businesses of all sizes are shifting from traditional, office-based work to a work-from-home (WFH) model of work.

As more and more companies continue to shift employees to a WFH model throughout the Covid pandemic, we see businesses that struggle to track and control employee productivity. In today’s mostly work-from-home environment, your business will need tools and data to drive decisions about your company’s WFH policies. The first step is to track and report on relevant data about your employee’s activities.

There are software tools available to track employee productivity. The functionality and approach of these tools vary. The selection of your instrument will depend on two main factors.

Which activities do you want to track? Specific employee productivity tracking software is less invasive and designed to report on core activities performed (e.g., email, phone calls, and other work transactions). These software types are used as a useful, necessary retraining and management tool to facilitate communication and redirect unproductive employees to keep them on track and focused. It is a good starting point for most businesses looking to implement a WFH solution.

How do you want to track the data? Will you disclose your monitoring as a training tool, or do you want a more covert approach to employee monitoring? Specific software packages can be installed silently on a user’s computer and devices to track virtually all activity, including email usage, website usage, or even recording all user activity throughout the workday.

Particularly in the age of Covid and remote work, work-from-home monitoring is top of mind for many small business owners. I’ve seen companies’ needs for solutions like this range from lightweight reporting solutions that give light levels of feedback and monitoring up to the very intrusive sort of “spyware” type of monitoring (big brother) when launching more in-depth investigations into the activity of employees. It depends mainly on your objectives. Here are a few key questions to consider when considering implementing WFH monitoring for your employees:

Is employee monitoring legal? It depends on your state and local laws. Always consult your legal team before taking any monitoring software steps, especially if you’re working with a remote team.

Is captured data stored locally, on your servers, or in the cloud? Consider the security of any given solution, including WFH solutions, and know where your data resides.

Will you disclose monitoring to your employees? In our opinion, this is the most challenging part of employee monitoring implementation – breaking the news to your employees. You can never be 100% sure how they’ll react to it, and you must deal with the fact that not everyone will like this idea.

We recommend that you announce this change personally instead of using an email. Have a company-wide meeting or a conference call, and notify all departments that you’re currently looking for a monitoring tool that will suit you best. Explain that, during the trial period, they may be asked to test and give feedback on some of the software packages’ functionality until you find the right one.

Take time to explain why you decided to implement this software. It’s one of the best ways to put your employees’ minds at ease because the first thought most of them will have is that you’re trying to spy or micromanage them. Think about the issues you’re trying to resolve with the tracking system, and explain them to the employees. Also, make sure you clarify how the software will benefit THEM.

Set aside some time for questions because your employees will indeed have a lot of them. Try to answer them as honestly as possible, and don’t try to crawl your way out of this part of the implementation since your company’s future depends on it.

Can employee monitoring software be tricked or bypassed? This question is one of the most asked about monitoring software. Most employers don’t take enough time to tell their employees about the benefits of such software. Additionally, many employers use the tool as a form of spying, so it’s no surprise when employees aren’t happy about it.

As an employer, you should know how workers can attempt to trick the software and what you can do to prevent such behavior.

Workers use many different tactics to fool the software, including keeping their computer mice moving so they don’t go into “idle mode”. We have seen workers attach a battery-operated toy to their mouse in an attempt to circumvent monitoring software. Xbox gamers use this same trick to fool Fortnite and other games into thinking they are playing, so they don’t have time-outs. While this is an effective tactic to keep the mouse moving, you’d be able to see in the dashboard that the employee didn’t spend time switching applications, websites, and tasks and hasn’t done anything productive.

Another way employees are tricking the software is by playing a TV show or movie in a full-screen view with a small tab over it, where they open up an app that classifies it as “productive”.

In short, even with the addition of WFH productivity software, management should continue to review the data to get an accurate picture of your workforce productivity software. View our page discussing The Challenge Of Employee Productivity for more information.