What Managers Are Doing Wrong About Employee Monitoring



CEO of DeskTime – a time tracking and productivity app for businesses and freelancers. He is also an amateur athlete and father of two children.

The rise of remote and hybrid working has led to a huge demand for employee monitoring software. Today, around three out of four managers use a monitoring solution to keep track of their teams. But not all monitoring tools are created equal.

Some are classic timesheets that track where (on which apps and websites) and how much time is spent. Others are more intrusive, offering real-time screen and webcam recordings, as well as access to emails and messages. Most fall somewhere in between.

These differences are important for an employee. With a basic time tracking application or system, it might be all right, given the benefits to both parties: employers can see where the company’s time is being spent, while the employee can use it for accountability and personal productivity.

But the balance of power becomes extremely one-sided when there is direct supervision. There are no benefits to the employee beyond a short-lived increase in productivity caused by the fear that someone is (possibly) looking over your shoulder. In addition, it is difficult to trust managers not to abuse these privileges, especially when the reasons for implementing employee monitoring are based on personal fear and a lack of trust, as evidenced by ExpressVPN’s research.

• 74% of managers say that working remotely gives them a lack of control.

• Two out of three feel uncomfortable because they cannot observe employees in person.

• 57% do not trust employees to work without personal supervision.

• 59% do not trust employees to work without digital supervision.

A mutual lack of trust quickly snows in a avalanche of trouble, leading to lower productivity, lower engagement, lower satisfaction, and higher burnout. We won’t even go into the ethics of such a casual invasion of personal space.

What managers are doing wrong about monitoring employees is the idea that they need to introduce these advanced monitoring mechanisms to maintain a high level of performance from their team.

The reality is that a mix of basic time tracking combined with concrete KPIs and frequent performance reviews is more than enough to keep people on the line while also giving them the freedom and flexibility they value when working remotely, all without infringing. make on their privacy. After all, this is how most companies did before the remote revolution.

But these practices and knowledge will do little to allay the personal, often irrational, concerns of managers for whom it is important to see the employee at work. But does such an itch justifies the invasion of privacy? I do not believe. In addition, I am confident that the next generation of managers will be better equipped to deal with a remote workforce and leave direct oversight in the past.

Ultimately it comes down to trust. And while I can’t get managers to trust their remote employees, I can give reasons to do so in the hopes that intrusive monitoring of employees will become the exception rather than the norm.

1. Data shows that remote workers are working longer.

In a previous article, I discussed how the world of remote and hybrid working has evolved over the past two years. In it, I shared the results of our latest research, including the revelation that remote workers work, on average, an entire hour more than their office colleagues, notably without any drop in productivity.

In fact, this zeal has emerged as a problem – people like it difficult to disconnect from remote working and find that they often perform tasks at all hours of the day, leading to an increased risk of burnout.

In other words, the concerns about employees who may relax if no one is looking over their shoulder is not based on data, but on a manager’s personal assumptions about what goes on behind the scenes.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone – there will be people who use and abuse the system. But that’s not unique to remote working. And there have always been ways to deal with this without spying on the individual.

2. Employees also benefit from time registration.

Simple time tracking solutions are enough to manage a remote workforce. Managers can see the hours worked and how they are spent, but so can the employees.

As a result, employees can take full advantage of flexible hours (which is one of the most valued factors of remote working) and work when it suits them best, as long as the timesheet shows only eight hours worked. Being able to support the work done with concrete data also increases accountability and puts employees in a position of power when negotiating a salary increase or otherwise discussing performance.

In addition, observing your own productivity patterns allows people to optimize their schedules and individual performance. For example, identifying peak productivity periods can encourage teams not to waste them on unimportant meetings.

3. Employees like to work remotely.

Another reason managers must trust remote workers to do the business right is that people want to work remotely, and that makes them more in the mood for work— they want flexible hours, they don’t want to commute, they want to work anywhere, etc.

Remote working isn’t ubiquitous yet, and since management can ask to return to the office at any time, it’s unlikely that people will compromise the opportunity they’ve been given.

Remarks on farewell

If you have a remote team, chances are you need a time tracking solution for practical reasons: to track hours, monitor time spent on projects, detect unproductive practices (meet of meetings!) and more. Still, even without monitoring features, you should be careful when introducing employee monitoring tools to the team as it will certainly raise some eyebrows.

Transparent communication is essential. Let your team know why you’re doing it, what the software can and cannot do, and how they can take advantage of what it has to offer. In this way you dispel all misconceptions about your intentions and guarding abilities from the start, so that everyone can move forward in a healthy and unified direction.

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