Guest post by Greg Digneo from TimeDoctor.
Greg Digneo writes for TimeDoctor.com, a time monitoring and productivity monitoring software designed for tracking hours and productivity of remote teams. If you would like to see where you and your team are spending your time during work, then try TimeDoctor free for 30 days.
Keeping track of your remote workers can be challenging.
How do you know if they are working during office hours or procrastinating on the task?
Flexible work schedule might give remote workers more freedom, but it can also be extremely distracting. When your office is also your home, it’s easy to let boundaries blur between work and personal stuff. So how do you make sure your employees stay productive?
In this post, I’ll discuss some tools and techniques to engage and monitor your remote workers so you can be sure they actually work full-time during office hours.
Ready? Let’s go:
1. Set Tasks With Deadlines
In a remote team, there are always some employees who invest themselves fully while others only work just enough not to get fired.
One way to override this ‘lax’ attitude is to distribute tasks within a project to different team members with due dates and regular reminders. Once workers have ownership of their own tasks and can see the progress made at every step of the way, their attitude is likely to change towards completing that task on time.
A transparent team culture increases employee trust which is necessary to keep everybody engaged and focused on the same goal.
Use the ActiveCollab tool to create a Project and assign Tasks to team members. Within each Task, set the Due On when the task has to be completed and the optional start date. You can also send a Reminder to notify your team members about a deadline.
All team members should be able to see who has been assigned to each task within a specific project. This provides the bigger picture to everyone, helping them understand their individual contribution to the overall project.
If you are allocating a specific number of hours for completing a task, make sure it is realistic. Few things are as demotivating as unrealistic deadlines.
Communicating your expectations to the team and seeking their feedback is another important step. This can be done using the Discussions tab within ActiveCollab Projects to share ideas and post comments.
2. View Team Activity Regularly
When working on multiple projects with remote teams it is important to have a clear layout of all project activities to check progress and meet deadlines on time.
The Activity Section in ActiveCollab let’s you view all the steps of a project at a glance. It allows you to see due dates and provide feedback if necessary.
You can also check who has done what on a specific day, view all the discussions and updates as well as projects they belong to.
This gives you valuable information about the productivity of each team member. It also allows you to gauge which of your remote team members are actually utilizing all office hours for the tasks at hand.
3. Track Employee Internet Usage
While a remote worker may not get disturbed by a colleague who is talking loudly on the phone, they may get glued to a captivating movie on Netflix or waste hours on Facebook.
To track whether remote employees are visiting relevant websites and online applications, use the TimeDoctor tool.
TimeDoctor monitors all websites and applications each employee uses while he or she is working. It also sends a detailed report to the team manager pointing out any unproductive sites or applications used by a team member, like YouTube or gaming sites.
If your employee needs to use social media sites as part of his job, you can always add them to the productive websites segment and the TimeDoctor tool will monitor their usage as time spent on official work.
Application and website monitoring highlight productivity issues. You can subtract the hours spent procrastinating from total hours logged by your remote worker to figure out how much time they spent on actual work.
4. Monitor When Employees Are at Their Desk
When working from home, remote workers may have to answer the doorbell or the phone. They may even get distracted by kids or the spouse who wants to talk for just a minute.
That one minute can sometimes turn into thirty when the remote worker is not at his desk. However, if he forgets to turn off the online timer, it will continue to run and incorrectly record time spent at work.
To overcome this issue, use the Timedoctor tool to display how much time your remote workers logged from their desk during the day. It runs in the background and monitors your employee’s keyboard and mouse activity.
When your remote employee is away from the keyboard, the idle timer kicks in to record the time your employee spent away from his desk. If an employee was away from the desk but was doing official work, he can always add that time manually. This shows in the report as Manual Time added.
This also ensures that your employees do not misuse time tracking devices to record more time than they actually put at work. You can also feel reassured you are paying for the actual time being spent doing official tasks.
5. Supervise Employees Remotely
If you are not satisfied with your remote team’s productivity, you can install remote employee monitoring software to gain insights into this issue.
TimeDoctor allows you to take screenshots of your employees’ screen at a fixed time interval (for example, every 5 minutes). You can view the screen history of all your employees at a glance to ensure that they are actually working full time.
Your employees can delete certain screenshots if they reveal too much information. However, the work time associated with the screenshot would also be removed.
Your worker’s screenshots are secured and they can only be viewed by you and the employee whose desktop is being tracked.
However, before you set up any employee monitoring software, exercise transparency and have a discussion with your remote team about this decision.
Also, assure your team that your motive is to increase team productivity and not to spy on their every move. Moreover, this feature only becomes active during working hours.
6. End of Day Report Summary
While working on multiple tasks simultaneously, your team may lose track of what they accomplished during the day.
ActiveCollab allows your remote team to post comments on the tasks and subtasks. Your remote workers can use this feature to note down the task they just completed. They can even enter the time they spent on a subtask.
You might notice that some of your remote workers spend an inordinate amount of time completing simple tasks. There might be a possibility that the employee may have left the timer running while running errands, or spending time on non-work related websites.
Use the end-of-day summary report to get around these issues.
ActiveCollab and TimeDoctor Are Complementary Tools
ActiveCollab and TimeDoctor work perfectly together to allow both individual and team time tracking. This helps improve your team’s productivity while allowing you to accurately monitor time spent on official tasks.
You can assign tasks and subtasks to your remote workers through ActiveCollab. Your remote workers can track time spent on each task or subtask through the ActiveCollab timer. You can also collect employee idle time and non-work related website usage time through the TimeDoctor tool.
If you subtract the non-productive time acquired from Timedoctor from the reported time from Activecollab, you can get the actual time spent by your remote workers on work tasks.
At the end of each day, view your employee’s summary through the ActiveCollab report. Based on the data in this report, increase or reduce the number of tasks that you assign to each team member.
Make Productivity Simple
Your remote employees will be more focused on work if they are aware that they are being monitored. However, it’s hardly feasible for you to personally check in every few minutes to supervise them. It’s also quite intrusive!
The best solution is to engage your employees and hold them accountable for their tasks by using ActiveCollab and TimeDoctor. It’s less time consuming, inexpensive and is the best way to keep your people productive.