Prior to COVID-19, employers were increasing efforts to monitor the productivity of their employees. In fact, according to a 2018 Gartner report, 50 percent of 239 large corporations admitted that they were monitoring their employees. In particular, the content of their emails and social media accounts. What’s more, these companies also stated that they monitored who their employees utilized and who’s meeting with whom.
According to an Accenture survey of C-suite executives one year later, 62 percent of their organizations collect data about their employees. Of course, the pandemic has only accelerated employee monitoring. And, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing.
An ExpressVPN survey found;
- Even though 83 percent of employers think employee monitoring is unethical—78 percent use monitoring software.
- More than one-third of employees believe their employers don’t monitor their online activities, and 15 percent don’t know it’s possible.
- The majority of employees (56 percent) feel stressed and anxious about their employer monitoring their communications. Moreover, 41 percent wonder if they’re being watched, and 32 percent take fewer breaks because of it.
- The majority of employees (48 percent) would be willing to lower their salaries to prevent surveillance. In fact, 1 in 4 workers would take a cut of 25 percent.
- Employees admit that 41 percent of their recorded work calls contain evidence that could lead to their termination. Additionally, 37 percent of employers claim to have used stored recordings as evidence for firing.
- Moreover, employers use stored emails, messages, or calls to inform their decisions regarding performance reviews (73 percent) and to track potential worker unionization (46 percent).
So, what’s the answer here? After all, with the latest wave, companies may be rethinking their plans for re-opening. But, even when things do return to normal, remote work, or at the least hybrid offices, are here to stay.
At the same time, employers will need to measure and track their team’s productivity without making them feel anxious. It’s certainly a precarious situation. But, you can use the following ten techniques to make this possible.
1. Set Clear Expectations and Reasonable Deadlines
I’m still baffled at how many leaders and project managers still fall into the trap of not setting clear expectations and reasonable deadlines. In my opinion, these topics should always be a top conversation priority—regardless if your team works at the office or works remotely.
If you tell your employees what you expect from them, especially in a remote working environment, they’ll be happier and more productive. If “the big talk” is an area that you’re struggling, try using the following;
- Focus on clearly defined objectives or goals.
- Objective and goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Explain the “why” behind your expectations so that they know that their work is meaningful.
- Provide examples and access to the right tools and resources.
- Agree on reasonable deadlines.
2. Arm Yourself, and Your Team, With the Right Tech
“Having a surplus of communication and collaboration tools is great,” writes Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. “At the same time, you don’t have to collect them all. We’re not talking about Pokemon here.”
“Instead, limit the tools that you’re using,” Deanna recommends. “Besides decreasing distractions, it prevents everyone from bouncing back-and-forth between tools. Furthermore, it can also help reduce information overload.
Some suggested tools to measure and track your team’s productivity include;
- Calendar can automatically schedule meetings. More importantly, with its analytics feature, you can see where your valuable time is being spent.
- Slack is a popular messaging tool that allows you and your team to communicate and collaborate in real-time.
- Basecamp is a project management tool designed to keep everyone on the same page.
- Hub Staff is packed with features like time tracking, screen recording, employee monitoring, and scheduling, and payroll software.
- Google Drive will let you and your drive collaborate on online documents together.
- Kickidler is more than just employee monitoring software. It also comes with time tracking, employee productivity analysis, and efficiency dynamics. The Autokick feature will notify employees of their productivity stats or if they’ve been on a website too long.
- Time Doctor is a time tracking application. It also breaks down how much time has been spent on a specific task or project.
- Teamwork allows you to track every of your team and convert that into invoices.
3. Trust is a Must
“Trust is the foundation of every relationship in our life,” says Jen Fisher, U.S. chief well-being officer for the consultancy Deloitte. “Every positive relationship starts from a place of trust.”
Work environments built on trust are healthy and productive, adds Fisher, co-author of Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines. Moreover, trust is perhaps more important than ever during this uncertain time caused by the pandemic.
“The pandemic has catapulted us into the future in many ways,” she says. “With uncertainty, you need trust and meaningful and supportive relationships.” And, you can build trust with your remote team by;
- Reduce your team’s stress by not micromanaging, be respectful of boundaries, and communicating frequently.
- Help them learn and grow by offering frequent feedback.
- Get to know each team individually, even if it’s a virtual one-on-one meeting.
- Again, have goals, objectives, and expectations that are crystal clear.
- Share your expertise, but also admit that you don’t have all of the answers.
- Freshen up your virtual events and meetings, like sharing achievements or going on a virtual field trip.
- Be consistent, such as always being respectful of their time.
Above all else, be transparent. If you’re monitoring your team, let them know this in advance. And explain to them that they’re not being monitored to spy on them. Rather, you need this data to eliminate time wasters and bolster their productivity.
4. Focus on Measuring Outcome, Not Input
“Employee monitoring was pervasive before the crisis,” notes Ryan Wong in Entrepreneur. “In 2018, research found that 50 percent of large corporations were using email monitoring and location analysis..” However, “in the early months of lockdown, use of monitoring software skyrocketed, with industry leaders like Teramind and ActivTrak reporting record increases in sales requests.”
“For employers, monitoring tools might seem a useful stopgap at a time when teams aren’t in the office,” he adds. The problem? “Time spent at a keyboard or in front of a webcam is hardly indicative of performance or productivity.”
Monitoring in this manner is actually detrimental to obtaining the results you desire. Employees who are aware their keystrokes are being tracked, for example, are incentivized to produce high-volume work that has little commercial value.
“The deeper issue is that, in many ways, we’ve measured productivity all wrong—confusing inputs for outcomes,” states Wong. “Even tracking ‘hours,’ the oldest of workplace metrics, is fundamentally misleading. Just knowing someone has worked a 40-hour week gives little insight into what they actually accomplished.”
The better approach? Measure and reward business outcomes. “These will differ from business to business and employee to employee—and that’s precisely the point,” he explains. “Taking the time to first define what success looks like, and then finding ways to measure—is the surest way to boost output. Handy schema like KPIs, OKRs, and KRAs, all circle around this central premise.”
5. Reward Quality, Not Quantity
When it comes to your employee’s work, it’s important to find a way of measuring quality. As an example, think about the customer service you provide. Your brand’s reputation depends on it, but it’s hard to measure.
With that in mind, consider quality when putting systems in place to track employee productivity. And, ask yourself, “What can you do with it to track job performance?”
For instance, is there any feedback you received from a distributor regarding an employee who went beyond the call of duty? While your employee might have needed more time to complete this level of work, the value you received is incalculable. And that should definitely be measured and rewarded.
6. Use Positive Reinforcement
It should come as no surprise that happy employees are more productive. However, happiness doesn’t always mean giving them a raise. While that can help, you can increase employee happiness through positive reinforcement, such as;
- Showing compassion, empathy, and gratitude
- Focusing on meaningful work
- Treating employees with respect
- Not blaming others for failure
- Providing constructive feedback
- Rewarding good work with acknowledgment or promotions.
7. Manage Task Distribution
Identifying each employee’s strengths and weaknesses can be accomplished by analyzing the data. For example, you might notice that one team member completes a task much faster than anyone else. Ideally, you should give this employee all these responsibilities going forward to increase your team’s productivity. By doing this, everyone will have more free time in their schedules, which will increase productivity.
Understand why your weakest performers are less productive than other team members. For example, perhaps they’re having difficulty with certain programs, applications, or tasks related to their work. In this case, you may consider training them to improve their skills and increase their productivity.
8. Measure Both Short-Term and Long-Term
Track-specific key performance indicators for both short- and long-term goals.
Recognizing small accomplishments will keep employees motivated to work towards bigger goals.
Furthermore, this presents an impressive picture. While it may not seem obvious, the little things can have a huge impact on pushing your team towards the big goal.
9. Eliminate Time-Wasters
Analyze the data to see where your employees spend a lot of time. For example, you might want to restrict employees’ access to these websites or apps during the workday so that they aren’t distracted.
Data may also indicate that certain clients are taking up a lot of your employees’ time, making them less productive than they should be. It’s possible that your business isn’t even making money from that client. As such, it may be worthwhile to revisit a time-wasting client relationship to make your team more productive.
10. Focus on the Bottom Line
Increasingly, small companies are focusing on their bottom line instead of the hours worked by employees. This allows them to track progress while ensuring that their employees have more flexibility—mainly how and when they work.
Moreover, there are several cost benefits to having a remote team. This includes reducing rent and utilities, cleaning services, food, and taxes. In fact, the average real estate savings with full-time telework is $10,000/employee/year. Additionally, remote teams tend to be more productive. They’re also less absent, more likely to stay with your company, and would prefer working from home than accepting a pay raise.
By John Rampton