Remote Work Monitoring Guide and Tools
Remote work is truly great and allows employees the ability to have a better work-life balance. Employees no longer have to worry about wasting time and money on a commute, picking their kids up from school, or other restrictions that come with a regular commuter job. This typically makes for much happier employees. The downside is that this new found freedom can sometimes lead to much less productivity. Not everyone has the discipline it takes to work remotely. Some remote employees will take advantage of their freedom, essentially getting paid for full-time work and actually working a lot less. This is where remote work monitoring tools and policies come into place.
The controversy of monitoring remote workers.
Before we start, let’s address the controversy of monitoring remote workers.There is a debate among remote workers and employers on how much monitoring should be done. Many monitoring tools record apps & websites visited, take random screenshots, and even record screens of remote workers. Many find this to be too invasive and makes employees feel untrusted by their employers. On the otherside many employers have a hard time trusting remote workers to not slack off. In this guide I will share my experience managing remote teams and running a remote company.
How to monitor remote employees:
Decide why and what you will monitor.
The first step is to determine why you want to monitor your remote workers and what you will monitor. The answer will be drastically different for different types of companies. For example: a company that has remote support technicians will have a different why and what than a company that has remote writers. Do you want to make sure that your support technicians are not skipping hours? Do you need to see how long it takes your employees to write an article?
Make remote work policies different from office policies.
This is perhaps the most important thing that I’ve learned. Remote work and the office environment are entirely different beasts. Many ‘old-school’ methods will not work with remote work. The biggest difference is the 9-5 mentality. In my experience set hours are only for teams that need to work together or client facing employees (support technicians). For employees who are project based, I like to let hours be flexible. From my personal experience when you allow project based employees to work with flexible hours, the quality tends to be better and projects actually seem to get done faster. I’ll give some tips further down.
Monitor only what you need and nothing else.
There is a fine line between micro-managing and monitoring. From my personal experience, it is important to throw away traditional office thinking. Monitoring hours is important and a good tool for measuring productivity, but many methods can be too invasive. Make sure that you are monitoring what is important and not over monitoring. This can be crucial for retaining your employees and making them feel trusted.
Use team processes for monitoring.
One thing that I’ve found useful is to use motivation by encouragement. Incentives such as paying per article or profit sharing are examples of incentives. One that works better than monitoring is team motivation. Team motivation is creating a process that will have the team check itself. For example: One person will decide which articles to write and keywords to use. The next person will write the article, the next person will edit and post the article, and then perhaps someone will translate the article. Creating a process much like a manufacturing line is one of the best ways to keep things moving. This way you can easily see where or who is slowing the process down.
Be part of the team.
A really great way to see who is doing what and who is not carrying their weight is to be part of the process. I strongly believe that some of the best owners and managers get involved by working instead of dictating or monitoring. By assigning yourself a small role in the process, you will be able to help your team be productive instead of trying to catch them. An example: Spend an hour each week responding to customer support surveys. This way you will be able to see what people love about your support and what they don’t.
Let your employees be part of the decision.
Your team is your family. Let your team be part of the decision and creation of your remote work monitoring policy. Make it an open discussion and see what they are comfortable with and what ideas they might have. The end goal is to have them be as productive as possible, not just to monitor them.
Tools for monitoring remote workers.
Once you have created your remote work policy, decided what you are monitoring, and discussed it with your team; it is time to choose the right tools. Here are the top remote work monitoring tools, features, and pricing:
Disclaimer: Pricing may be different from the pricing on this list. Check with the company to get the most accurate pricing.
Clockify.me is the best option to get started with if you are looking for a free option. Clockify.me is free with unlimited users, tracking, reports, and projects. Clockify is not an invasive choice and is actually quite simple. Users click to start tasks or manually enter tasks and clockify.me will clock the hours worked. This is a great tool for companies who want to give their employees trust and do not want to overmonitor.
Clockify.me Price: Free
Another noninvasive tool is Timely. Timely does not use screenshots, location tagging, or mouse tracking. Instead Timely records time spent on different work apps. This creates a much less invasive monitoring system for employees.
Timely Pricing: $49/month (2 seats) – $199/month (10 seats) – $449/month (30 seats) or save 20% by paying annually.
Toggl has some pretty unique features that can make it another less invasive monitoring tool. Toggl’s features include idle detection and reminders to keep employees focused. This is a great option for tracking billable hours as well.
Toggl Pricing: $10/user/month – $20/user/month or save by paying annually.
Time Doctor has been on the market for a while now and has many features including screenshots to monitor activity, tracking of web and apps, reminders, break tracking, and more. This is a more comprehensive tool and great for monitoring developers or support technicians.
Time Doctor Pricing: $7/user/month – $10/user/month – $20/user/month
Hubstaff has many features that you can turn on or off such as mouse and keyboard usage. Hubstaff also helps with payroll, invoicing, and timesheets approvals. They also have great GPS features for tracking movement or fleets.
Hubstaff Pricing: $7/user/month – $10/user/month – $20/user/month