The novel coronavirus has hastened a trend toward remote work that was already years in the making. Before the pandemic, many employees worked off-site at least once a week. Now that number is soaring, and PwC estimates that 72% of workers would like to continue working remotely even after the pandemic subsides.
In many ways, this is excellent news. While remote workers face a unique set of challenges, they generally report being happier and healthier, and they tend to stay with a company longer than when they work in an office.
However, many managers are concerned about employee productivity. They worry that without the norms and constraints of the office environment, employees might be tempted to binge Netflix, scroll social media and otherwise disengage from their workplace responsibilities.
That fear has, in part, led to the rapid adoption of employee monitoring software, as I’ve seen in my work in this industry. While this practice was popular before the pandemic, it’s now ubiquitous. Of course, all that data collection can lead to information overload, making employee monitoring software a tool that negatively impacts employee satisfaction without providing meaningful insights for employees or managers.
To get the most out of your monitoring initiatives, focus on these four metrics.
Productivity is an obvious but complicated metric, and it’s one that both employees and managers should reflect on before beginning a monitoring protocol.
For instance, a study on employee work time found that the average U.S. worker increased their workdays by 40% during the pandemic, adding three hours of work time to each day. This additional effort is one cause of a rampant burnout epidemic that impacts employees at extraordinary and concerning levels. In June 2020, half of American workers reported feeling burned out while working remotely.
Therefore, assessing productivity is as much about ensuring a reasonable workday as it is an accountability metric for disengaged workers. To achieve this, consider shifting to an outcomes-based approach to productivity that connects micro targets and other product-based goals as the ideal metrics of productivity.
There is a growing body of evidence that quantitative targets don’t motivate employees. Instead, they make workers less happy and their work less meaningful, which only exacerbates burnout, turnover and other negative implications.
Most employees want to be excellent at their jobs, and often, excellence isn’t tied to the number of hours spent sitting in front of a computer screen.
2. Engagement And Collaboration
During this uniquely challenging time, employees need more communication with management and co-workers than ever before. While there are seemingly infinite communication platforms, their collective effect is often the same.
Zoom fatigue is real, and it’s not the solution to empowering employees to thrive. Rather, morning and midday check-ins can help employees stay connected to the company and one another.
In a survey by Gallup, employees emphasized several leadership qualities that inspire their best work, including:
Monitoring software produces communication metrics that can help everyone best assess their commitment to communication and, by extension, employee satisfaction and productivity.
3. Big Data Trends
While targeted monitoring can feel invasive and overbearing, big data trends can reveal important metrics about workflow best practices, office norms and potential bottlenecks. What’s more, many people are receptive to receiving big data trends that can spur meaningful behavior change.
The implications of this might extend to:
• Communication norms and best practices.
• Customer engagement and high-frequency work times.
• Work habits and normative output.
• Common productivity detractors.
Big data is driving workplace trends across the board, but it can backfire when applied too precisely.
Remote workers face a daunting cybersecurity landscape that threatens personal and company data. In this environment, harness employee monitoring software to track employee engagement related to prominent threats, such as phishing scams, and to provide real-time training in best practices.
This software has the added benefit of identifying and defending against insider threats. As an evaluative metric, it can give everyone a clearer understanding of the risks while providing the tools needed to secure their information.
An Important Reminder
Employees are not machines. Generating generalized productivity metrics or gamifying effort is certainly possible, but it’s not always profitable, especially in the long run. Instead, people need to feel connected, productive and secure.
Employee monitoring software serves as a data aggregator, collecting useful information that’s only valuable when applied correctly.
To optimize today’s remote work environment, metrics matter. Focusing on the wrong ones can do more harm than good. By focusing on those that matter most, organizations can best support their employees, leading to better outcomes across the board. In today’s challenging environment, these metrics can help chart a path to help your organization flourish now and in the months and years ahead.
This article was originally published in Forbes and reprinted with permission.