The rise of remote work has brought new challenges for managers overseeing distributed teams. While remote work offers benefits like flexibility and expanded talent pools, it can be difficult for managers to have visibility into what remote employees are working on day-to-day. This lack of visibility makes it hard to provide coaching and feedback, ensure accountability, and align everyone’s efforts with key business goals.
Fortunately, advances in computer monitoring software give managers powerful new ways to improve the management of remote teams. When used ethically and transparently, these tools can provide valuable insights while building trust.
What is Employee Monitoring Software?
Employee monitoring software allows managers to monitor employee computer activity in real time or through historical reporting. There are different types of monitoring software with varying features, including:
- Screen monitoring – Records employees’ screens and tracks activity and applications used.
- Web monitoring – Tracks web pages visited by employees.
- Time tracking – Provides insights into how employees spend their time on tasks and projects.
- Productivity monitoring – Offers high-level data on the volume of work, like keystrokes and mouse usage.
- File monitoring – Alerts managers to files being uploaded, downloaded, or shared.
- Search monitoring – Flags sensitive search queries employees enter.
- Location tracking – Tracks the location of remote employees through mobile devices.
- Email monitoring – Allows reading of email content.
- Data loss prevention tools – Blocks sharing or leakage of confidential data.
The level of visibility provided varies based on the specific monitoring tools and features utilized. Ethics should always be considered when implementing any monitoring program.
Benefits of Managing Remote Teams
When used properly, employee monitoring tools offer several benefits for managing remote teams:
1. Increased Visibility into Work
With team members dispersed in different locations, it can be difficult for managers to have a window into each person’s work. Monitoring software provides visibility into activities, like website visitors, time spent on tasks, and content produced.
While managers should not spy on team members, high-level visibility ensures efforts remain aligned across the team and with wider business objectives.
2. Improved Accountability
Monitoring tools make it easier to confirm that work expectations are being met in a remote setting. Time tracking helps ensure team members put in an honest day’s work. Activity monitoring reduces distractions by discouraging browsing social media or gaming sites.
By setting expectations around the use of work hours and hardware, monitoring helps hold team members accountable even when they are not physically present.
3. Better Data for Coaching
Understanding how remote employees spend their time and navigate their work provides a better context for offering coaching. Managers can spot potential distractions and gently guide team members back on track.
Data from monitoring offers objective insights for shaping coaching strategies to help team members be more engaged and productive.
4. Enhanced Cybersecurity
Monitoring tools give managers greater power to enforce cybersecurity best practices. Email and web monitoring flags suspicious links and attachments before damage occurs. Data loss prevention blocks the unauthorized sharing of confidential business materials.
With a dispersed workforce accessing company networks remotely, monitoring cyber risks is more critical than ever.
5. Increased Protection from Legal Risks
In certain regulated industries like finance, monitoring provides legal and compliance benefits. Email, document, and screen monitoring allows managers to supervise internal communications that could contain unethical or illegal conduct.
Proactively monitoring these channels reduces legal risk and may support a defense of due diligence.
Best Practices for Implementation
To implement monitoring in a way that builds trust and enhances employee success:
Clearly communicate the types of monitoring in place, and the reasons the company uses them. No employee should be surprised that their work computer activity is being monitored.
Get employee input:
Involve employees in developing monitoring policies. Getting by-in helps build comfort with monitoring as standard operating procedure.
Limit scope thoughtfully:
Only implement monitoring that is necessary and relevant for the specific team and its business goals. Do not overreach in monitoring personal communication channels.
Use data ethically:
Never use insights from monitoring to shame or punish. Data should inform discrete coaching conversations focused on improving performance.
Adjust monitoring when possible to accommodate employee needs. More intensive monitoring may be appropriate during onboarding periods versus for experienced team members.
If directing an employee to change behaviors based on monitoring data, have the discussion privately and focus on constructive improvement.
Remote work is here to stay, but managers still need visibility and control to lead dispersed teams effectively. When implemented ethically, employee monitoring tools like screen monitoring, time tracking, and data loss prevention provide valuable insights not available otherwise.
Monitoring does require extra care, given privacy concerns. Managers should be transparent, limit monitoring scope, use data responsibly, and involve employees in the process. With a balanced approach, monitoring can build trust while helping managers drive accountability and alignment across remote teams.