Types of Employee Monitoring – Company Surveillance of Workplace & Remote Work

26th July 2021

Remote work, which had previously been gradually introduced in many companies, has sharply entered business life, becoming a reality during the pandemic. Which leads to some questions being asked:

  • How do you organise working from home correctly? 
  • How do you establish clear business processes, while maintaining full control and monitoring over what and how employees are up todo? 
  • How to keep your personnel in complete control?

Read on our guide for the different and the types of employee monitoring.

The “new normal” epidemiological situation forced and still forces employers to urgently address the organisation of and hire of remote workers of great resumes outside the office and with it – proper employee monitoring.

Control over employees keeps efficiency levels and aids performance rates, as well as volumes and quality of tasks.

It’s no secret that the ability to work remotely has both advantages and disadvantages. It can have a negative impact on the quality of work done. Employees may feel a bit too relaxed or demotivated due to the domestic atmosphere, lack of need to hurry, and freedom from colleagues gazing from the “outside perspective,” etc.

This guide aims to help you learn why remote employee monitoring is crucial for businesses in 2021. We share insights on the main types and methods of keeping an eye on personnel, explain how to achieve the necessary productivity and benefits of high-quality software. 

With that out of the way, let’s get started!

The Concept of Monitoring Work Time 

Monitoring of working hours means tracking employee activities during the workday while staying compliant with the work schedule. Such surveillance refers to a group of preventive measures that help maintain discipline and prevent abuse of the employer’s trust. 

This aims at identifying perpetrators who tend to attend to personal matters rather than work-related ones.

Monitoring and recording of working hours are done within the framework of labour law. By law, employees are entitled to breaks, days off, and vacations. Make sure you find reputable lawyers who can explain to you what laws apply to your business, comments Best LLC, otherwise you risk hefty charges and unnecessary fuss. 

Purpose of Remote Employee Monitoring

Counting the time remote employees devote to their direct job duties is an important part of a smooth remote workflow. Without carefully monitoring and accounting for employees’ time on remote working, employers risk such things as lower productivity. tangible losses and workers leaving.

Moments of laziness and procrastination happen, which are potentially some of the habits of remote working. However, in an office environment, attention from colleagues or a supervisor helps set the right working mood and focus on direct tasks.

At home, when there are no strangers, such minutes can quickly turn into hours of surfing the web, chatting on social networks, or watching videos. Of course, many use social media for work, but social media use can lead to lower productivity throughout the day. but that’s easy to track. As a result, important work tasks may be overdue or performed poorly. 

Without explicitly or implicitly monitoring of employees, you simply can’t be sure that they are working when they should.

Managers who want to “keep their finger on the pulse” of the work process, even if their personal presence is impossible, have to understand how to ensure proper remote control of employees, where mentorship is one great way to do so.

Fortunately, systems for controlling the work processes are now available in numerous software solutions. Choosing the right solution and combining it with the right monitoring method provides full control over productive and non-productive time ratios for both remote and full-time employees, and also minimises leakage of resources.

Why Keep Track of Working Time?

Employee control, as part of work time monitoring, allows you to solve several problems:

  • Identify absentees;
  • Record start work times to figure out which employees are frequently  systematically late employees;
  • Verify an employee’s on-time return after a lunch break and presence at work throughout the day; Monitor time spent on lunch
  • Determine end work times;
  • Divide paid periods of work time into hours actually worked, vacations, sick leaves, downtime due to employer’s fault, etc.

In practice, managers face problems like failing to meet deadlines. 

Calculating deadlines is simple: standard working hours of countries worldwide are around 40 to 44 hours per week. The norm is compared with the qualification manual or functional responsibilities of the employee. As a result, you get a rational scheme of labour time distribution of staff.

A significant drawback is that the scheme does not consider the following factors:

  • The human factor, e.g. constant smoke breaks, sick leaves, lateness, personal issues during paid time, etc.;
  • Force majeure: emergencies, natural disasters, accidents, delays by contractors, etc.;

All this leads to a difference between the time spent and the work actually performed.

The introduction of time management methods is necessary first and foremost for the company, business, and employer. It assures paying for actual work time instead of being late, taking a smoke break, or playing video games, etc. 

Collected data analysis, on the one hand, written reports and employee input, on the other, allow managers to make weighted decisions about the rationality of the working period and to calculate wages accordingly.

How to Organise Proper Employee Control?

So, obviously, control of remote employees is a necessary thing, so as not to let things drift away, hoping for conscientiousness and responsibility for each team member. After all, let’s be honest, few employees will continue to do their best if they’re released to “free float” from paycheque to paycheque.

However, do not forget about the individual approach. Base the type and monitoring system on the size of your staff, job peculiarities, and the relationship of management with junior staff members subordinates. This allows proper control and time tracking with the maximum benefit for the business process. 

Create Rules for Remote Work  

  • Do not write multi-volume manuals – limit yourself to brief memos or concise instructions. 
  • Avoid terms that most employees may not understand. Otherwise, make them clear to everyone. 

Methods for Monitoring Employees 

Usually, employees are given quantitative and qualitative metrics (e.g., KPIs) or specific amounts of work that are scheduled for the day, month, week, or another timeframe.  

Choose an individual form of performance and quality control for each position. Allow remote workers to determine when to work – night, day, or evening. 

Most importantly, ensure that workers have technical tasks, a timely manner, and set deadlines. If employees fail to meet deadlines, use a penalty system that you discuss with your subordinates in advance.

Time Management Techniques

Apart from getting employees to work on time, there’s also the concept of team productivity.

Employees hardly have time to perform their duties if they spend time scrolling news feeds on social media, texting with their friends, reading books, or surfing the Internet. 

Types of Employee Monitoring:

  • Completed tasks between turning the computer on and off;
  • Phone conversations with clients, partners, and contractors;
  • Screenshots of the desktop during work hours with the help of specialised IT solutions;
  • Content of corporate correspondence, including the safety of email correspondence;
  • Presence on-site during working hours with the help of video surveillance, etc.

Inform Staff of Monitoring Methods in Advance 

For this purpose, a supplementary agreement specifies the ways of monitoring the use of working time. The conditions may change only with the consent of staff. Moreover, it’s against the law to install surveillance cameras in offices without notifying employees.

Use monitoring data forms as a basis for analysing staff performance. 

Metrics include:

  • Summative – evaluating the results of a completed project as a whole;
  • Intermediate – control of the completed work for a specified period;
  • Periodic – summarising the results after a certain period of time;
  • Selective – irregular selective monitoring of individual employees at the discretion of management.

All methods of employee monitoring are aimed primarily at assessing how effectively and efficiently employees allocate time, and at the same time, evaluating the level of professionalism.

What are the Basic Employee Monitoring Methods?

Let’s review per type:

The Checkpoint Method

To monitor a small staff engaged mainly in creative work or development, use the checkpoint method. It consists of checking the implementation of the main steps to tasks assigned.

Through various communication channels and tools (e.g. messengers), online meetings (e.g. via Zoom), and notes on the completion of subtasks in a publicly available information system (e.g. Trello), the manager gets an idea of the overall progress of the project or possible problems.

As a result of this approach, the manager can then make timely decisions and, if necessary, adjust and save the state of affairs. 

Management of remote employees is more rather qualitative than quantitative. What matters is not when the work is done, but whether it’s done before the deadline.

This way the work process is duty-free from having to track actions on a computer and report working time by the second. 

In its turn, employers are spared from the analysis of logs and costs on accounting systems. Project progress, deadlines are met – it means that everything is fine – it does not matter exactly when the employee performs his/her tasks, i.e. whether it’s regulated work intervals or during the weekend.

This method focuses on the final result, controlling only intermediate stages. It gives more freedom to performers but is difficult to apply to a large company with daily documentary work.

Another disadvantage is the impossibility to control the actions of remote employees on their home PCs in relation to corporate information: unauthorised access or data leaks may not be detected in time.

One can hope for a quality HR selection at the stage of interviews and that the company employs only people who deserve trust. However, when a precedent arises, it might be costly.

Controlling a large number of employees with heterogeneous responsibilities (e.g. managers, accountants, developers) is difficult using the checkpoint method.

  • First, the manager may not be aware of the daily routine duties of individual employees (e.g., preparing specialised accounting reports or creating presentations). In order to make sure that the person is solving exactly the right task at the moment, the manager needs to spend time on the nuances of what each employee does.
  • Secondly, such control of remote employees with a large and heterogeneous staff takes plenty of time, even if the task is delegated to department managers.
  • Thirdly, the method of control points does not save from undesirable forms of handling confidential information when all employees have remote access to corporate systems.
  • Finally, work regulations for some positions are important (the process itself becomes decisive, not the result). For example, a tech support specialist or manager-consultant has no right to be distracted and leave the access area during certain working hours. His/her substitute work at other times is of no interest to anyone. In this case, it would be more useful to keep track of the employees via a PC during the work shift.

Then the following method of control comes in handy.

Continuous Employee Monitoring Method

Continuous monitoring is organised with the help of specialised software solutions and automatic time recording. As a result of using spy programs, whose activity the employee is unaware of, the manager receives detailed reports on efficiency per employee.

Such monitoring may be somewhat more expensive in terms of initial investment for the implementation of control systems, setting up access rights to programs or wWeb resources for users, positions and departments, etc. However, in the long run, it pays off with fully autonomous software functioning.

The manager just needs to periodically look through monitoring reports and make conclusions on the basis of calculated data on productivity per profile.

Security services, which often exist in large enterprises, receive notifications about staff violations, information about apps and tools employees run, or websites they visit, screenshots, keystroke logs for more accurate analysis, etc.

Using suitable methods to control the actions of remote employees, you can organise remote work in the context of a large organisation, understanding that the clear performance of tasks is continuously monitored, and the unwanted manipulation of corporate data can be prevented in time.

Ways of monitoring, recording and evaluating staff time evolve, and yet organiszations, especially government agencies, still follow traditional approaches. For example, they assign a random employee in charge to keep a time log. The person records the arrival and departure times and then prepares reports.

Another option is to introduce an administrator to monitor the continuity of work processes in a separate office.

Alternatively, you can motivate employees to keep personal records, monitor, and record work time spent on their own. This method helps evaluate the work done from the performers’ point of view and develops autonomy.

Access Control

A conventional way is to implement an access control and management system is by using badges, chips, or fingerprint scanners to save information about each employee on a file to view upon demand.

A reliable but expensive method of monitoring and recording the working time of employees are video surveillance systems. However, you will not only need to buy and install cameras but also pay an employee, whose job is to continuously monitor activities and record violations of the internal work regulations. 

In addition, the introduction of video surveillance systems often causes psychological discomfort for employees. That’s why installing cameras is most often a special measure, applied at critical facilities.

Native or Online Software to Control Remote Workers 

One of the most aggressive ways to control employees is to install special software that captures all actions of a remote worker. 

In the absence of sufficient willpower, with the inevitable presence of home distractions, the situation will be saved by automated control of employees, built clearly and understandably for both parties.

An increased percentage of managers, who do not agree to suffer losses due to loss of productivity when working at home at the computer, has boosted the interest in remote collaboration development, as well as monitoring, and accounting of working time.

With such software solutions (e.g., DLP systems), you will know if an employee works for a set period of time, what sites he/she visits, what he does at the moment. Keep in mind though, a small number of employees will agree to such monitoring, and it will cost you something for sure.

How to Choose Employee Monitoring Solutions 

When choosing a software tool for time management and personnel efficiency evaluation, consider the specialisation of the solution and understand the purpose of its installation. Is it to collect data or to analyze the work efficiency of employees?

Next, decide whether a tool that provides quantitative reports on the arrival and departure of an employee is enough, or whether a solution that records exactly what employees do during working hours is required. A useful option is the ability to take screenshots on a predetermined schedule or at the start of certain processes.

Managers are interested not only in the efficiency of individual employees but also in that of entire teams. Plus, it’s not about the information on what games an employee played or who he/she corresponded with, but rather about the total amount of time wasted. Therefore, another advantage of the program is the ability to generate summary reports.

Special Cases 

If a company has employees who work according to a special schedule of work time and perks, so that it’s not possible to track and control, then individual conditions are introduced in employment agreements.

For example, contracts with remote staff include additional clauses: strictly established time for communication, deadlines for completing tasks, the necessity to warn about force majeure circumstances, etc.

In any case, the manager or employer has no right to force staff to work overtime. 

Additional hours of work are fixed in the employment contract at the same time as compensation in the form of pay raises or compensatory time off. The company administration discusses the issue with each employee individually within the framework of labour law.

A flexible work schedule, which allows employees to control their own workload, increases productivity and reduces the costs of hourly wages.

Timekeeping should be maintained in every company regardless of the schedule adopted. Time management methods increase productivity, discipline staff, and reduce costs.

Automated tools for controlling work time and labour efficiency facilitate accounting in companies with a large staff, provide an objective assessment of each employee’s work, and promote the adoption of motivated management decisions. 

Therefore, if you are going to start your own business or, for example, open your first company, we recommend choosing such a tool beforehand.

Apps for Remote Work Organization

Ideally, the fact that an employee works from home should in no way negatively affect his/her quick access to official documentation, reporting, and static data. 

You still need to hold meetings, consult with colleagues, discuss issues with managers, etc. The availability of single information space for computers of such employees and the convenience of internal communications are necessary conditions for quality and productive remote work.

In order to provide, it’s necessary to use different custom software products. Below, we have collected basic tools for organizing remote work you might want to consider.

  • Messengers. When performing business tasks at a remote workplace, it’s important to have direct access to co-workers and management to discuss emerging issues in a timely manner. Of course, marketing slang is one thing, gentleman etiquette at the office another, but the waste of time is a problem.
  • Group chats. In this case, you can’t do without messengers, which allow you to write a message and get an answer, organise a group chat or call, show your screen to the interlocutor, etc. 
  • Office suite. Working with documents, tables and presentations is an integral part of the work of office workers. In conditions of a remote work office, shared viewing and editing of files, as well as making personalised edits, and comments are especially important. 
  • Cloud storage. Electronic and paper document management along with electronic signatures are present in any organisation. When working remotely, it’s important to have a reliable storage place for documents and file-sharing that all interested employees will have access to, comments Fex.net. Google Drive is a popular and good solution, but the amount of space on it can vary depending on the needs of the company and it has a lot of limitations, unlike high-end products.
  • Task managers. In order to provide remote control of employees, assign tasks and check schedules, it’s necessary to use project management tools. They are extremely useful when it comes to structuring the amount of work, making notes, delegating subtasks, or marking the passed steps.
  • Video communication services. If weekly meetings or brainstorming sessions were part of the daily office routine, you should not give them up when working remotely. Or maybe it’s time to implement such meetings because they lift the spirits of a geographically dispersed team, helping them understand that work and social life don’t standstill. Video conferencing services allow managers to communicate with teams, announce the news, set tasks, or educate.

Types of Employee Monitoring, Final Words

Controlling remote employees is undoubtedly an important part of organising remote work. The proper motivation of employees, their timely and full awareness, as well as a competent approach to monitoring activities, should solve the problem of efficiency in general along with the personal productivity of each team member. 

In addition, properly chosen office apps, communication tools, and a project management system to control the use of time and performance of remote employees make a difference for everybody.