How to Know If Remote Employees Are Working

Updated: Mar 18



It seems remote work is here to stay – at least for the time being. For many, this is a positive. Remote work can save companies plenty of money in the long run. However, there are downfalls.


To start, how do you even know if remote employees are working? How do you actually know they’re working throughout the day and not just running errands or sleeping on the couch?


Luckily for business owners and managers, technology can solve this little problem.


There are a variety of monitoring tools that can give insight into employee productivity and day-to-day activity. In this article, we’ll tell you about those tools, the potential issues that employee monitoring may cause, and the important business intelligence that can be acquired by monitoring employee activity.


How Do Companies Monitor Remote Employees?

The tracking software you choose should reflect your goals for monitoring your employees and align with your company’s values and culture.


Once you know the overall goal for tracking employees working from home, you can choose the best tracking software to meet your needs. Below is a rundown of some ways you can monitor remote employees and the benefits associated with each monitoring tool.


Monitor Employees’ Web and Software Activity

You probably already monitored web activity in the office, and this can help with remote work, too. Monitoring employee activity within work-related apps can give insight into how workers are spending their time.


Not only can you determine how long employees are spending within each app, but you can also determine if they’re using these apps correctly.


For example, an employee may be using Excel for a task that’s better-suited for company software that’s already been implemented. In this case, training could likely help the employee become more productive.


Keep Learning: How to tell an employee they need to improve


Monitor Employees’ Keystrokes

Tracking employee keystrokes with keyloggers can help employers in a variety of ways. With keyloggers, employers can determine:

  • How often employees are taking breaks

  • What sites employees are visiting

  • If employees are visiting apps or sites that are malicious

  • If employees are remaining compliant with company data

However, it’s important to consider company culture and how your employees will respond to keylogging software. And no matter what, you’ll want to limit this software to company devices only.


Managers argue that computer surveillance is important to ensure productivity, but alternative tools like website blockers, remote desktop access and time audits allow employers to determine whether an employee deviated from her task without risking the same breach of trust or employee humiliation associated with keyloggers. – Jolt Digest

Track Email Activity

Monitoring email activity goes beyond tracking the content of messages. You can also monitor how long it takes for employees to respond to emails, which can help you spot inefficiencies.


For example, you may determine that your company needs an instant messaging platform to reduce inbox clutter. Or, maybe you’ll find that your company needs to implement guidelines that dictate when a quick phone call is better than composing an email.


Email can be a huge timesuck for employees, and a little insight into your company inbox can go a long way.


Keep Learning: 4 ways to track employee attendance


How Do Companies Monitor Remote Employees Legally?

Legally speaking, employers are allowed to keep tabs on most electronic activities. The federal law that comes closest to regulating a business’s ability to use tracking software to monitor employees is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986.


The ECPA protects information that individuals send electronically, with an important caveat for employers. The ECPA’s Business Exception states that employers are able to monitor employees’ electronic activity as long as there is a legitimate business need to do so. Courts have generally upheld this business need against employees’ privacy.

While employers have broad authority to monitor employees as far as federal law is concerned, some states do have limited that power.


For example, both Connecticut and Delaware have mandated that businesses must inform their employees of monitoring activity. And California recently enacted Assembly Bill 25, which extends protections to employees for certain personal data.


Keep Learning: 10 creative ways to reduce labor costs


How to Track Work from Home Using Best Practices

Monitoring employees is nothing new. But what is new is that now employers are tracking employees working from home. The blurring of personal and professional space means that employers must be thoughtful in their use of remote employee monitoring software. Here are some tips to keep in mind when implementing employee monitoring software:

  • Make sure you have a legitimate business reason for monitoring employee activity.

  • Set up parameters to avoid inadvertently recording personal information (ex. credit card numbers and social media passwords).

  • Consider providing all employees with their own laptop. This way, you won’t be required to install software on personal devices.

  • Update your policy regarding monitoring software and employee privacy. Then, require your employees to read and sign it.

  • Communicate with your employees and explain why you’re using tracking software. Business research firm, Gartner, reports that employees’ comfort level around monitoring increases significantly when the company is transparent with them.

  • Explain to employees that the information gleaned from monitoring tools can also help them be better at their jobs. The business intelligence you gather from monitoring remote employees can be used to streamline inefficiencies and make work more interesting.

How Do Companies that Monitor Remote Employees Use the Data?

Data you gather using remote employee monitoring software can work nicely with business intelligence you gather from other areas of your company. But the data will only be useful if it's analyzed within a business intelligence tool that is both intuitive and customized to your operations.


When you use a customized business intelligence dashboard, you can see a lot. This may include:

  • How employee performance affects customer satisfaction

  • Key identify indicators that employees are considering quitting

  • Correlations between employee retention and engagement

  • Weaknesses in the onboarding process

How Monitoring Employee Activity Increases Business Intelligence

When you implement remote monitoring software within a larger business intelligence framework, you can do more, and you can do it better. Implemented strategically, monitoring employees and analyzing their performance can improve productivity, decrease inefficiencies, and enhance company culture.


If you’d like to learn more about how a Business Intelligence Dashboard can work hand-in-hand with remote monitoring software, we’d love to talk.


At Teamworks Group, we can assemble all your data into one secure location, then build an intuitive dashboard with one goal in mind: giving you insight to make intelligent business decisions. Schedule your free demo today to learn more.


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