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Remote worker monitoring, including time tracking, is a vital tool in a business’s drive to be successful and productive. Whether it’s a permanent move or if you’re transitioning to remote work temporarily in an effort to limit exposure to COVID-19, monitoring can take the assumptions out of distributed teamwork.

Employers across the world are starting to implement employee monitoring so that they can:

  • Track the time their team spends on client projects (to maximize billing)
  • Build trust and accountability, freeing up everyone to focus on work instead of wondering what’s going on

Many managers and employers find that as their business or team grows, keeping track of what each employee does on a daily, or hourly, basis is a difficult task. This is especially true for remote teams. 36% of remote managers state that it’s difficult for them to understand what each team member is working on (and when). This can lead to:

  • Huge reductions in performance as coasting employees aren’t as easily recognized
  • A loss in earnings as billable time declines
  • Entrepreneurs and business owners feeling like they have lost a grip on their company

To avoid these scenarios, startups, creative agencies, and even huge corporations are looking into how to monitor employees working from home.

When it comes to managing remote teams, time tracking and monitoring are essential. It helps leaders and managers gain a complete understanding of how each project is getting completed, who’s working and when, and how efficient their workflow is.

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If you are considering implementing remote worker monitoring at your company but aren’t sure how to do so, we’ve put together a handy guide to help you get started.

Benefits of remote work monitoring

Employee monitoring in a remote environment has huge benefits for both individuals and the company.

Knowing that the time they spend working productively is being tracked means that remote employees are more accountable to their output each day. Thus, they are far more likely to be motivated and produce greater results on a regular basis.

Beyond this, freelancers and independent contractors can take great peace of mind in time tracking and employee monitoring. They can rest assured that their work hours are being tracked and documented independently. This means that they are far less likely to face issues when it comes to billing justification and payment.

Remote staff monitoring also helps to build trust. As an employer, you can know that the work you are paying for is being completed on time and as efficiently as possible.

This same principle applies to agencies when it comes to client billing. Timesheets and activity reports can be shared with clients so that they can closely monitor a project’s progress, and see which parts of the process require the most time and resources. As an agency, this gives you more rationale for future estimates, as well.

Remote monitoring also offers huge benefits when it comes to management. Team leaders and business owners can focus on core tasks, which helps increase billing and efficiency overall, rather than wasting time micromanaging.

How to implement remote monitoring: Best practices

employee at computer

If you’re wondering how to implement remote monitoring policies in your company, here are some steps for you to follow:

  • First, think about why you want to implement time tracking in your company — is it to keep an eye on employee productivity, monitor performance, increase billing, or another reason?
  • Once you have identified your reason for implementing the policy, look for software that has the necessary features to accurately monitor your workers and provide information for your goal. These features could be URL and application monitoring, activity tracking, or purely basic time tracking features. (We’ve taken a look at one leading remote worker monitoring option below)
  • Once you have found the right fit for your company, it’s time to introduce the policy to your staff. When doing this, it is best to frame the introduction of remote staff monitoring as a hugely positive addition to your company. Talk about how it will empower individuals to be more accountable, and that the best performers will be able to shine more clearly.
  • After introducing the policy, check in weeks and months so your team has a chance to give feedback. You can also use this time to discuss what you’ve learned about work patterns and productivity since you started monitoring.

Create a culture of accountability

Once you have found the right remote worker monitoring software for your business and introduced the policy to your staff, it is crucial that you create a culture of time tracking and monitoring in your organization.

To do this, lead by example by sharing your time sheet and activity levels with your staff, and encourage the sharing of timesheets among your remote teams. Openly sharing timesheets can help increase employee motivation. It also helps individual employees benchmark their performance, efficiency, and productivity against all other members of a company. This can lead to your whole team actively improving their daily work habits.

To boost your monitoring culture, think about incentivizing employees to track their time and monitor their own performance. Consider holding competitions for the most efficient or productive employees, and stress how monitoring and time tracking helps to empower individual workers by giving them freedom and flexibility over their workload.

Build monitoring and time tracking into your workflows

To make sure that remote employees track their time, make a conscious decision to build monitoring and time tracking into all of your company’s workflows.

To do this, use the employee monitoring software as a means of generating invoices, and as a way of keeping track of the amount of time they spend on client projects.

Good monitoring software will integrate with a huge number of apps (like Clickup, Github, and Asana) that you are likely to use in your company’s workflow. The best monitoring solutions will have some of these features in-built, such as Hubstaff Tasks for the Hubstaff time tracking solution.

Integrations makes it incredibly simple to track time across applications so that your company doesn’t have to change its processes to make remote worker monitoring a reality. Use monitoring software with some of these functions in-built to implement new processes or if you’re just starting with workflows.

Try Hubstaff for remote team monitoring

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There is a huge number of remote employee monitoring and time tracking software platforms on the market, each with a different range of features and use cases. Out of our own need to improve efficiency and productivity as a remote team, we created Hubstaff: a full-featured software with a powerful set of features that can help you to revolutionize your organization and save a huge amount of time and resources.

(Don’t just take our word for it – check out this review of Hubstaff.)

Hubstaff offers application and URL monitoring so that you can track the programs and websites that your team uses and visits each day. This gives you a better understanding of what tools are needed to work productively, and which sites and products serve as a time-suck and distraction.

The software also offers optional screen capture and time tracking features, so that you can get solid proof-of-work from each of your employees. Know exactly how long it takes for each task to be completed.

The software integrates with a huge number of apps, from Trello to Mavenlink, Salesforce to Zendesk, so that all of your employees can track their time and monitor their productivity across the applications that they already use. Hubstaff remote monitoring app also runs on Linux, Windows and Mac.

Hubstaff includes activity monitoring and benchmarking, which tracks keyboard and mouse usage to rate your workers’ activity levels. Benchmark employee performance, and compare individuals and teams to see who is most efficient and productive, or where resources are being over-allocated or wasted.

All of the information collected by Hubstaff’s monitoring and tracking features is compiled into incredibly useful reports that can be distributed to clients, used for internal performance reviews, or to inform promotion decisions.

If your team is agile and needs a flexible project management solution on top of remote worker monitoring tools, check out Hubstaff Tasks. It integrates with Hubstaff time tracking and lets your team create tasks, kanban boards, workflows, checklists, weekly sprints, automated daily standups and much more. It’s free for teams of up to 5 people.

Are you ready to reach peak performance?

Remote employee monitoring and time tracking can offer huge benefits to companies large and small. It can empower teams to take control of their productivity and output. Accurately monitoring the time your teams spend working on client projects, on internal tasks, and on non-work related items, can help you to better manage your organization and gain a greater understanding of what is going on each day.

These tools also offer those who manage remote or distributed teams peace of mind and security, as all work is tracked and documented through screenshots and key performance indicators.

When implemented well, remote staff monitoring can have a hugely positive effect on your company. Creating a culture surrounding time tracking and monitoring can help to dramatically transform employee dedication and performance, and help you to run a better business.

This post was originally published July 2016, and updated March 2020.