How do you supervise the work of your remote staff, measure their efficiency and identify potential pitfalls of remote work? We’ve touched upon many of these questions in our previous posts, but today we decided to consolidate all of the information in one comprehensive article on how to monitor your remote employees and maximize their performance.
Everything you need to know about managing remote employees’ productivity
Before we discuss the ways to increase your subordinates’ productivity, it’s important to properly define the term. Everything is rather simple – productivity is the ratio of the actual amount of time a person spends working to the duration of the working day.
If your employee is busy with work-related tasks for, say, 3-4 hours out of the 8 hours they spend at work, their productivity is 37-50%. And, trust us, these numbers aren’t that bad. Here’s the data from the Blind survey:
It’s clear that even according to the employees themselves – and keep in mind that people tend to distort numbers in their favor – only 15% consider themselves to be engaged in work throughout the whole day. Everybody else seems to be under-performing.
Productivity, in turn, serves as a useful indicator – the higher it is, the more time an employee actually spends on work tasks, the more they manage to get done and the more profit they bring to the company. Obviously, the productivity of 100% is an unattainable result, but 50-70% (depending on the job) seem quite realistic.
We provided a detailed explanation of how employee monitoring software Kickidler measures productivity in the corresponding article. Here we’d simply like to note that increasing employees’ productivity is considered to be a primary goal for managers.
How switching to remote work impacts productivity
It’s significantly easier for an employee to stay focused when they’re working in the office. Since everyone around them is busy and there are little distractions, the overall environment helps them stay productive. When it comes to working from home, everything is different – you are surrounded by comforts of your place, you are all cozied up, and it’s tempting to take a break and just relax. On the other hand, when you work remotely, you don’t waste time on commuting to the office and you are able to create a work environment that will suit all your needs, which will definitely have a positive impact on your productivity.
So, where does it leave us? According to the surveys we’ve mentioned before, during the first few months of remote work, productivity indices remain the same or even improve slightly. But the longer an employee works from home, the worse their performance becomes. It’s no wonder, really, since people tend to mellow out, get distracted and even suffer from social isolation.
Of course, there are employees who are perfectly suited for remote work – skilled professionals with incredible self-control remain consistently productive. Yet, it will be difficult for other employees – people who are companionable or who have lots of distractions at home – to keep being ultra productive while working from home.
Remote work is most often considered a complicating factor that negatively affects employees’ productivity. So the employer needs to find the ways to reduce this detrimental impact.
3 tips to help your remote employees stay productive
Here are some simple tricks to keep your productivity high even when you work from home:
- A solid work routine that’s synchronized with your household tasks. It’s important to maintain a proper sleep and rest schedule and to take into account any particularities. Let’s say, your children return from school at 12.30 p.m. and then leave for their extracurriculars at 1.30 p.m. It would seem rational to schedule a break for that time interval and make up for that time later or earlier in the day.
- Well-equipped workspace. Ideally, you should introduce a “closed door” rule in your house, which basically means that if you close the door to your room, no one should come in so as not to distract you from work. Advise your employees to plan their work schedules around the needs of their families and to arrange comfortable work environment for themselves.
- Self-control. Your remote employees may find it easier to keep themselves in check and focus on their work if they have as little distractions as possible. Autokick module that sends automatic notifications when an employee gets sidetracked becomes rather helpful.
You also need to ensure your employees are able to perform their work tasks. It means you should supply them with a laptop, access to work servers, video conferencing software and so on. That way, you'll also save on office lease rent and workstation organization.
Organizing the transition to remote work for your staff
We covered the details of transitioning from in-office to remote work back in the beginning of the pandemic. Here are some highlights:
- Have a clear understanding how the work process will be organized from a technical point of view, for example, what tools and services each employee will require and how you can provide them. Some employees may be able to work on a home computer, others may need a work laptop, and yet others may not have the best Internet connection at home – all of these things have to be taken into account.
- Be sure to make the transfer official. Have employees sign a written form stating that they want to work remotely, conclude an additional agreement with them and issue a corresponding order for the organization.
- Arrange the remote workflow. You should specify how tasks are to be distributed, what schedule each employee works by, to whom and how they report, how team members stay in contact with each other and keep themselves involved.
During this stage, you’ll also need special software.
Software and tools that help with smooth remote work organization
The bare minimum you’ll need in order to stay productive while working from home are apps for task management, communication, file transfer and employee monitoring. We did a standalone article on the most affordable and simple tools for remote work in each of the categories, and here are some worthy mentions:
- Trello – free and user-friendly task board for project management.
- Telegram – text messenger for secure communication.
- Zoom – platform for video conferencing.
- Google Drive – cloud storage that’s easy to set up.
- Kickidler – versatile and easy-to-configure employee monitoring software that tracks all actions of the employees at work PCs.
These five types of software are enough to set up a remote workflow for 95% of your employees. There are always alternatives, but you can easily get by with the apps we’ve mentioned above.
Supervising your remote employees: approaches, methods, limitations
Now that you’ve taken care of the technical aspect and you have all the services up and running, it’s time to actually supervise the workflow. And here’s a question – how exactly do you monitor someone you don’t even see?
Monitoring remote employees: is it legal?
Let’s start with the legal aspect. If a person is working from home – and, for example, they’re using their own computer – does the employer even have the right to monitor them? We wrote a detailed analysis of this situation in an article on employee surveillance. The basic idea is as follows:
“As long as you don’t invade your employees’ privacy, everything is fine.”
You should install Kickidler only on work accounts and explain to your employees what exactly you’re going to monitor and how the monitoring will be organized.
How companies monitor remote employees
Technically, Kickidler allows you to track every action of your specialists – and we’ll talk about that in a moment – but should you actually set up such strict supervision? In terms of the methodology of remote work monitoring, there are three different types of monitoring remote employees:
- Amicable. This is an optimal choice for Agile teams, since everything is completely visible, employees can turn Kickidler on and off themselves and use it mostly for self-monitoring. There is zero pressure.
- Gentle. We advise you to use this option if you don’t have much trust in your employees – or if they don’t seem to have a high level of personal responsibility and need gentle supervision. Kickidler gets installed overtly, however, the subordinates can’t modify its functionality. They simply turn the module on at the beginning of the workday and turn it off at the end of the workday. You receive the accumulated information in the form of reports, on the basis of which you then evaluate your employees’ performance and make appropriate decisions.
- Strict. If we’re being honest, total monitoring and micromanaging everything your employees do may be the most powerful yet the least effective option.
Now, before we move on, let’s take a closer look at the reasons why rigorous monitoring isn’t the best approach.
How monitoring affects remote employees
Some time ago we conducted an interesting experiment where we tested different approaches to monitoring remote employees and collected in-depth feedback. The results are detailed in this post, and here’s the brief summary:
- Giving employees access to reports on their productivity provides a certain game element, which encourages them to work harder.
- Moderate supervision ensures that employees don’t get distracted.
- Vigorous monitoring, such as immediate reactions from the supervisor to the slightest signs of procrastination, puts employees under a lot of stress and leads to inevitable burnout.
Even minimal supervision, like tracking productivity and checking reports, is enough to keep employees focused. The more pressure a supervisor puts on their subordinate, the faster that employee loses interest in their work and the more rapidly their efficiency decreases.
In fact, Kickidler’s customer experience confirms the same line of argument. Monitoring software features can be divided into three categories:
||Should be used only in specific circumstances
|Collecting statistics on time spent using different apps and visiting various websites;
||Keylogger (collecting data regarding the keystrokes);
||Using hidden surveillance (employees have no idea they’re being watched)
|Collecting statistics on time spent at the computer (helps keep track of smokers, latecomers, etc.);
||Online monitoring of things that happen on the monitor (both in the form of recordings and real-time);
||Having access to the webcam and microphone;
|Notifying of work schedule violations (without the participation of the boss);
||Screenshotting open apps and web pages;
||Blocking access to certain sites;
|Showing employees the reports on their productivity;
||Video recording of the history of activity on the computer;
||GPS tracking of the employee’s location.
|Keeping track of printed documents;
||Monitoring email usage – what was sent to whom and when;
|Blocking software installation or usage.
||Monitoring messengers and social networks – with or without message interception;
||Remote computer monitoring – with or without employee request;
||Monitoring files – when and what document was opened, copied, created, etc.).
Employees don’t have problems with the features mentioned in the green column, while the features in the yellow column require some explanation, and the features in the red column should be avoided altogether, unless your work requires dealing with state secrets.
Seven principles of competent remote employee supervision
To summarize, your employee supervision practices should adhere to the following basic principles of employee control:
- Transparency. Your staff knows what you’re monitoring and how you’re monitoring it.
- Certainty. There is a clear understanding as to what constitutes a violation and what its consequences will be.
- Objectivity. The rules are the same for everyone.
- Inconspicuousness. While everyone knows about the monitoring, no one actually feels it.
- Effectiveness. The results of monitoring are analyzed and used to make thought-out decisions.
- Consistency. You don't reduce the monitoring – and you don’t intensify it either.
- Efficiency. Most of the monitoring is done automatically.
Kickidler provides you with everything you need to follow these guidelines
Kickidler’s capacity to support remote employees
Right now, Kickidler is one of the most effective software for employee monitoring on the market. We have done an in-depth comparison of Kickidler and other solutions here, so we’re simply going to review a few key features that are particularly useful for remote employees:
- Self-monitoring. Kickidler automatically notifies employees when they aren’t working on their computer, and this monitoring happens without any involvement of their supervisor. That way, an employee doesn’t get irritated by the feeling that they’re constantly being watched, plus the software actually prevents them from procrastinating.
- Data collection. Kickidler records all the information on how your employees are handling their tasks. The software tracks employees’ activity and overall performance and generates detailed reports. For example, these reports can help you optimize the work schedule of your remote employees in order to maximize their productivity.
- Remote desktop access. Kickidler allows you to quickly and effortlessly assist your subordinates with any challenging tasks by connecting to their work computers in a matter of seconds.
The system is equally beneficial for both in-office and remote employees – in fact, we witnessed a threefold increase in demand for Kickidler since the beginning of the pandemic. Our product is designed to help you and your employees work efficiently in any setting!