Monitoring Software has gained popularity with the COVID-19 pandemic as more people are working remotely.
Managers pushing for this software have the impression that time is a measurement of productivity and performance.
Sure, the assembly line worker (a position from the industrial age that will one day be replaced by a robot) will box more widgets in 24 hours than 10 hours, and it is completely understandable you want to make sure they are at their workstation to maximize output.
However, most work done “on company time” can’t be measured effectively on the strict metric of time.
Don’t mistake humans for robots.
A lot of employees today are better defined as “knowledge workers” – they have specific knowledge & skills, and thus their work outputs need to be measured differently from the assembly line worker. Knowledge workers perform best when they “train and sprint, then rest and reassess”.
You should consider what it says to your employees when you are monitoring their computer usage or have them on a live video stream all day:
It says we don’t trust you to do your job.
You should trust your employees to do their job. If you don’t trust them, you probably shouldn’t hire them in the first place. If they were there before your time, work with them to improve – a topic for another post.
The long term effects of employee monitoring and precise time tracking can have a lasting impact on workplace culture. It fosters distrust, resentment, and can lead to false assumptions on both sides of the “virtual table”.
Before you do anything, do your research. Metrics supplied by the company selling you the software or biometric time tracker might be a little bias in claiming a “50% boost in productivity!”.
It is possible for an employee to perform the same task as another, more effectively, in half the time without watching their every click and tracking the seconds spent at their desk:
How? If that employee loves their job because they work in a stress-free environment, they are confident in what they are doing, they do things to improve their health outside the workplace, and of course if they have the right tools and skills to do their job.
Spend time setting goals with individuals and teams. This provides an accurate metric you can use to gauge productivity and performance. Find out if your employees feel they have the right tools to do their job. Make sure they are happy and healthy. You want to attract great people, make them even better, and keep them with the organization as long as possible.
This is not to say that everyone can become a 5-star role model employee doing the work of 10 people, as some people just have bad attitudes toward work and responsibilities – and how to address this is its own topic.
Instead of paying for hardware or software for tracking & monitoring, consider spending that money on something that will improve output – vitamin D supplements (or a mid-morning walk in the sun) will help improve mood and alertness, consider a standing desk and good office chair, provide information and encourage healthy living, and research how other organizations have been successful while working remotely for the last 15+ years.
Like everything, try to learn from the best before acting on impulse (some reading recommendations below). Your ROI on this type of investment will pay off 1000 times.
- Most productivity issues aren’t time-related, they are process and passion related.
- You aren’t paying people for their time, you are paying them for their output. Taking some time to rest or disconnect isn’t stealing from the company, it’s part of the process of producing better work.
- Install monitoring software or biometrics to obsessively track time and it will feel like punishment, making employees miserable and result in a decrease in effectiveness – much of it purely out of spite. Nobody will take a few extra minutes to themselves anymore and everyone will stay at their desks and surf the internet (or Facebook), and watch YouTube.
- Hire great people, give them the right tools & guidance, set goals, and (this can’t be stressed enough) stop tracking every second “on company time”.
Two books written by pioneers of remote work (and the principles apply to any organization):
Understand that time is not the metric to measure when it comes to work:
Simple advice on improving your everyday performance: