Shelter-in-place orders have forced many employees to make the transition to working from home for the first time--and many of them are struggling. Your employees' success throughout this transition depends heavily on how you and your management team interact with those employees.
You want your monitoring style to complement the way your employees work. Employees may need to be treated differently based on their ability to work from home successfully. There's not a one-size-fits-all answer--but there are solutions that can help you monitor your employees in a way that will bolster their success.
The Challenges of Newly Remote Employees
Remote work poses a number of unique challenges to many individuals. Not only do they have to work in a space where they usually relax, but they can also easily be distracted by family. A spouse may assume that the employee can take time out to do chores--or for many, there may be children at home who want the attention of a working parent.
So, the employee ideal is not necessarily "to be left alone." In fact, many employees may prefer to have a means to "keep them honest" and help fight distractions. Knowing there will be regular check-ins and monitoring can help employees explain their needs to children and spouses.
You may, however, need to allow employees to take small breaks or to integrate work with other responsibilities during this time. Providing some freedom and flexibility can make it easier to adapt to this new remote culture.
Calculating Work Accomplished
You need an effective means to determine what your employees are accomplishing throughout this period. That can be through one or more of the following tactics:
Provide deadlines. Deadlines offer an easy means to measure what remote employees accomplish each day. The manager gives deadlines for tasks and considers the employee successful as long as the employee meets those deadlines. Employee accomplishments may not look exactly like they did when working from the office. However, employees will show steady progress each day and throughout the week, ultimately meeting those deadlines.
Talk to employees on a daily or weekly schedule. Check in with them to see how they're doing and what progress they're making toward their goals--including both deadlines and overall personal goals.
Time tracking. If deadlines aren't working, try time tracking. An investment in time tracking software can be expensive, especially as more employees are covered. However, the software can ensure that the same standards apply to all employees.
Is an investment in time tracking software worthwhile for your company?
Consider whether the "deadlines" method achieves similar results as working in the office. If so, you may not need to make that investment.
On the other hand, if you've noticed productivity falling off substantially while employees are out of the office, you may find that time tracking software is well worth the investment.
Employee Productivity Tracking Software
There is a wide range of tools on the market that can track employee productivity. MyAnalytics breaks down how much time employees are spending on various work-related tasks each day and each week.
Programs like Time Doctor automatically track how much time employees spend on specific applications and websites on their computers. It even takes screenshots at various intervals. Consider how closely you want to monitor employees' activities and what you will do with that information.
You may also try optional self-monitoring. This tactic can help keep employees focused while providing evidence to their spouse or kids that they need to keep working. Even under deadlines, some employees still want help managing their own time wisely. That’s especially true if they're struggling with distractions at home. Online or downloadable self-monitoring tools can make this process easier.
Keep an Open Door Policy
Keep talking to your employees throughout this time. Be open and willing to discuss the difficulties and struggles your employee is facing. You want to make sure that your employees' mental health remains as stable as possible and that they have the tools they need to be as productive as possible.
Before you dive into any of the above tactics, consider experimenting with deadlines to see if employee results degrade or not. If you don't notice a difference, you can go by deadlines and self-monitoring. If employee results are not as good without the time tracker, stick with remote employee monitoring software.
Just remember not to experiment with important tasks! Instead, use tasks where failure will not lead to disaster as a measuring stick for what your employees can accomplish through self-monitoring.
While there are plenty of challenges to supervising newly remote employees, proper time monitoring will lead companies towards reclaiming any productivity that is lost during the transition from office to home.