Solving The Remote Work Productivity Questions Once & For All

There has been no shortage of digital ink spilled about the merits and pitfalls of remote work. A seemingly unending surge of worker surveys, scientific studies, pundit prognostications and C-suite demands have coalesced around the one intractable truth — nobody seems to agree if remote work is a productivity boon or bust.

To be sure, today’s companies are highly motivated to understand this dynamic. After all, more than 80% of business leaders plan to allow people to work remotely at least part of the time. Meanwhile, as businesses look to rebound from a pandemic year, employee productivity is pivotal to their efforts. 

While understanding the merits and efficacy of remote work at a macro level may be impossible, any organization can assess remote work’s in-house impact. Employee monitoring software, which can track and assess a variety of metrics, including app usage, message frequency, file movement and other critical data points, was widely deployed during the pandemic, giving business leaders an unparalleled opportunity to make data-driven decisions about their employees’ productivity, regardless of workplace.

As leaders look to solve the remote work productivity question once and for all, here are three ways companies can leverage existing employee monitoring software to better understand remote-work productivity on their teams. 

1. Understand Employee Activity 

Traditionally, managers and business leaders would keep tabs on their employees by monitoring the office, surveying the landscape to get a sense of employee work patterns. It wasn’t a highly effective way to determine employee productivity, but it provided peace of mind and set a baseline oversight standard for many teams. 

Of course, even before the pandemic, many operations were digital-first, making these in-person check-ins less effective every day. Now that many teams have left the office entirely, employee monitoring can help fill this void.

For example, companies can harness employee monitoring software to measure app activity, message frequency, web browsing habits and other online activity. When coupled with powerful data aggregation capabilities, leaders can understand employee activity as detailed data reports provide:

  • a breakdown of how many hours each day were spent on work-related and non-work-related tasks
  • comprehensive metrics on websites, social media and applications use
  • real-time trend graphs showing how much time is spent on specific projects

In a hybrid work setting where in-person oversight is less practical and effective, employee monitoring software lets leaders understand employee activity like never before.

2. Prioritize Valuable Work

Today’s employees are busy managing organizational objectives, maintaining communication across multiple channels and migrating to new workplace arrangements. Consequently, it’s easy for the constant activity to masquerade as valuable work. 

Especially in a hybrid environment, online activity can quickly become conflated with valuable work. The writer and journalist John Herrman described this phenomenon as “a novel form of work-like non-work,” mistaking activity for results. 

Employee monitoring software can help leaders and employees evaluate their daily activities, effectively differentiating busy work from valuable work and improving worker satisfaction and organizational outcomes by returning focus to the things that matter most. For instance, harnessing employee monitoring software to evaluate predetermined tasks and apps related to productivity outcomes provides a starting point for analysis and self-reflection. With more than half of employees reporting feeling disengaged at work, employee monitoring software empowers employees and leaders to understand how their time is spent, helping identify ways to optimize productivity by emphasizing and prioritizing valuable work over activity.

3. Embrace Data-Driven Improvement 

Deploying employee monitoring software to assess productivity can feel like a “gotcha” activity from upper management. While it can be a tool that encourages employees to be more intentional about their online activity, it’s better understood as an educational resource that allows leaders and employees to better understand their day-to-day activities. When paired with a growth mindset, companies can pursue continual, incremental improvements that develop an ever-improving hybrid workforce. 

While adapting to a hybrid workforce, Microsoft deployed this technique by analyzing data from their remote employees, concluding that employees were most productive during a three-hour window each morning. They chose to avoid meetings and gatherings during that time to better equip employees to pursue the most meaningful outcomes. Whether it’s used to enhance individual workflows or company-wide initiatives, employee monitoring software can provide the insights needed to improve personal and organizational outcomes. 

Solving The Productivity Puzzle For Everyone 

As employees leave the office and settle into their off-site workspaces, productivity can be unpredictable. Whether teams are thriving in their new home offices or struggling to reach their objectives, today’s trends aren’t destiny, and tomorrow’s outcomes can be better than ever.

Employee monitoring can help, positioning every business to better understand their employees’ productivity metrics while empowering people to progressively improve their professional efforts. Simply put, don’t leave it up to third-party surveys and pundit viewpoints to determine employee productivity. Instead, analyze in-house data and plan to continually enhance and optimize operational capacity in any environment.

This article was originally published in Forbes and reprinted with permission. 

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Isaac Kohen