Workplaces around the world have become increasingly virtual in the past decade, and with the pandemic spiraling throughout 2020 the number of remote workers around the world rose significantly.
Some research even suggests that most of the people will actually continue working from home even when the lockdown restrictions become a thing of the past. Even the major tech players like Spotify, Google, Facebook and Twitter announced their new remote work policies.
However, it’s important to note that with the rise of remote teams, we’ve also seen a rise in virtual employee monitoring software. And while the debate about the ethics behind its usage will never go down, we should still talk about what you should and shouldn’t do if you’re looking to use such a software (especially if you want to avoid employees’ backlash!).
In this article we’ll go over some bad practices, and explain how you can replace them, as well as some tips to get the most out of the virtual employee monitoring software you’re using.
Don’t Focus on Everything
When you’re implementing a monitoring software, regardless of the environment, you should have a specific goal that it will help you achieve. Perhaps you’re looking for a way to measure and improve productivity, or you want to simply track employees’ attendance. It’s important that you have an attainable goal you’d like to achieve with this tool if you want to use it properly.
Every virtual employee monitoring software is different, but they usually come with the plethora of features, some of which might be completely unnecessary for your goal.
Let’s say that your goal is to measure and improve productivity of your virtual team. In this case, you would need a software that helps you label apps and websites employees are using as productive or unproductive. Based on the time employees spend in those apps, and overall computer activity, the software will calculate daily, weekly and monthly productivity percentage (on an individual or team level). But, the software you selected maybe has an option to take screenshots of employees’ screens – this feature is in no way related to your goal, so you shouldn’t use it.
If you keep focusing on every piece of data the monitoring software provides, you’ll quickly lose track of what’s important, and eventually miss the goals you’ve set.
Don’t Go Into Every Detail
Now this one is important regardless of your goals. Having information about every daily activity of your employees can seem overwhelming, but only if you keep looking for the needles in the haystack.
Even if your goal is to increase your team’s productivity, the fact that they spend an hour per week doing something that’s not related to work isn’t a fireable offense. You probably spend time on social media or news sites while working as well, and it never hurt anyone.
Yes, these distractions can become a problem. If your employee spends more hours per day on non-work tasks, you should definitely have a conversation with them. But, if they scroll mindlessly for a few minutes, you’ve got nothing to worry about.
What you should do is pay attention to how these distractions affect their performance. It’s been proven that breaks help us focus and perform better.
This should go without saying, but never use a virtual monitoring software without your team’s knowledge. First of all, it’s illegal (in most countries and in most cases), and second – they’ll eventually find out about it and you’ll be in for one tough conversation.
First and foremost, you should get legal consultations from the experts in the countries your employees’ are based in. Each country has its own regulations, so what’s allowed in one place might be forbidden in another. Once you’re done with that, you should create monitoring policies and consent forms which will detaily explain why you’re using the software, how you are using it, which data it collects, who has access to it, and so on.
After having an open conversation with everyone on your team, share the policies and consent forms, and be open to answering any questions or concerns employees might have about monitoring.
If the software offers that possibility – give employees access to their own data. This will put their minds at ease, because they won’t have to worry about what it is that you’re seeing on the other end of the software.
Transparency goes a very long way in terms of virtual employee monitoring software, so make sure that’s on your priority list. Next, as we said, don’t focus on every single piece of data, and don’t nitpick. Focus on the big picture, on the goals you want to achieve with the software, and make changes in your processes as you go.