The rapid shift to remote work due to the pandemic has seen a seismic shift in how companies do business. Even with the crisis abating, many companies have realized the huge financial and productivity benefits of letting employees work from home. Employees are happier and more productive, there’s no need for huge offices with expensive utility bills, and work schedules can be more flexible, allowing for easier 24/7 availability.
But managers are also acutely aware that many of their typical management techniques don’t always translate well to remote work. Where it was possible to see who was working on the office floor with a simple glance, managers can feel in the dark when employees work remotely. Is the employee doing what is asked of them, or are they using company time for their own pursuits?
Therefore, many companies have introduced some form of employee monitoring software. In the UK, a poll showed that 16% of large firms had recently introduced some form of employee monitoring, and an estimated 32% of workers are being monitored using employee monitoring software.
What types of Employee Surveillance Software are There?
Freelance websites like UpWork have long included optional surveillance software that takes screenshots of the worker’s desktop on a period basis. This is also found in most CRM solutions, such as Hubstaff, which takes a screenshot up to three times every 10 minutes.
Another approach is a manual clock-in and clock-out system where employees detail when they start working and when they stop. They can dedicate different periods to different tasks so employers can see which tasks are taking longer and plan accordingly.
For companies with sensitive data to protect, employee surveillance software can be used to ensure employees aren’t installing software they shouldn’t—software that could include malware and give hackers access to the sensitive data. This type of monitoring software will relay information on running programs back to the employer.
Similarly, monitoring software can show the websites employees are visiting during their work hours. This not only helps keep company resources secure as it deters employees from visiting questionable websites that could have malware, but it can also be a useful tool for seeing whether employees are working on the task at hand.
For employees on the road, such as delivery drivers or salespeople, employee surveillance software can track the employee’s physical location. This can be useful data for improving efficiency and to ensure important company assets like vehicles are being used as they should be.
Your company’s reputation is important, too, so tracking what employees post on social media, in emails, and live chat when representing your company is a useful tool. Surveillance tools can alert you to any problematic language being used that might suggest the employee is putting your company’s brand in a poor light.
Is Employee Surveillance Software a Good Choice for your Business?
Employee surveillance software is controversial. 59% of respondents to the survey said they would not work for an employer that used remote monitoring software. Privacy is the chief concern.
Employees would much rather be evaluated by their manager, submit a manual timesheet, use collaborative tools, and check in regularly than use monitoring that takes screenshots or videos at set intervals.
Tracking how employees use their time does increase their productivity. But working from home does increase productivity and work engagement, too, up to 75% according to non-profit Catalyst.
If an employee is having trouble reaching the goals you’ve set, employee monitoring tools can help you root out the cause of the problem. The metrics you get from employee surveillance systems can be used to give employees an idea of how they spend their time and how they could improve.
How Should I Implement Employee Surveillance Software?
Employee surveillance is, therefore, a balancing act. Include enough monitoring to motivate workers without alienating them. Be wary of privacy concerns. Monitoring software should be used in a highly restricted way. It should only track employees when they’re working, and only track things relevant to your business.
The legality of employee surveillance should also be of chief concern. You must tell employees when you’re using monitoring software. In most cases, you should get written consent from employees on the specific types of monitoring they allow.
Getting support from employees for surveillance software can start by discussing how it’s a requirement in some cases. If your employees are handling sensitive customer data, it is often a legal requirement for your company to monitor their use to ensure they are taking every step to keep this sensitive data secure.