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Pros and Cons of Tracking Remote Employee Productivity

An exasperated worker at their desk, while their micromanaging boss stands behind indicating the time on a watch.

As remote work has continued to rise in popularity, so too has interest around productivity tracking. Employers are looking for ways to keep remote employees accountable, without face-to-face management. Around six out of 10 employers require remote employees to use monitoring software, making it the majority practice in remote work.

The attitudes, and outcomes, surrounding this software are still largely debated. The effectiveness, impact on employee morale, and return on investment are aspects that employers should consider before making this type of software a requirement for employees.

The Pros of Tracking Remote Employee Productivity Levels

There can be many pros to tracking remote employee productivity levels, particularly for upper management. This type of tracking can offer several new insights that may help you save time, money, and labor. Some examples of this software include:

Productivity tracking can provide benefits for employees by providing a guiding hand and clear expectations for daily workflow. These are only some of the benefits of productivity tracking software.

Reduce Waste in Business Expenses

Using monitoring tools can help you manage productivity levels and ensure employees are making valuable use of their time instead of wasting it — and company money. Rather than being something threatening, time tracking can be a great way for management to take initiative to review processes, and see if the time allocated for certain tasks is appropriate. Similarly, this can allow employees and managers to work together and find ways to fill lulls in the workday meaningfully, with uptraining or professional enrichment.

Helps Identify Current Productivity Levels

Using surveillance tools like the ones mentioned above can help you monitor current employee productivity in real time. Productivity data is important when you’re designing new tasks, creating new projects, training new employees, or acquainting current employees with new roles. It’s important to get a baseline for productivity data by observing output across several different team members over the span of a few weeks. This will give you an idea of how time is currently being spent, which you can then shape and improve.

Improved Workplace Productivity

Once you’ve collected your baseline data, productivity levels can start to improve. Managers and HR professionals can collaborate on plans to improve business processes. Similarly, you can measure new processes against your baseline, to gauge the success of these processes. This may take some trial and error, which is why having the data easily accessible through your productivity software is so useful.

Increased Employee Engagement

It's possible that when you’re implementing software like this, particularly multi-faceted tracking software like Asana and Airtable, employees may feel inspired to participate in virtual workday conversations and meetings, as they know this engagement counts for something. This falls into the incentive theory of action, and can be a powerful motivation tool. You may be able to involve other incentives as a part of your tracking endeavors.

The Cons of Tracking Remote Employee Productivity Levels

It’s natural to have a few concerns as the possibility of increased employee productivity tracking arises. Especially if you're an employee, feeling like you’re constantly being monitored can be unsettling. Here are some of the most common cons of and concerns about remote productivity tracking.

Creates Privacy Concerns Among Employees

Oftentimes, an increase in surveillance comes with an increase in privacy concerns. It follows that if software can track the movement of your mouse, or the websites you go to, then what else can it see? Some privacy concerns that employees may have when it comes to installing tracking software, particularly on a personal computer, may include:

  • Concerns that the software is storing passwords to personal accounts;
  • Concerns that the software is storing sensitive information like bank account numbers;
  • Concerns that the software is reading private messages;
  • Concerns that software is selling this data.

These concerns aren’t unfounded, as many companies have experienced data leaks that have put millions of people at risk of identity theft. This is why it’s important to work with trusted software, and practice transparency with employees.

Decrease in Employee Trust

According to Forbes, some employees believe that the use of productivity software undermines their privacy and autonomy as employees. After all, many employees go through rigorous interviews or testing processes in order to be hired. Furthermore, some feel employee tracking software doesn’t address the flexibility inherent in remote work. Many remote employees are taking care of children or loved ones while working from home, and therefore may not be able to sit at their computer for an entire shift.

There’s no real easy answer to combating these feelings as an employer interested in this software, other than to take them seriously.

Legal Concerns

Since the employer is in a position of higher power, employees can feel like they may have no way to advocate for themselves. This can be true in the case of productivity tracking and data storage as well.

Before you implement any kind of tracking software, it’s important to understand the legalities of this software — both as an employer and employee. If you are an employee who believes their employer is doing something unlawful with their data, you can pursue legal discourse. If you’re an employer and you believe your employee is defrauding your program, or interfering with it in a way that goes against company policies, you can also legally pursue action.

Ultimately, the choice between whether or not to use productivity tracking software will come down to your specific workplace and needs. At each step, it’s important to be transparent and communicative with employees for any process changes.