Are My Remote Employees Actually Working?

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We are carrying over our conversation about trust from the last time. First, we examined trust issues from the remote workers’ perspective in this article.

Now, we’re plunging into the employers’ viewpoint on the topic of trust in remote teams.

Managers have repeatedly expressed one doubt about remote work. They can’t be sure their employees are working.

When employees work from the office, obviously you can see them “work”. Whereas, you’re sure that you saw a remote employee post a yoga selfie in the middle of the day. 

The only conclusion is you cannot trust your remote workers to put in the hours, right?

Nothing could be further from the truth. And if you have similar doubts, we can help erase them, call us.

The difficult truth about the work you can see your employees do

Let’s consider your in-office workers for a second.

Do an easy test. Pull out your office’s collective internet history – you’ll begin to get an idea of your company’s productivity leaks. But that’s not all.

The average office is full of distractions that keep your employees from working. Even if they’re sitting in their cubicles – in front of your eyes.

The prohibitive route – ban social media sites, curtail long breaks, punishment for breaking the rules – only lead to suspicious behavior, secrecy, and more distance between you and the employees.

“Watching” your employees work hasn’t cracked up to be much.

The remote work model, on the other hand, is based on trust. Flexible hours mean remote employees can go pick up their kids from school. But they work at different times to fulfill their roles.

No need to hide or lie, and no fear of getting caught – only ownership of their work.  

A result-driven approach to work and why it’s better

We did case studies on very successful, fully-remote companies Groove, InVision, and HotJar. They had many things in common, including how all three evaluate their teams. The evaluation is based on the work done and the results produced, never on the amount of time spent on the task.

They all have lightning-fast turnaround times. In such fast-moving remote environments, it becomes apparent when an employee is not picking up slack. There’s no need to hold anyone to a timesheet.

In fact, in our recent interview with the COO of Eli Z Group—a fully-remote e-commerce accelerator—Matteo Grassi agreed. Listen to the DistantJob Podcast where Matteo says his company focuses on short- and long-term goals (not daily activities) for better results.

Think about it this way. As an employee works on similar problems frequently, they gain expertise. So, they can complete a task much faster than they did on day one.

That way you can assign them more challenging problems, not track whether they’re spending the same amount of time on a familiar one.

When the hour-driven approach to remote work makes sense

There may be some positions where tracking hours is a better measure.

  • Customer service: Customer service associates work by the hour and may be required to answer a certain number of queries in a day.  
  • Clerical/admin work: Whether it’s typing words per minute or taking care of red tape, admin work is sometimes measured by the hour.
  • Temporary hires: If you hire a specialist for a project who gets paid by the hour, then you need to track their output.

Tell-tale signs your remote team trust issues are justified

Trusting your remote team is essential, but that doesn’t mean you can’t watch out for a few telling signs if things are amiss:

  • Unanswered communications: If it’s been more than a few hours since they returned emails or pings, double-check everything is alright with your remote employee.
  • Re-re-scheduled meetings: If you schedule meetings keeping everyone’s geographic location in mind, yet a remote employee misses them, you should look into it.
  • All quiet on the Slack front: The wonderful thing about distributed teams is that they stay in touch all through the day on remote communication platforms. Zero input from one team member for a while is a red flag.
  • Missed deadlines: This is an obvious one – if a remote employee isn’t meeting their deadlines, you should question their work schedule.
  • Feedback from colleagues: Remote teams reach out to one another for help. If team members point to one person who is always late to the discussion, you should take note.
  • Sliding KPIs: Cumulatively, the above variables will affect a remote employee’s key performance index. And if that’s happening over 1-2 quarters, then you need to consider whether they’re suitable for your team.

Tools to determine whether remote employees are actually working

Even if you do leave the telerobots for Deep Space, there are apps that can monitor your remote team. Including scheduling, time tracking, and billable hours. These apps also integrate with remote project management tools, making your remote work seamless. Few such apps include:

  • Todoist– Allows you to control the pace of work. You can break down a project into smaller tasks, assign them, set due dates, add priorities to each task. Costs about $3/user.
  • Time Doctor – Time Doctor will tell you whether your remote employee is working and on which projects they’re spending the most time. You can get random screenshots of their computers, know their distraction sites, and get weekly time management reports. Costs about $9.99/user.
  • Harvest– This is a perfect time tracking tool when you have a big distributed team. Harvest lets you see the overall workload and the work rate of all your team members at once. You can also see metrics like total work capacity, billable hours, and non-billable hours. Costs about $12/user.

Truthfully, we cannot say that either of the trust issues (transparency or productivity) that we discussed doesn’t exist except in people’s minds. Employers do keep information from their remote teams that hamper their work. And employees may not work as many hours as they are supposed to.

That’s why we took a more realistic approach in these articles, hoping to help both sides. Such as, signing NDAs when employees are privy to company information or tracking the work hours of remote workers.

But trust can’t be enforced. It grows organically. The trick is to hire the best people and let them do their jobs. We’re here to help you find the best remote developers, who keep at it without any supervision and make your life easier.

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Ria Ghose

Ria Ghose

Ria Ghose is an SEO copywriter who helps businesses connect with their ideal customers. To learn how SEO copywriting can help your business, email ria@foodcopywriter.com.

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