How a 100% remote team feels about employee monitoring software

The question: Do you think employee monitoring software is invasive?

A lot of people would be annoyed if their employers asked them to use a time tracker that takes screenshots of their computer. Common questions include; Isn’t that an invasion of privacy? Don’t you trust me? Is that legal?

At Hubstaff, this software is our bread and butter. It’s at the core of everything we do and it’s going to stay there even if we get some criticism for it. The fact is remote work is a growing trend, even Hubstaff is 100% virtual, and we want better tools to make this awesome way to work even better! So we built offline time tracking, we built screenshot capture, we built productivity monitoring, URL tracking, and we’ve even got GPS tracking in the works. As long as you’ve started your Hubstaff timer, it can tell which applications you have running (so you probably shouldn’t be on Skype 24/7 if your job doesn’t involve it at all).

Disclaimer: We don’t record any of this info if you aren’t tracking time. What you do on your computer on your own time is your business. Hubstaff’s tech only begins taking screenshots and recording activity levels once you hit that “Start” button.

These are the tools that make Hubstaff useful, yet they’re the most controversial features we have. The same tools that help us streamline communication and make business management more effective are viewed by some with suspicion. If you have hesitations about remote employee monitoring software, you aren’t alone.

My team and I have been asked many times whether these tools display mistrust and an invasion of privacy. Some people have even told me that employers who use employee monitoring software show that they don’t trust their team’s abilities and honestly. At Hubstaff, it isn’t like that at all.

We recently published a blog post about managing virtual teams that got some comments about the necessity of employee monitoring software. I sent a message to the entire team asking for honest opinions on the software and whether it was helpful to them as contractors, or invasive.

We’re sharing our raw, honest internal team discussion in the blog post below.

The 100% Virtual Hubstaff Team Weighs In

Kelvin Diaz, Customer Support

I actually like the idea of tracking my own time and measuring my own productivity. It keeps me motivated because I can compete with myself. I don’t see it as invasive, because if I’m not doing something job related I can simply stop my timer.

Trust is important but first you have to prove yourself, which the software enables us to do. I think most of the responsibility should fall on the employees themselves. We are the ones who need to earn that trust, then eventually the employer will understand how you work and decide if they can trust you or not. It’s all about getting your work done and making the best out of it.

I like the idea of tracking my own time and measuring my own productivity -Kelvin Diaz Click To Tweet

Also, working in an office without any employee monitoring software on your computer wouldn’t feel any different if you’re being micromanaged all the time. I’d rather have the software and be able to work on my own time.

Danny Baumann, Front End and Support

It takes a huge amount of trust to run a remote team, regardless of what tools you use for monitoring. Modern offices block certain websites, which to me signifies a deeper lack of trust than asking your employee to use Hubstaff. After all, if I want to waste my time then I just have to stop my timer. Having to make this decision about stopping the clock and pausing the screenshots vs wasting time is actually quite helpful in staying focused.

To me the biggest offense is being required to be at a certain office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. regardless of the work you’re doing or have done. Time tracking with screenshots is a far better alternative.

I do miss standing around talking football while 'on the clock' -@dannybaumann_ Click To Tweet

However, I do miss standing around the coffee pot talking about football, the weather, last night’s TV, etc. all while being “on the clock.” That was a nice part about office jobs.

Jennifer Roberts, Marketing

I’ve heard a lot of negative reactions to remote employee monitoring software, especially when I mention screenshots and URL tracking. People tend to take one small, optional function (random screenshot capture) and immediately think 1984/big brother thoughts, when it’s not like that at all.

People tend to take one small, optional function and immediately think big brother -@La_Dra_Roberts Click To Tweet

Madhav Bhandari, Growth

I’ve worked on teams that ask for weekly summaries and reports, and they just took up too much time. On the management side you don’t want your team to slack off, but on the contractor side you don’t want to waste time detailing every single thing you did that day. With Hubstaff, the founders never have to interfere with contractor work to find out how a task is progressing.

One of the most important traits for a remote worker is discipline. @themadbhandari Click To Tweet

One of the most important traits for a remote worker is discipline. I know that I can easily waste my morning with distractions like YouTube or social media, but when I know that screenshots are being taken and activity levels are monitored, I’m more disciplined and perform better. No one really minds a productive day. I’m happy I’m completing more projects than I used to, which is helping to expand my knowledge and experience.

Neeraj Thakur, Conversion

Employee monitoring software is great in a remote work setup, because it helps identify poor performers and cut them loose for the good of the entire team. These features are important so that all the team members are spared from working with colleagues who have poor work ethics.

Employee monitoring software spares our team members from working with poor performers -@NeerajT4 Click To Tweet

Jared Brown, Technical Co-Founder

Remote employee monitoring software isn’t about distrusting people, it’s about getting more data to run our business with increased insight through measurable metrics. In programming, it can be difficult to gauge work output, but I can look at screenshots and activity levels from time to time in order to understand how work is being done and gauge morale or shifts in productivity.

It's about getting more data to run our business with increased insight -@jaredbrown Click To Tweet

Nikko Adrias, Technical Support

I don’t mind employee monitoring software compared to the strict standards they have in an office setting. I’ve been an office worker before and was constantly pressured to meet goals under close scrutiny. This way, our results are what matter the most. When you commit to a task, it doesn’t matter if your boss if looking or not, do what you can and enjoy what you do.

When you commit to a task, it doesn't matter if your boss if looking or not. Click To Tweet

Rachel Go, Content

I value accountability more than trust, because it’s good for my work and productivity. Hubstaff’s employee monitoring software makes it easier for me to do my job and focus on creating high quality content, because I don’t have to worry about sending reports or justifying the time I bill for. If there are any questions, I can send my screenshots as proof of work and point to my activity levels as proof of productivity.

I value accountability more than trust, because it's good for my work and productivity. -@rgo_go Click To Tweet

I am also more secure in my job because I have tangible evidence of my efficiency. Ultimately the software makes my life much easier.

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What do you think about employee monitoring software? Love it, hate it, and why? Let us know in the comments below.