Why the old options for monitoring employee performance are not suitable for telecommuting

Remote control is the trend of this year. Both employees and the companies themselves are interested in the transition to this format of work. The first – want to get rid of the time spent on the road, the second – from the need to pay for the rent of empty offices. A quick transition requires effort and money – managers do not always use even popular tools like cloud services for deployment and configuration remote workplaces, and even more often they try to implement classic “office” tools to support business processes.

This also happens with services for monitoring employee performance, but in practice this approach – without adapting to a remote format – does not lead to anything good.


Photo – AltumCode – Unsplash

Unusual remote control

In many companies, when signing an employment contract, employees agree that their productivity will be assessed using technical means – for example, video cameras and telematics. Such solutions, being competently implemented in offlinereally benefit. One of the largest Western retailers for several years uses sensor system in the checkout area. It analyzes conversations between customers and cashiers using speech recognition technologies. This is how the store determines how well employees are doing their job to improve customer satisfaction. Another online retailer applies sensors to analyze the movements of warehouse employees and optimize their routes.

In turn, monitoring online activities subordinates with the help of software still causes heated discussions – they flared up again after the massive transition to remote control at the time of quarantine. It should be said that such systems also help the business – for example, they protect the IT infrastructure, record access to documents and determine whether an authorized employee is working at a remote computer.

In addition to these tasks, managers are increasingly demanding that remote controllers install keyloggers and all kinds of time trackers on their personal computers. Some executives go further and use special software to monitor employees’ desktop and monitor statistics on time spent in various applications. Selected examples show how far employers go checking with webcamswhether developers, accountants and other specialists are in their workplaces.

Adaptation is needed at all levels

Often, such monitoring is carried out using conventional applications without any adaptation to new conditions and training of employees. For this reason, the developers of Zoom removed the function of assessing the attention of the interlocutor, and the authors of the project manager Basecamp refused integrate tracking tools into your product (the service still offers a timer to track working hours, but it is controlled exclusively by the user).

The point is not only in the frequent lack of specialized means that could protect personnel from invasion of privacy, but in a crisis of confidence. Teamwork is a fragile thing on which employees’ desire to work depends. The specialist, whose every step is monitored, will quickly lose not only motivation, but also productivity


Photo – Andreas Klassen – Unsplash

Ten years ago, scientists have establishedthat oversight and supervised work increases the stress levels of employees. There is also recent research on this topic – Harvard Business School professor Ethan Bernstein in his scientific work approvesthat the constant supervision of subordinates reduces their productivity, refuting the thesis put forward in the first part of the text in the example of the American retail.

Even with ethical monitoring systems, you cannot ensure that performance indicators are met 100% every day, and everyone on the team works strictly 8 hours a day. It is believed that a person can be productive only for a few hours

Cal Newport Lecturer in Computer Science at Georgetown University dedicated a whole book on this phenomenon – “Deep work“. He argues that mechanical labor and occasional idleness save us from burnout. The best thing an employer can do is create the conditions for concentration. Demanding vigorous activity from employees is at least useless, as a maximum – it will bring their dismissal closer.

The question is open

Experts point out that tools for controlling the daily routine of subordinates are ineffective in many cases. They not always reflect the real state of affairs and completely transparent criteria of efficiency can be invented only in streaming production. A specialist works on a conveyor belt and connects two parts together. It is easy to calculate the efficiency in this case – N manufactured units without scrap per hour.


Photo – Hitesh choudhary – Unsplash

It will no longer be possible to apply a similar approach to more complex problems. The activities of developers, system administrators or data scientists do not lend themselves to template accounting. It is impossible to evaluate a programmer by “the number of developed features per unit of time”. This method will definitely harm the development of the company.

Keyloggers and similar tracking systems will not provide a complete understanding of the situation and will definitely not contribute to a trusting environment. Therefore, the question of choosing and adapting tools for remote work is open, but what is known for sure is that such processes should be based on the principles of transparency, mutual understanding and be accepted by the team.


Additional reading on the corporate blog 1cloud.ru:

Telecommuting is a well forgotten old thing
“Found, saw, received”: unusual invitations for an interview
Why developers are more valuable than money, how to save and increase them
How the cloud can help at remote work


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