Managed IT

How to Monitor Employees Working from Home

Want to make sure your remote employees are working hard? Here’s how.

Blog Post

5 minute read

Mar 06, 2024

As many organizations shift to remote or hybrid models, businesses are wondering how to monitor employees working from home. Luckily, technology has the solution with many unique tools that help you limit access to distracting sites, measure time, follow the progress of projects, and more.

But businesses must also be aware of the potential downsides of over-monitoring, too.

Implementing remote work monitoring tools can be taxing on your IT team. Download our eBook, Does Your Business Need a Managed IT Service Provider?, now to see how a managed IT team can help you make use of these tools.  

Useful Ways to Monitor Remote Workers

1. Automated Tracking Software

Businesses can use software to track employees’ usage of certain websites, social media, applications, and email, plus you can even track the location of your company devices and use keylogging software to track exactly what employees are typing.  

With these tools, you can track all kinds of data from hours worked to time spent on certain sites or platforms. How far you go with those tools depends on you, though. Be wary that some employees may find this a breach of trust or privacy.

2. Project Management Software

If your goal is to just ensure that projects are getting done rather than tracking amounts of time spent working, good project management software is crucial. A tool like Smartsheet can keep projects moving cleanly while showing you who is doing what, when. This way you can see high performers and identify people who might be causing major projects and initiatives to drag out due to missed deadlines or slow work.

How Much Monitoring is Too Much?

Something that needs to be made abundantly clear is that monitoring your employees too closely can have negative effects on them. So much so that you may even make worse the problems you were hoping to solve through the monitoring in the first place.

First and foremost, over-monitoring can result in reduced employee morale and trust. Nobody wants to work feeling like they’re being watched over their shoulder. This can be somewhat avoided if you make your monitoring policies clear from the beginning. Tell your employees what sites you don’t want them accessing and the exact tactics you’ll be using to track productivity. Make things clear by telling them:

  • What data you will be collecting
  • Why you’re collecting it
  • How it will be used (and how you’re securing it)
  • What the benefits are to collecting it

In addition to potential dings in morale, employee monitoring requires time, money, and technology. Somebody must decipher the data, and set up and manage the tools and software. This can take up a lot of time that your IT team might find more valuable to spend elsewhere.

There are also security concerns to consider. When monitoring remote employees, you may find sensitive information like health info, bank data, etc., and, if breached, you could be exposing that data and putting yourself in a position to get sued or fined.  

Is Remote Employee Monitoring Legal?

Make sure you fully understand all the legalities involved in employee monitoring. Here are some general guidelines to take note of:

  • Employers can legally track activity on devices given to employees (laptops, phones, tablets, etc.) Guidelines can differ depending on where an employee works, though. Be sure to check with state or country laws.
  • It is not a federal requirement to notify your employees that they are being monitored, but, again, this can vary by state. Though not required, it could be in your best interest to be transparent with your monitoring tactics.

How Work Monitoring Can Harm Your Business

Employees just generally won’t work as strongly knowing that every move they make is being watched and some may even refuse to work in that kind of environment. 70% of companies have said that they’ve had employees quit over monitoring concerns.

You need to balance your desire to ensure productivity with the knowledge that you should trust your employees to get their work done, and that employees value employers who trust them to do their jobs.

If you find that productivity for remote workers has become a problem for many people, it might be worth looking into your recruiting and hiring practices to ensure you’re bringing people in who can work effectively in remote-style settings.

Using Work from Home Monitoring for Employee Development

There are ways that companies can use monitoring software in positive ways rather than snooping. For example, if someone is struggling, you can access their activity data to understand how they’re spending their time and use the data to build a plan that could set them back on the right track, helping them understand how to optimize their day.

When framed like this (and even if you access the data WITH the employee) you can make monitoring a more developmental experience. Let your employees view the monitoring software as more of a safety net to prove that they’re being productive and to help them find better ways to manage time to optimize their schedules and work.

Key Takeaways

  • With specialized software, employers can track many things, including keystrokes, sites visited, social media activity, tasks completed, and more.
  • Monitoring your employees is legal given they are using company devices or accessing company files. But the legalities should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
  • One major downside of monitoring remote worker activity is the potential loss of morale. Not everybody is OK working in an environment where they feel constantly watched and this can affect your ability to recruit and keep talent.  
  • Companies can use remote work monitoring tools as a development aid, helping people understand how to optimize their work time.

Final Thoughts on Remote Work Monitoring

Remote work monitoring is a powerful tool, but one that should be wielded carefully by businesses. Making sure your remote employees are staying focused is fine, but it’s important to remember that people won’t always work their best or respond well to the knowledge that they’re being watched or monitored.  

But, you can positively use these tools to help people manage their time and optimize how they spend their workdays.

If you’re looking to implement some sort of activity tracking for your employees at home, a professional IT provider can make this a simple project. Plus, they can do so much more to help your remote employees become as productive as possible with better technology that works more of the time. Take a look at our free ebook, Does Your Business Need a Managed IT Service Provider?, to get a deeper look at the capabilities of an IT Partner. 


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