Before the Coronavirus outbreak, there were many reasons why employees worked from home. For some, it's about removing distractions and finishing work. For others, they simply live too far away. For some, it's about maintaining a work-life balance, and sometimes it's outside influences that affect the whole company, including weather, natural disasters, loss of power, or even contagious illness.
Prior to March 2020, a full third of companies allowed some employees to work from home, with up to 25% of Americans telecommuting at least once a week (1). With technologies such as cloud-based applications, video conferencing, VoIP calling, and others in play, remote employees are fully enabled to get their job done, no matter where they are.
Because of the prevalence of employees working from home, we have insights into the pros and cons that face remote workers and their organizations. These insights are crucial when most companies have suddenly moved to an almost entirely remote workforce.
Allowing employees to work remotely obviously offers benefits such as health and safety during times of national emergencies. However, traditionally, for some employees, remote work has provided improved employee satisfaction, reduced attrition, increased productivity, and decreased unscheduled absences. For the company, it offers a greatly expanded pool of potential talent and less overhead costs.
WHO'S THRIVING & WHO'S STRUGGLING WITH REMOTE WORKING?
Even with all of these benefits, there are some challenges. Generally, employees who work from the office are blending home and work – they check personal email, tend to kids, use social media sites, make personal plans, pay bills online, etc. It should be expected that an employee working remotely is going to blend home and work life.
While this can lead to a wonderful work-life balance for some, it may not turn out this way for others.
While some employees thrive in a remote environment, showing increased levels of productivity and job satisfaction, others do not. Employees who thrive in a remote workplace are:
Additionally, some employees find the isolation from their colleagues very challenging. The lack of direct personal interaction can have consequences on mood, morale, and job engagement.
A NEW APPROACH TO MANAGING REMOTE WORKERS
Managing a remote team also comes with its own set of challenges. While there are various issues bosses have stated as the reason they don’t like having employees work from home, it often boils down to a couple of simple facts: they want to know that their employees are working and that they're doing OK.
In a traditional office environment, it’s easy to walk by an employee’s desk and gauge attitude and productivity. It’s obviously not as easy when someone is miles away.
THE CHALLENGE OF GAUGING EMPLOYEE PRODUCTIVITY
Metrics Based Management
Measuring productivity based on results requires quantifiable metrics, which can be challenging for businesses to define. Just because an employee is connected to the office by a VPN doesn’t mean they’re working. And it also doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not. In job functions like a call center representative, a simple metric of calls per hour can be used. However, when you have employees with varying responsibilities, creating metrics for each person will be required, with some degree of frequent revision.
Keep in mind that meeting a defined goal doesn’t necessarily equate to productivity. If goals are set too low, an employee accomplishing the desired result may not be working at full capacity. Additionally, if a goal is set too high, an employee missing a target may be wrongly interpreted as "they're not working hard enough."
Applications like SalesForce have their own built-in auditing of activity, giving management insight into whether or not work is being done. While this will provide a documented trail of activity, it’s important to note it is limited to the use of a single application. It would be quite a laborious task to manually correlate data from every application used to reconstruct an employee’s day.
DATA DRIVEN REMOTE EMPLOYEE MANAGEMENT
An employee can’t be measured on a single activity or action. They need to be measured on the entirety of their work. Depending on the job function, an employee’s day is made up of a mixture of corporate, local and internet-based applications, internet-based data and resources, email, chat, and even social media. To effectively measure productivity, you need to be watching each activity individually, as well as their summation, to determine an employee’s productivity.
Individuals & Their Groups
Additionally, measuring one employee against a peer group provides perspective as to whether they are spending too little, just enough, or too much time performing an activity. Viewing the productivity of a group allows you to identify the best practices of your top producers, creating a benchmark of efficiency standards. Cross group comparison can also help identify employees requiring additional training.
Being Proactive Not Reactive
Lastly, measurement should be done using a proactive methodology where standards are defined, and a proper review of activity can be done quickly and efficiently. Employees are the lifeblood of every organization, so it's the responsibility of executive management to proactively address the new issues surrounding a remote workforce, including data-driven visibility into employee activity, productivity, levels of engagement, and employee satisfaction.
THE ROI IMPACT OF TRANSITIONING TO A REMOTE WORKFORCE
The Danger Of Disengagement
Without visibility into a remote employee's behavior, it may be challenging to determine their level of engagement. According to HR specialists CBR, five warning signs of disengagement are:
- Decreased productivity
- Social withdrawal
- Attendance problems
- Lack of initiative to improve
When workers are remote, it's often difficult to observe the actual levels of productive activity, attitude changes, and social withdrawal from colleagues.
Visibility is Key
The ability to see productivity drops is invaluable, whether it's disengagement, a training issue, or someone struggling to work in their new "work from home" environment. Additionally, the ability to identify changes in attitude, early on, can keep a valued employee from leaving the company or stop the growth of a toxic team environment. Luckily technology can help.
ADVANCED MONITORING FOR EMPLOYEES WORKING FROM HOME
User Activity Monitoring & Analytics
Veriato provides user activity monitoring and analytics solutions used by tens of thousands of businesses to measure employee productivity with incredible levels of detail. The software provides productivity metrics and the specific activity behind those metrics. This empowers businesses with the visibility and context necessary to identify employee productivity issues and address them rapidly.
Veriato can be deployed to all PCs, Macs, and Android devices on your network. The Veriato software agent is deployed from a centralized management console to computers in the office or at remote locations (home offices). Veriato has the option to be deployed silently so that end-users don't know they're being monitored. This is an important feature for some companies when monitoring is used as a security tool or for investigations.
What Are Employees Spending Their Time On?
Running on the employee’s computer, Veriato has the ability to analyze and record all onscreen activity. Although Veriato can monitor all computer activity, you have control over what will or will not be monitored. Veriato aggregates the employee activity data and provides several ways to review the information. The activity can be reviewed at a company or department level, and you also have the ability to drill down into the details, based on a specific user, activity type, or through a keyword search. Veriato presents the data in easy to view reports and within the Veriato dashboard, making it quick and efficient to see exactly what your remote employees are doing on a daily basis.
PRODUCTIVITY METRICS FOR REMOTE WORKERS - AT A GLANCE
The Veriato dashboard lets you quickly see daily and weekly metrics. You'll see a weekly view showing who's productive, who's not, and the people that are barely using their computer. Not only can you see what an individual is doing, but you can also see how they're doing in relation to their peers.
Drill down and see by daily or by the minute details on any individual in your company. See how many minutes they were active in each application during designated work hours.
REACTING QUICKLY TO AN INSIDER THREAT
Veriato analyzes written language in emails and can detect changes in employee sentiment. Veriato's artificial intelligence (AI) specifically looks for signs of employee disengagement. Veriato will send an alert when it identifies a significant change in an employee's sentiment.
The Power of Early Intervention
Change in sentiment along with a drop in productivity are critical warning signs of disengagement from the company. This information allows management to take corrective action early on. By understanding and addressing the employee's issues, it's much more likely that a valued employee can be kept from leaving the company. Additionally stopping disengagement in the beginning, can head off the spread of a toxic attitude that could infect an entire team.
Determining the Cause of Disengagement
Under normal circumstances a highly engaged employee is usually highly productive. However, the coronavirus has turned everyone's world upside down. Identifying those that are struggling in this new environment is critical during this transition period and will remain important as more companies move to a remote or hybrid workforce. Issues include:
- Isolation from peers
- Lack of communication
- Lack of self-discipline/self-direction/self-motivation in a remote work environment
- Managers inexperienced at supervising remote teams