How to monitor the activity of remote employees?

We are a fast-growing company, but all 100% remote, with team members spread across the world. With below 10 team members, everybody was working 24/7 and it was easy to spot somebody is dropping a ball. With a team of 20, it is now difficult to keep an eye on people, and some employees are taking an advantage of being remote. Especially managers, whose responsibility is to help others and keep track of things, so the number of emails, calls, and chats is not a good indicator of their engagement.

The ideal tool will be super simple and take screenshots few times a day. Anything you can recommend?

Startups | 👁 937 | Posted 2018-03-07 | Share on Facebook | Twitter | Google+

| Modified: 2018-03-07 | Author:


vekien 1 year ago

I used to work remote and the way it worked was I got a fixed pay, that meant regardless how much I worked I get the same pay, it was expected I would work 30hrs/week for this, anytime, any day. I could spend the 30 hours however I wanted but I didnt do more if I could avoid (sometimes I did but I made that decision) Every week there was a conference call with all members of the team where we would discuss what weve done (web dev), the managers and bosses knew what was achievable in 30 hours, since you were talking to everyone you didnt want to say anything that looked like you did nothing.. and you cant lie because you need to have committed the work or be able to show it impromptu, so naturally you just do what youre paid to do! Sometimes I worked less, sometimes I worked more, but I loved it because I felt in control and not having big brother watch me. Monitoring is just a bad idea but if you adjust the workflow I think it can work, ask for daily/weekly updates and judge yourself. End of day if they abuse a couple hours but they get the work done and theyre very reliable and do a good work, suck that cost up. Even if you had an office and you pay someone 9-5 you wont get 8 hours of work, you will get about 5-6... between; day dreaming, toilet break, coffee break, talking to people, lunch break, side tracked and distractions it all adds up My boss always used to say; 6 hours of work is what they expect when busy, out of an 8 hour day. In 1 week thats 10 hours of being paid to effectively do nothing... (30 min legal lunch where i live), it adds up but its normal and creatives a stress free environment.

[deleted] 1 year ago

Focus on building a good culture and team dynamic Focus on results. If the team member delivers reliably, does it matter how much time they spend goofing off?

JidokaUS 1 year ago

Look at the term Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and Objective Key Results (OKR) These are metrics terms in Startups to measure a goal of each employee in terms of performance. Achieving 80% could be considered completing 100% of the OKR

jcgretton 1 year ago

Remote working is often highly empowering because of the lack of direct monitoring. Give trust, let them get on with it.

Winkez 1 year ago

Agreed, if you find yourself acting like a kindergarten teacher you've either failed to create the correct culture or you've hired the wrong people, in either scenario the needed fix is most likely on your side, not on the employees' and certainly can't be solved by screenshots or tracking software. Intelligently set expectations (with employee input) and hold your people accountable to those expectations otherwise get out of the way and let them work.

morgler 1 year ago

I feel your pain, but let me put your request into perspective: If you're talking about monitoring freelancers, whom you barely know and who are scattered around the globe, it's a different situation than if you're talking about your employees! In general as others already said it is NOT a good idea to monitor your employees closer! I am an agile coach and I have worked with many teams local and remote. Let me tell you: productivity and quality go down, if you try to monitor employees closer. So what can you do? In the case of your own employees, the best answer is to not only hire them for their hard skills on paper, but to focus on their attitude, motivation and how all that fits with your company culture. In my opinion it's better to hire people with worse hard skills but a better fit for your character/culture. You will be surprised of what a team assembled that way will do for you! In the case of long-term freelancers, I would treat them similar to employees. In the case of freelancers you barely know and only collaborate with over a few months, things are different. I would still argue, that tighter monitoring has a negative impact on performance. But given that these people don't have time to get to know the company culture, and you don't have time to screen them thoroughly, you will have to fall back to tighter monitoring. I don't like it, but I made the experience and feel your pain! In the latter case, I find tools like those provided by Upwork (I'm not affiliated with them) to help a little. You get screenshots of what people are working on, which also helps to steer them in the right direction early enough to avoid serious mistakes. But having that said, I found that unreliable freelancers are also unreliable despite these tools! Another option I recently saw is payninja.co (again, I'm not affiliated with them). They provide a block-chain technology to pay freelancers only for achieved milestones, while freelancers are guaranteed to be paid, if they deliver their work. Sounds interesting, though I haven't tried it yet. Another simple option is to do daily or weekly stand-ups. You can do that via video conference or even in a group chat like Flowdock or Slack. These stand-up meetings are short (no more than 10 minutes (hard timebox!)) and the structure is simple: Everyone answers the three questions: What did I do yesterday (or last week)? What do I plan to do today (or this week)? What problems appears? Where do I need help? This simple format keeps you up-to-date without hindering your employees too much. In fact, the stand-up will become a place for them to collaborate among each other and to plan the day (week) for themselves :). I have been let down or even been cheated by freelancers, too. But I have also worked with awesome people. All in all I think, tight monitoring of employees is a bad idea. If you have good employees, monitoring will decrease their productivity. If you have bad people, all the tools in the world will not make them work better. My tips: Hire employees for cultural fit, not for tech skills For short-term and little known remote freelancers, use the the tools I mentioned And keep a positive attitude towards people!

icbint 1 year ago

Pay people based on performance

Pineapple_Badger 1 year ago

You dont. You hire people that you can trust, and monitor their output, not their input. The best people you can hire will leave at the first hint of someone trying to micro-manage them. But the great thing about that is, the best people you can hire, dont need to be managed this way. Let them do their thing, and cull the ineffective/inefficient as needed. Requires much less work on your part, while resulting in happier and more productive employees.

bloggermonk 1 year ago

Check out hubstaff and hivedesk!

ikingofeverything 1 year ago

Thank you all for your advice. This is very helpful. I agree that this is not a good idea to enforce using such software, especially that we have a problem just with one or two employees only. I will talk to them and (even that we pay per hour) make sure we have more a performance evaluation of work (weekly goals etc.).

finance_student 1 year ago

100% grantee OP ignores all other comments explaining how this is a bad idea and just follows your link.

BobbyCondarco 1 year ago

Think this through. Are you really going to review the activity logs? If you go with a tool that takes screen shots, how are you going to handle seeing potentially personal email or other information? How much time will you be spending reviewing the logs? How will this impact the culture? Are people going to disengage because they don't feel trusted? Especially managers, whose responsibility is to help others and keep track of things. This kinda jumped out at me. If you can't trust your managers, then you have a bigger issue. Technology won't fix it. My approach would be to get daily status eports from the managers outlining issues, deliveries and work plan for the day. Much easier to validate and not invasive.

Daytonaman675 1 year ago

Once I worked in IT for a LARGE corporation. Desk-side support gig. Go out, fix or bring back pcs etc. one day boss gets fantastic idea put a camera in the imaging area to track productivity One guy would constantly be back in the imaging area and enter bullshit updates on the ticketing system. This led to his promotion where he had to do visible work and his ultimate downfall. Short story - unless someone is failing to meet minimum metrics consistently dont worry about it. It is you job to find and set those minimum metrics.

riplikash 1 year ago

Just a bad, naive idea. Causes more problems than it solves. Hurts morale. Advertises a lack of trust. Encourages employees to not take ownership. Discourages self management. Creates an "us vs them" attitude towards management. And it's trivial to get around for actual trouble makers. Focus on building a good culture and team dynamic, not being a kindergarten teacher trying to keep attention deficit children on task.

[deleted] 1 year ago


ikingofeverything 1 year ago

The team is all over the US and the world, we do not have a central location. We pay per hour and few people abuse it.

dawcza 1 year ago

Just talk to those who are not delivering and address your concerns. Same thing as in the regular office. How is taking screenshots going to help.

ProgrammAndRecruit 1 year ago

so the number of emails, calls, and chats is not a good indicator of their engagement. Can you elaborate your industry thus needing it to be 24?7? The ideal tool will be super simple and take screenshots few times a day. TBH, this isn't ideal. By forcing your employees to delivery to have a clean audit could affect delivery sooner than later. Take it from me, worked as a remote techincal recruiter. At first I was closely monitored by the team. But since all noses where on me, it's very anxious to make mistakes thus taking my delivery time longer. I asked to remove this restriction and let me do my thing remote, and it brough win-win results. Anything you can recommend? Project management tools would help. Let say a service desk tool should keep track of the emails, calls, chats your employee makes per shift.

amosschorr 1 year ago

Are they taking advantage of being remote? Or is the system you have in place unfit for remote work? Asking this question another way: Are they lazy? Or have they not been empowered to take more initiative?

stretchmymind 1 year ago

It may seem ideal to install CCTVs and microphones in your offices but staff morale will plunge resulting in them acting for the camera only.

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