This article was originally published on 04/03/2021

In the post-pandemic workplace, business leaders are responsible for managing hybrid teams, which includes monitoring the actions of employees working in another location. In this article, Capterra outlines how managers can successfully track workers using employee monitoring software without causing upset.

The image depicts a woman using software tools to help monitor staff performance

Companies need to be able to monitor and manage staff now more than ever during the hybrid and remote teams era. The Covid-19 pandemic saw businesses increasingly implement employee monitoring tools whilst staff had to work from home. With most people back in the office, tracking software still remains an important requirement in the Australian workplace. 

Tracking productivity and performance, however, may come at the cost of employee morale. Simply put, people don't like to be continuously surveilled, and knowing they are being monitored can even negatively impact employee performance. In this article, Capterra outlines why this occurs and how you can take steps to prevent it. 

What methods are used to monitor employees?

Employee monitoring can take various forms, depending on how employees work and what metrics employers choose to track. For many employees working remotely, this will take the form of tracking a device (like a computer or a laptop). This could include monitoring anything from keystrokes and what apps are open to their location and—possibly with a webcam—what they are physically doing. Other methods include wiretapping and internet monitoring (web surfing, email and instant messaging interactions). 

Points to consider: 

  • In 2020, over half of Australian SMEs (59%) used some form of employee remote monitoring software. Only 15% said their company introduced the software after covid restrictions came in, meaning SMEs already recognised the value of employee tracking. 
  • In 2022, Capterra found that more than a third of employees who work hybrid or remotely at their current job said their company used tracking tools to supervise them, whilst 21% were unsure if they were being monitored. 

What are the benefits of using employee monitoring tools?

The usefulness of tracking employee data will depend on how employers wish to utilise it. For example, many companies will want to monitor the time an employee spends completing a particular task. Some software might automatically monitor the use of a particular app to see how long it is in use. 

Monitoring how time is spent by employees can help employers understand how long it takes an employee to complete a task. This can be useful for billing and project management purposes. Other advantages of using employee monitoring and productivity tools are:

  • To highlight employee strengths: Employers can recognise staff members’ positive capabilities and evaluate their performance through monitoring tools. 
  • Improve employee productivity: Productivity tools can help companies optimise work processes to ensure employees are more efficient in using their time.
  • Handling remote workers is easier: Time tracking can record employees' login time, working hours, and when they log out. The real-time analysis makes it easier to see who is working or not.
  • Helps with work-life balance: This was rated as one of the most important factors of job satisfaction for Aussies. Monitoring productivity can help employees better manage their time at work, organise tasks and set boundaries between work and home life. 

While employee tracking software can be useful, it does, however, come with some challenges.

What are the challenges of employee monitoring software? 

Even though software monitoring may be conducted purely for professional reasons, its use is not without controversy. As many as 54% of employees believe tracking software can negatively impact their performance. This is most acutely felt in employee morale.

Most employees feel comfortable or indifferent to monitoring. However, it can cause a number of issues in the workplace. For example, Capterra’s survey into employee monitoring software shows fewer employees said they felt comfortable taking designated work breaks when working remotely if they knew they were being monitored vs not being monitored. Others reported a negative impact, including decreased motivation to work and more pressure to be available outside of working hours.

Worryingly, only 65% of employees that said they’re being monitored through software reported being informed of their rights regarding the monitoring software. This leaves 35% unsure or ignorant of their rights concerning the use of tracking software. Businesses that wish to use tracking software should rectify this issue to increase employee buy-in and alleviate many potential employee concerns.

Best practices to monitor staff performance

There are a number of different choices that employers can make to help assuage employee concerns and increase employee buy-in. These tips are listed below:

The best practices to monitor staff performance are broken down into 7 steps

1. Be transparent

Be sure to be open about what data you are collecting and what statistics you are monitoring. This lets employees understand the metrics that you are interested in and can help convince them regarding the legitimate reasons for using monitoring software. Data management tools can help teams store and organise large sets of data.  

2. Explain the purpose of monitoring

In addition to being open about what statistics you are monitoring, be sure to explain why you are monitoring those statistics. If it’s purely for billing purposes, be sure to explain that. If it is for other purposes, ensure employees are aware of what and why.

3. Introduce it slowly

If your company is just beginning to monitor staff, try to ease employees into it. It can cause anxiety issues for some employees to feel like they are suddenly being thrown into the deep end, so easing employees into using monitoring software is advised.

4. Explain employee rights

Employees should be informed of their rights with regards to being monitored. This can include acknowledging not just the legal implications of monitoring employees but also the ethical implications.

Under the Australian Workplace Surveillance Act, employers can monitor workers if a formal notice and monitoring policy is in place. There are some exceptions where employees can be monitored without being informed, which companies will need to research. 

5. Acknowledge employee concerns

Be open to feedback from employees with regards to how they feel about monitoring. This helps employees feel like they are being heard, and it can help you to correct any misconceptions they may have. Sending out electronic surveys and polls can help to collect employee feedback. 

6. Don’t solely rely on employee monitoring software

Monitoring software can often feel to employees like they are reducing the human factor in employment and turning them into statistics. This can adversely affect employee morale, so be sure not to rely on monitoring software to measure employee performance.

7. Reward productive employees

Monitoring employees can be a positive experience. Tracking also allows you to see who your best-performing employees are, which you can use as the basis of a rewards system. This can help monitoring feel more like a competition and a positive experience.

Can companies monitor staff performance without destroying employee morale?

The proper use of employee monitoring software can positively affect workplace performance. Companies can better understand how employees spend their time, and it can be used to spot issues with performance or key work objectives before they become problems. However, it is essential that companies take the right approach concerning their use for managing staff. 

Employees that are not told why they are being monitored and are not informed of their rights can feel increased anxiety and pressure. However, with the proper workplace policies, employee monitoring can not only be used successfully but can also be turned into a fun tool that rewards employees for their hard work and acknowledges those who put in the extra effort.

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