The Good and the Bad of Monitoring Your Remote Employees

Eric is the Chief Marketing Officer of JW Surety Bonds. With years of experience in the surety industry, he is also a contributing author to the surety bond blog. He has held a range of different roles within the surety industry, from agent assistant to bond issuer, which gives him a unique insider perspective on surety related topics.

In attempts to lessen the blow of COVID-19, companies are closing the doors to their office spaces. Instead, they are now having employees isolate from one another by working from home. Although pandemic aside, working from home has increased in popularity over the years. According to Flexjobs, there’s been a 91% increase in individuals working remotely over the past 10 years.

With this in mind, it’s important to note that for many, this transition is an unfamiliar stomping ground. Within the government sector, there are very few jobs that usually operate from home. For example, customer service and marketing positions can operate from home, but most of these positions still operate in the office. Adjustments on both the employer and employee side are needed for an effective work routine during these unprecedented times.

As remote workspaces become the new “norm”, the question of how management should check on employees from home lingers across the room. Without everyone present in the office, it’s very hard to regulate what your employees are doing while on the clock. Take a further look to learn about the benefits and setbacks of monitoring remote employees, as well as the best practices to follow when doing so.

Basics of Monitoring Remote Employees

The way one company monitors its employees will vary from the way another company does. The reason being is that companies operate differently from one another, with their own unique values. The necessity that employers feel to watch over their employees is a result of many things, but the most common is productivity.

Monitoring is also done to make sure employees are held accountable for their actions and to prevent malpractice from occurring. Malpractice can be a major concern when it comes to careers in government. With classified material and protected information exposed to employees’ eyes, regulation needs to be enforced to minimize the associated risk.

Pros to Monitoring Remote Work

Time efficiency can either make or break a company’s level of productivity. While it’s easier to monitor this more closely in the workplace, there are still many ways to do so from home. By using time tracking systems, employees are held accountable for their projects and getting tasks done under a reasonable amount of time. If your employee is taking a longer amount of time to complete a certain project, it’s usually a good indicator that something is off.

Likewise, tracking time efficiency also holds employees to the same high work standards from before. Working from home can be very comfortable, meaning it’s also quite easy to subconsciously end up distracted. Being aware that they’re monitored, it’s less likely that your employee will slack off. This helps limit the abuse of freedom that may happen when working from home versus in an office setting.

Employers should no longer feel the need to poke their heads left and right, to make sure that tasks are completed according to company standards. The time saved can help in carrying out more productive tasks when it comes to advancing the company and the team.

Monitoring also keeps security a priority when working from home. During the workday, government employees have access to an excessive amount of protected documents and files. While it’s important to have good faith in employees, you also need to work preventatively since you never know what someone’s capable of.

Unfortunately, there’ve been instances where employees are caught in fraudulent acts with company assets.

In June of 2019, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the Desjardins Group suffered a data breach of about three million individuals and businesses.

The credit union company was blindsided that the leak came from an internal employee and as a result, didn’t catch the suspicious act for quite some time.

Some situations are also out of your employee’s control. For instance, let’s say that an employee’s personal computer and devices get hacked or stolen. A situation like this runs the possibility of exposing company files that ought to be protected and secure. This can happen in the office as well, but it’s worth noting that there’s a higher risk when working remotely with unprotected personal devices. 

Cons to Monitoring Remote Work

Excessive monitoring on a manager’s part can create a hostile work environment. While an automated monitoring system gives full transparency to managers, it’s not always a good thing. This can lead managers into being more nitpicky with their employees on issues such as, break frequency or inactivity that they wouldn’t have normally noticed as an issue in the office.

Whether working from home or in the office, employees are only human and don’t operate like robots. At first glance, inactivity may seem alarming to managers. The reality is your employee could’ve momentarily stepped away from the screen for a snack break, or is simply thinking of their tasks and what to do next. Not only does the manager lose valuable time by worrying about such things, but it also instills the lack of trust and confidence they have in their team.

Employers also need to be careful with how much they invade their employees’ privacy. It can be easy to cross the line between effective management and employee privacy.

In 2018, Dtex systems’ Harris Poll found that 77% of employees would feel less uneasy if their higher-ups were transparent in the ways they’re being monitored.

In all actuality, if employers aren’t careful and transparent with how they monitor employees, the company is at risk of some high authority legal issues.

Increased monitoring could decrease employee productivity. Monitoring to a high degree can bring lots of unneeded stress to the table. This takes up a lot of room in an employee’s headspace when they are working, as they always feel watched with every move they make. As a result, the stress they feel could reflect in their work, which can be a setback for the company.

leadership

In all actuality, if employers aren’t careful and transparent with how they monitor employees, the company is at risk of some high authority legal issues.

ERIC WEISBROT

Good Practices in Monitoring Remote Work

If you don’t have experience already with monitoring systems and tools, jumping straight in can feel a little overwhelming. For a smooth transition, we suggest the following four steps when starting your monitoring efforts:

1. Ask yourself why you’re monitoring and what do you want to achieve

As mentioned before, every company’s needs are different. Before you decide what tools and systems to use, you need to have a good understanding of what you are expecting for the company by monitoring your team. By doing so, you’ll be able to pick and choose specific tools and regulations that are structured to help achieve the end goal. This will likely make your efforts more focused and effective from the start.

2. Strive for transparency with your team through communication

It’s important to keep your team in the loop as well. Make sure they know why and how they are being monitored. A good idea to keep a healthy relationship between management and employees is to address their needs as well. 

Consider implementing a system that not only tracks what you as a manager desire, but also helps them with their daily work activities. According to Salesforce, your team will be five times more motivated to succeed if they feel as if their employers listen and take care of them.

3. Select which tools and systems are best for your team

There are plenty of individual tools out there that do different things. You can also find systems that include many tools all under one platform. Take note that you don’t need to implement everything you find. Some tools can be a waste of your time and money if they don’t help with your goals, so pick accordingly. 

Here are some popular tools that can be used for remote risks associated with government-related work: 

  • File Transfer: A file transfer tool will protect your company’s classified documents. By monitoring what your employees are doing with company files, privacy remains a main priority.
  • Keystroke Logging: Keystroke logging tools protect sensitive information and ensure privacy. This will make sure information isn’t copied or transferred out.
  • Screen Capture: Using a screen capture tool will show employers what their employees are working on while on the clock. This can help ensure productivity throughout the workday.

4. Perform a trial run of systems/tools, and then implement accordingly

While very helpful, systems are not always perfect and don’t always fit well with your team. As a manager, you should test run your new tools with a group of employees, before implementing across the whole company. From here, you can assess what works and what doesn’t, as well as things that need to be done differently. Once things run smoothly, go ahead and apply it to the entire team.

Final Thoughts

With the recent rise of working from home, employers are considering new and innovative ways to monitor their team. Monitoring tools can be very beneficial for certain job sectors such as finance and government. Working remotely is more uncommon for companies in these sectors, so don’t stress if it gets overwhelming—it’ll be an adjustment. However, in time companies will right the ship, finding the best options for their organization and employees.  

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