The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the workplace forever. We have adapted to new work arrangements and learned to use unfamiliar digital tools. Now, we can navigate video conferences while maneuvering between kids, pets, and bad hair days. It has also introduced a lot of us to the practice of employee monitoring.
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What Is Employee Monitoring?
The term ‘employee monitoring’ is pretty self-explanatory. However, there may be some confusion as to what activities it actually covers. In fact, this practice can refer to different activities:
- Monitoring online activity
- Monitoring activity on company computers
- Monitoring work emails and calls
- Tracking work hours for remote employees
Some companies have introduced employee monitoring during the pandemic. However, research shows that a lot of businesses were using time tracking even earlier. Even a Gartner report from 2018 mentions that 50% of 239 major corporations were already tracking their employees. They monitored the use of company emails and social media. They were also looking into meetings and workspace activities.
What Is the Purpose of Employee Monitoring?
The most obvious reason why employers monitor their employees is to see how office hours are spent. However, there are other aspects of online monitoring too:
- Employers may want to manage bandwidth usage. They may also want to prevent employees from accessing dangerous or inappropriate websites on company computers.
- Monitoring online activity may also be a way to prevent data breaches. It can also help curb leaks of sensitive company data.
- Employers may learn a lot of useful information from time tracking their employees. As a result, they can improve workflows, avoid overtime, and improve time management.
- Monitoring emails and calls can be a way to maintain company image. This would be especially important for employees working in customer service. Monitoring emails and calls can help see if clients receive the proper support.
This is not an extensive list of reasons. Depending on the company or team, time tracking can find a variety of applications. It can also come in handy in other areas like learning personal organization.
Employee Time Tracking: Pros and Cons:
There are lots of reasons why employee monitoring can be a good thing for a business. It can often lead to:
- Smoother workflow
- Improved performance
- More efficient management of freelance and remote employees
- Less time-wasting and procrastination at work
- Improved data security
At the same time, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Potential cons of employee monitoring include:
- Higher stress levels for employees
- Feelings of distrust
- Threats to data privacy
- Extra costs for monitoring software
So, how do you introduce time tracking to employees and not tap into the cons we’ve listed above?
How to Introduce Time Tracking Software Effectively
As more businesses move into a digital workspace, employee monitoring may soon become a standard practice. However, how do you introduce time tracking into a workplace with minimal damages to people’s morale?
1. Be Transparent:
The worst thing you can do when introducing time tracking software is avoid talking about it. On the contrary, the best way to go about it is to initiate conversation. You should also welcome questions, suggestions, and even debates.
2. Explain How it Works:
Your team should know exactly how they are being monitored at work. This may include answering questions like:
- How does employee monitoring software work?
- Where will it be installed?
- What activities will be monitored?
- Will it be used on personal devices?
- How will the company use time tracking data?
- Will it affect salaries and bonuses?
3. Take it Step by Step:
There is no need to force the acceptance process. You can start by bringing up the idea of time tracking at a meeting. This can be a good way to see how your team feels about it in general. You may then set up discussion groups to learn about potential pros and cons.
Finally, you can present different time tracking solutions within your budget. Afterward, have your team vote on which one they prefer.
4. Don’t Use the Collected Data for Punishment:
Time trackers can reveal lots of valuable data about your business. However, you shouldn’t use this information to single out and punish your employees. Instead, you can use this data as a base for improvement.
For example, say, one of your team members is taking too long to answer emails. This may be a good opportunity to offer training efficient message handling.
5. Set a Clear Monitoring Policy:
When it comes to devising a time tracking policy, there should be no gray areas. Your team should know exactly what information you have access to — and how you plan to use it.
Create a clear and detailed monitoring policy and make it legally binding. This can help you avoid lots of issues in the future.
6. Make it a Team Effort:
Any changes to a workplace can cause stress and anxiety among employees. The best way to handle this would be via an open discussion.
Once some time has passed, ask your team for feedback on their time tracking experience. Together, you can decide how to make things better. You can also exchange insights on what you have learned. You can then use this information to fine-tune time tracking to your needs.
7. Use the Right Tools:
Professional software, like time tracking apps, can make the entire monitoring process a much less stressful experience. In a Harvard Business Review article, Sanford DeVoe, associate professor at the Rotman School of Management, shares his thoughts on this matter:
“Technology can help because it can precisely and unobtrusively measure your activity without many of the psychological pitfalls.”
Top employee time tracking apps can monitor activity efficiently and unobtrusively. The right software won’t interfere with your team’s daily work. In fact, it should make their work easier. This can help them see time tracking as a productivity tool — and not a surveillance tool. These are just a few reasons why time tracking apps are the preferred way of employee monitoring used by businesses.
Make sure to check in with your team. Ask how the new software is affecting their workflow. The best thing here is that there are lots of different time tracking tools. Don’t be afraid to switch to different software and explore new options. Soon enough, you will find something that will make both you and your team happy.