Remote employee monitoring is one of the most common concerns that remote employers face.
When it comes to hiring remote employees, the suspicion is always that remote employees aren’t reporting time accurately.
Recently, my friend and business owner of Gennex Brands, Akil, came to me with a problem. Something wasn’t sitting right with him in relation to his remote employees.
He was using some screenshot software to monitor his remote employees but was concerned about the output of one of his key developers considering how much time he was logging.
Akil suspected that something “fishy” was going on but couldn’t quite put his finger on it.
To help him, I set him up with Time Doctor and he had the employee in question start using the software. The following is a breakdown of what we found after he’d been using Time Doctor for a week.
Before we delve too deep into what Akil found by using Time Doctor, it’s important to address the moral dilemma of time tracking and screen monitoring software.
A primary concern of Akil and many other users is whether or not it’s okay to monitor screen activity. After all, isn’t that a bit “big brother-ish?”
The answer is…it depends. It depends on how you go about monitoring activity.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Do employees know they are being monitored?
- Do employees consent to being monitored?
- When and what is being monitored?
Not all website monitoring software does things in a spirit of transparency, but Time Doctor does.
Privacy is a huge concern, and that’s why Time Doctor does not monitor anything on someone’s computer when they’re on break or when they’re not working. People working from home can be comfortable knowing that they are not being monitored during their own time.
Additionally, employees know their employers are using Time Doctor, and employees have to install the software themselves.
While employers have no right at all to know what employees are doing during breaks or after working, they do have the right to know what employees are doing during work hours.
As part of the trial, Akil had this particular employee install the software on his computer knowing all the details of how Time Doctor worked and what would be monitored and when.
Now, let’s take a look at what Akil found by using Time Doctor to track this employee’s activity.
If you take a look at the screenshot below, you’ll notice the employee in question logged 15 hours in one day. Who works almost 15 hours in a day?
It’s true sometimes a developer might work 15 hours a day if they are running against a tight deadline. However, this did send up a red flag for this particular employee based on their workload.
Akil noticed another red flag when looking at the “Time Use” report. This employee apparently worked on one single task which took almost 54 hours to complete in 5 days. This employee was in the top 5% of Time Doctor users in terms of weekly hours worked.
Maybe he was an exceptionally dedicated worker? However, from his output, he didn’t seem to be.
At this point, Akil still didn’t have enough information to confront his developer. He just had a couple red flags which the developer could probably explain away.
This is where Time Doctor really came in handy to provide critical evidence. Let’s take a quick, but closer look.
The critical evidence
Akil then looked at Time Doctor’s “Web & App Usage Report.”
This is where Time Doctor differentiates itself from all other screenshot software on the market. Time Doctor is the only remote employee monitoring software that includes application and website monitoring.
If you take a look at the report below you’ll find that the second most used application is “automousemover” which is an application designed to trick simple screenshot software into thinking that work is being done.
And, there it is!
The use of the “automousemover” app was enough evidence to confront the developer.
However, for further confirmation Akil used Time Doctor’s screen monitoring software to take a look at this employee’s screenshots.
The screenshots report (below) showed that for long periods of time while the employee was “working” there was no mouse or keyboard activity at all.
This report helps point out any discrepancy between time reported and time worked, making it easier for employers to confront employees.
Is this statistically relevant?
For the purposes of this example, I thought I’d go a step further and get Kenton from XplaneUs to play around with our data and find out statistically where this user sat in comparison to the rest of our user base.
Here is an image of a scatter plot of all our users and that blue dot represents the user in question.
As you can see from the chart, this user’s level of mouse activity is very unusual when compared to the rest of our database.
What were the losses?
I spoke to Akil about the lost hours and he told me that this developer was paid $50 an hour.
So direct losses during that workweek were 11:51 x $50 an hour which = $575.50 in lost productivity. Extrapolate that over a year and you’re looking at $29,996.
That’s a serious loss but only takes salary into consideration . If you include the costs of finding and training somebody new the costs are easily 2-3 times that amount.
Case study conclusion
With the help of Time Doctor Akil was able to easily spot a dishonest employee and is replacing this developer.
Not only does Akil use this to spot unproductive and dishonest employees, but he can use it to reward productive employees.
His productive employees love Time Doctor. They like how the desktop app allows them to keep their tasks organized, and are happy to have evidence that they’re working effectively.
Tools to monitor employee activity
This case study gave you insight into 2-3 tools Time Doctor provides users to monitor employee activity, but did you know Time Doctor has over 15 features to help make it easier to track productivity?
They are as follows:
- Time tracking – track time worked and monitor time on breaks.
- Screenshots – Automated screenshots help track employee activity.
- Chat monitoring – See time employees spend chatting with others.
- Clients feature – Track time to clients and projects.
- Powerful reports – Get detailed reports, timesheets, and more.
- Web & App usage – See which websites and apps your employees are using.
- Payroll – Process payroll and billing automatically.
- All devices – Time Doctor works across all systems and devices.
- Integrations – Time Doctor integrates with all the top productivity apps.
- Time usage alerts – Automatic alerts keep employees on task.
- GPS tracking – Mobile app to track employee’s location.
- Off track reminders – Nudges employees when visiting non-work related sites.
- White label – Allows clients to login to a white labeled portal.
- Attendance tracking – Track attendance and get alerts of when employees are late.
- Track breaks – Tracks breaks and time away from computer.
As you can see, Time Doctor is comprehensive.
Tips to better monitor remote employees
As you know, there is a wrong way and a right way to monitor employees, even when you have the right software.
Here are some tips to help you institute an employee monitoring policy that makes sense for everyone.
1. Be completely transparent
Privacy is a huge concern these days. And it should be.
Every user of the Internet should be able to rest assured that they are giving open consent whenever data is being collected or activity is being monitored.
As such, it’s your job to explain in full detail what is involved with using a time tracking and monitoring software like Time Doctor.
Fully train your employees on how the software works and what is involved.
You’ll also want to have them install the software themselves. It’s a big no-no to install a software without letting your employees in on it.
If employees install the software themselves, then they know it’s being used and how it is being used.
You also want to let your employees know which features you are using and what they mean.
2. Monitor Everyone
When you decide to use Time Doctor, it’s a great idea to monitor everyone. Yes, this includes you, your executives, and the business owner and team manager.
Your employees will be much more on board with being monitored when they know it’s company policy and even the “big wigs” have to be accountable for their time.
3. Share concerns and reports
The purpose of time tracking software is to be transparent. If you notice an employee has worked 15 hours a day and hasn’t produced the required work, go to them with your concern and your report.
This will give your employee a time to show you what they have done, explain themselves, and/or at least understand what your concern is.
Perhaps, they left their time tracking software on and completely spaced turning it off? Maybe they really did work that much and will be able to show you their deliverables.
When you share your concerns and your reports with your employees, you’ll develop better relationships and trust.
4. Put everything in writing
To avoid any potential problems, make sure your screen monitoring and time tracking policies are in writing. This way, you can refer to them in case of any legal concerns.
Similarly, you will want to get consent in writing. This could be part of your hiring and/or onboarding practices.
When your employees have read through your policies, signed their consent, downloaded and installed the software themselves, been trained, and started using the software, it won’t be a secret that you are using it.
They will also be fully aware of how it works, what is involved, and know they have given their consent.
You will also want to consider having a lawyer draft up your policies, so that they make sense in terms of the law. The last thing you want to deal with is a loophole or unclear legal language.
If you’re running some other screenshot software or have hired employees through an outsourcing platform like Upwork (formerly oDesk)/Elance/Freelancer, it’s time to try Time Doctor. Even a 14-day free trial will give you a very different view of your team’s productivity.
The sad reality is that some employees don’t work anywhere near as hard as you might think. It’s an unfortunate reality, and most other screenshot applications can be tricked by applications like the one we saw Akil’s employee use.
As I try to tell prospective customers: most screenshot software can be tricked, and this happens more than you’d think. You need to make sure you have the right application in place to monitor productivity accurately.
Additionally, when you start using Time Doctor, make sure you are completely transparent, put things in writing, and let your employees know how you are using the software.
What problems have you had with deceptive or unproductive employees? I’d love to know in the comments below.
Liam Martin is a co-founder of Time Doctor—a time tracking and productivity monitoring software designed for tracking hours and productivity of remote teams.