Should you be monitoring your employees who are remote working?

As a freelance HR consultant offering expert HR solutions to small to medium-sized businesses throughout Essex and Suffolk, I have seen one issue becoming more prevalent in the last few years. This is the rise of remote working, and how businesses can effectively and ethically monitor employees who are working from home. The huge increase in people working from home began with COVID-19, but although for the most part society has gone back to ‘normal’, remote working is definitely here to stay. To highlight the shift in upper management’s view of remote working, former Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, informed employees that they could continue working from home “forever”. Although the official policy on this from Twitter may have changed since the recent acquisition of the company by Elon Musk! But it serves to show just how the perception of remote working has changed dramatically in just a few years.

Pros of remote working

Expert HR solutions, like the professional HR advice for small businesses offered by Blue Tree HR, should always look at every angle of issues like remote working, and offer advice accordingly. So let’s first look at the obvious pros of working from home. One of the main benefits of remote working is workers are no longer forced into stressful commutes, which have been proven to have a negative effect on a worker’s entire day. There is also the time saved in commuting, creating more personal time to spend with their family or friends, so when an employee starts their day they are fresher and more focused than if they had just finished a tedious commute. Remote working also offers flexibility in an employee’s working hours. They are not necessarily stuck to rigid breaks and lunch times, offering more freedom than if they were in the office. This all adds up to a more productive employee, which is the ultimate goal for businesses.

Cons of remote working 

As with most things in life that look great on paper, there is often a flip side to any coin (although not with my expert HR solutions!) Whilst there is a lot to be said about the benefits of remote working, you also need to consider the negatives. When employees work from home for a prolonged period, they lose the ability to interact with their coworkers in a face-to-face manner. This sense of isolation can be problematic for some. There is also the fact that it can be difficult for some to separate their home and work life, especially if they live in a busy household. It is easy to get distracted if there is a knock at the door, the phone rings, the family pet wants attention or the kids are running riot! And for a small majority of remote workers, working from home offers the chance to procrastinate at will, which clearly affects their overall work performance and productivity. It is this issue that has led many businesses to implement surveillance and monitoring techniques to ensure remote workers are actually working, and not binge-watching their favourite Netflix show!

This leads us to the topic of whether you should be monitoring employees who work from home, and if so, how?

Monitoring remote workers

When offering my expert HR solutions on topics such as monitoring remote workers, I will always tell my clients that legally, this is entirely at their discretion (so long as they make the employee aware that it is taking place). After all, if the worker was in the office then it would be entirely appropriate to ensure they are actually working and not spending hours of the company’s time scrolling through Facebook! There are some larger companies out there that employ spy software, known as “tattleware”. An example of this would be Sneek, which takes a picture every minute through an employee’s webcam and sends these to management. Whilst these types of software ensure a business’s management can keep constant tabs on remote workers, they do display a lack of trust in the employee, which in itself can be detrimental to their overall performance. My expert HR solutions for monitoring remote workers would suggest using this kind of software as a last resort for those employees whose work productivity significantly drops when working from home. In our opinion when offering my expert HR solutions, the best way to monitor employees working from home is ultimately through their performance. By setting targets and goals, and having regular catch-up meetings, (whether these are face-to-face or remotely), to discuss their work output, you should remove the need for more Orwellian methods. And should you feel that “tattleware” is the only option, ensure you are transparent about the reasons behind such a move.

Expert HR solutions

As shown above, my advice on expert HR solutions would be to give serious thought has to be given when considering monitoring remote workers. If you wish to discuss this further, as a freelance HR consultant I am always on hand for more bespoke advice. And if you have any other query that requires expert HR solutions, contact Blue Tree HR and I will be happy to help.