With the onset of the 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the number of companies switching their staff to remote work has accelerated. As businesses around the world begin to reopen, telecommuting will most likely remain prevalent in the workforce.
While teleworking helps everyone stay safe and healthy, many companies are faced with unique challenges.
How do you monitor employees working remotely?
Employee monitoring is used to improve employee productivity, accurately bill clients, ensure business is running within compliance, etc.
What are the benefits of working remotely?
Remote work offers several benefits for the employee, company and the clients of the company.
Benefits to the company:
- Improved Productivity from the employee is the primary benefit for the company.
- Work Quality – With the proper monitoring tools such as call recording software and screen capture, managers can quickly review call performance and deliver feedback to their employees. Increased employee feedback is a powerful tool for most businesses to grow and improve. Managers can cite specific examples of how the employee conducted themselves in the field, identify mistakes and train employees to improve their performance. This “coaching” activity allows the employee to learn and improve their work habits quickly.
- Focus on output – Employees working remotely has created a shift of focus towards output. Productivity is the primary measurement as opposed to work station attendance. In the past, many employers focused on where their employees performed their work and praised employees for the time spent at their desks. Employees working remotely are now more conscious about how they spend their time working with the knowledge that their activities are now monitored. This increases employee output because the employee is less likely to spend time on non work related activities.
- Reduced Operational costs – Companies have the opportunity to reduce real estate and the associated costs of maintaining office space. This includes a reduction in costs for office furniture, kitchen/break room supplies, janitorial staff and more. Companies may also reduce the physical size of the office. Unless there is a need to have a physical workspace for each employee, a company can reduce the physical size of their office and keep infrastructure costs to a minimum.
- Expanded Talent Pool – Employees working remotely expands the pool of talent to the company. Geographic location is no longer a limiting factor for companies interested in hiring talent anywhere within the country or offshore. It provides an inclusive environment ideal for individuals with disabilities to work from home or employees who have the best skill sets for the role but have familial or other commitments that restrict them from working in an office every day.
- Increased Morale and Reduced Turnover – When employees are provided a work environment with more flexibility, self-determination, less interruptions and better working environments, they are happier and become more productive. Employees working remotely no longer have the burden of commuting to the office or exposed to toxic work environments such as office gossip or politics. When companies use technology properly to keep employees who are working remotely connected for them to be collaborative, it keeps their staff happy and reduces turnover.
Benefits to the employee:
Reduced Levels of Stress is the primary benefit for the employee.
- Reduced Commuting Stress – For many employees, the commute to and from an office may be the most stressful moment of their day. Overcrowded public transportation with delays, road congestion, early work days and late nights provide an unpleasant experience to employees twice per day, once at the beginning and the end.
- Reduced Commuting Expenses – A recent publication by Ohio University shows that employees that telecommute save on average $6,800 per year. Reduced commuting expenses go beyond monetary considerations as well with reduced wear and tear on employees’ personal vehicles and the time saved from the act of commuting back and forth from the office.
- Flexibility Adds to Healthier Work Life Balance – The same Ohio University publication also states that the flexibility in telecommuting allows employees to take care of personal business without missing work, schedule work around appointments and address emergencies without having to call in or miss a day of work. Other employees may also choose to reallocate the time they save from commuting and spend it with their family, exercise, meditate or engage in activities to improve their physical and/or mental health.
- Employee Empowerment – Telecommuting encourages employee independence. The focus shifts attention away from attendance towards productivity. This environment promotes worker self-direction and empowerment to manage their time wisely as opposed to receiving constant instruction by their manager.
Benefits to everyone:
Sustainability – In a recent publication by Purchase College State University of New York in March 2020, “New York City saw a 28 percent decrease in particulate matter levels over 5 days” when companies and school campuses switched to teleworking and virtual meetings. Telecommuting reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves sustainability by reducing fuel consumption and relieves pressure on public transportation.
What are the Disadvantages of Remote Work?
If Employee Monitoring is implemented incorrectly, it may decrease productivity and raise attrition. Companies must be cognizant of several issues regarding employee monitoring.
- Lack of Trust and Privacy Perception – By implementing monitoring tools, employees may feel the company does not trust them to work remotely and it is an invasion of their privacy. Employees may be uncomfortable knowing both their phone calls and workstation computer screens are being recorded. This may be a greater concern to employees who have not been monitored in the past and question why monitoring work activity is necessary. To address issues, some companies may choose to selectively monitor specific employees. It is important to properly address all concerns before they lead to negative effects such as low morale and turnover.
- Legal Considerations – It is important for companies to follow the call recording laws in the US or in the country where they operate to avoid any potential lawsuits. There may be strict guidelines on a state or local level companies must follow as well for monitoring employees. It may be beneficial for employers to consult legal counsel before implementing remote monitoring.
What are the best practices for monitoring employees?
For employers who have decided monitoring of their remote employees is the right move for the company, there are a few best practices to follow.
- Communicating company plans – To avoid any lack of privacy or trust perceptions, company communication about the intent to monitor their employees is key. Providing full transparency to the employee about what will be monitored, how the company will monitor the employee and company expectations from the employee is vital to avoid any lack of privacy or trust misperceptions.
- Establish formal guidelines– All companies should establish formal written employee monitoring guidelines. The guidelines should be documented and made accessible for any employee to review. Within the guidelines, it should be made clear what employers will track and how often the data will be reviewed. This will provide reassurance to the employee that their privacy is respected and establish what areas managers may focus on in regards to the work from the employee.
- Obtain employee consent – Once the guidelines have been established and the employee understands what will be monitored, it is important to obtain consent from the employees. This echoes back to Legal considerations because there are some states that prohibit employers from monitoring their employees without their consent. Consult legal counsel to determine if your company is operating within a state that requires consent before implementing employee monitoring.
- Be open to changes – As companies collect data on their employees from the employee monitoring tools, the data may reveal actionable items. Some processes may be operating more efficiently and can be scaled up and some may be inefficient and may need to be addressed. Monitoring may also reveal that some employees are working more productively remotely and some workers are struggling. Employers will need to analyze the data regularly and make adjustments to processes, provide training when necessary and be open to changes.
Now that the benefits, drawbacks (plus the resolutions to these drawbacks) and best practices have been identified, this article will outline the procedure to deploy employee monitoring tools.
The first step is to identify the Goals and Scope of the monitoring. It is important to establish the goals for the company that employee monitoring will provide. Once the goals are identified, the scope of the monitoring tools can be selected. Some goals to consider are:
- Contracts and Compliance Goals – In some industries such as health, public safety and legal, the company may be legally obligated to maintain confidentiality while monitoring employees. Companies may also be contractually obligated to precisely track time with their clients for accurate billing. A common example in the legal practice are attorneys. There are tools to assist lawyers to track billable hours, monitor all communications, or record on demand when important communications occur.
- Quality and Productivity Tracking Goals – Employers can monitor both productivity and quality at the same time. Managers can monitor employees and ensure the employee is meeting deadlines and staying on schedule and at the same time “coach” the employee. A common example in call centers is coaching customer service representatives. There are call recording tools to train new employees in customer service best practices, ensure productive coaching sessions and empowers the manager to correct problems before they escalate.
There may be other goals not listed in this document. What is important is to identify what goals you would like to achieve and find the correct tools to accomplish the job. For the scope of this article, we will discuss two tools. The first tool will be Call Recording Software and the second will be Screen Capture.
A phased deployment approach is better than attempting to deploy the system all at once within a company. This will mitigate any potential deployment errors in the system and lower the impact on employee technical support. It would be ideal to implement the changes first in small teams. The company can adapt the roll out as needed based upon feedback before rolling out to other teams.
How do I record a call?
A common scenario most companies face in recording their remote employees is having 1 – 3 phones per location to record. The company then has as many as 5 – 15 or more locations or remote employees. For this scenario, Versadial offers three solutions.
- Solution 1: You purchase or build a separate call recorder for each location;
- Solution 2: Set up a central/main recorder, and then utilize some method of sending a copy of the calls made on the remote location phones to the central recorder.
- Solution 3: Route the call traffic from the recorded remote phones through the centralized recorder location, so the recorder can collect it with mirror ports
There are advantages to each solution.
- Solution 1 – provides the most stability in recordings because the recorder is onsite. This means there are less factors that affect the performance of the recorder. This solution is also simple and easy to deploy.
- Solution 2 – is more cost effective because there is only one centralized recorder used to record remote employees. This solution also provides the benefit of access to all calls from all employees in a single location.
- Solution 3 – is most applicable to VOIP communication. The concept is the same as Solution 2, however; call traffic is routed for the central recorder to access and record it via a network mirror/span port.
Our previous article record calls from the remote site or remote workers goes into great technical detail about each solution and we recommend reading.
How do I record a computer screen?
Versadial offers a powerful desktop screen recording solution called Screen Capture. This program is an employee monitoring tool that goes beyond taking a single image of a computer screen. Screen Capture records an employee’s computer screen and runs hidden in the background of the computer. The employer can setup Screen Capture to begin recording the screen like a video when a program is triggered or kick off the program manually. The employer can also choose to setup the program to take single snapshots of the employee’s screen.
During the pandemic, remote working has become more common for many companies. After the pandemic, employers may choose to permanently shift to this working model due to the benefits to the employees, company and the clients they serve.
When deployed correctly, employees working remotely become empowered, experience less stress and save money. Companies can save on operational costs, reduce physical retail space, have more productive employees with higher work quality, and everyone benefits from reduced green-house gas emissions from less workers commuting back and forth from work.
Regardless if a company chooses remote work to be temporary or permanent, it is crucial that the right employee monitoring tools are deployed. Versadial Solutions provides call recording software and screen capture for employers to take control to improve the productivity and quality of work from their remote employees.