What is Remote Employee Monitoring?
The quick guide to improving productivity and data security across your remote workforce.
Should You Monitor Remote Employees?
Usage of employee monitoring software on company-provided devices — including laptops, cellphones, tablets and chromebooks — is becoming a commonplace business practice as more and more organizations embrace the trend of allowing their workforce the flexibility to work from home, either as a full-time remote employee or as an office worker who sometimes works from home.
Remote work offers benefits for both employee and company. The company’s available talent pool and the candidate’s job market are greatly increased when proximity to the office is not a concern. Moreover, employees sometimes need to work from home to take care of household/family issues, and the flexibility to allow for this is very appreciated by staff.
While hiring fully-remote workers may not be an option for some businesses, the majority allow (and frankly, expect) office workers to work from home. Giving an employee a laptop is a benefit for the employee, as well as a benefit for the employer who needs their staff available to perform urgent tasks outside of office hours.
However, as with any paradigm shift, the new remote work-from-home trend comes with a new set of challenges that did not exist when employees worked exclusively from the office:
- Data Theft – Many remote employees need access sensitive and confidential company information in order to do their work. However, it’s hard to know what they are doing with it once they are outside the company networks. In fact, a survey published by Biscom in late 2015 found that 87% of employees who leave a job take data that they created with them and 31% take customer lists with them to competitors.
- Project Efficiency & Budgeting – As their teams grow, managers find that keeping track of what each remote employees is doing is a challenge, making it difficult to determine: how much time is (or should be) spent on a task or project; optimal team sizes and work processes; and how much an employee is actually working.
To overcome these challenges, large and small companies around the world have become implementing remote employee monitoring policies in order to oversee the computer activities of their remote employees, thus establishing a safe, productive and efficient workforce.
Despite all these benefits, employee monitoring is a still often resisted by both remote employees and their managers, as it can be seen as a lack of trust. However, it is important for both sides to realize that supervision is, and always has been, a critical component of employee management. Previously, supervision occurred right at the employee’s desk – with any supervisor able to walk over and look over the employee’s shoulder. Now, that supervision occurs in the form of remote employee monitoring software.
Moreover, employers are increasingly held responsible for data breaches (often occurring due to careless employee errors, and sometimes malicious behaviour). Accordingly, companies have to take extra precautions when allowing their data to travel outside the confines of their protected network.
Types of Monitored Activities
There are many different types of solutions to fit every need and budget. While considering if remote employee monitoring is right for you, first consider what types of activities you’d like to track.
Email monitoring gives employers the ability to review email messages and email attachments sent or received by corporate email or web-based emails. Emails can be viewed and recovered even once they’ve been deleted. Most organizations don’t actually review each email, rather they set up alerts to notify them of a high-risk keyword or of anomalous email activity, such as unusually high amounts of emails being sent off-hours.
Website Monitoring (& Blocking)
Internet activity monitoring and web filtering are useful tools that not only help identify and alert you to inappropriate or risky web usage, they also help you prevent remote employees from even accessing restricted sites.
IM & Chat Monitoring
Much of employee communication these days is carried out over chat applications like Skype, WhatsApp, and Slack. So chat is often where employers can discover and address harassing and unprofessional interactions before it gets too late. Use remote employee monitoring to ensure your professional standards are maintained both in and out for the office, keeping your workforce comfortable and save, and your company free from lawsuits.
Program Monitoring (& Blocking)
Monitor or block access to dangerous applications, as well as time-wasting software programs (games, video players, etc.)
Remote employee monitoring lets you track sensitive file activity on local hard drives, removable media, in cloud (Dropbox & media) and get alerted to potential exfiltration and unauthorized access.
Idle vs Active Time Tracking
Measuring a remote employee’s productive and idle time gives managers insight into how they use their time, when they log in and out, and how much time it really takes to complete a task.
Screenshot monitoring is used for conducting remote employee investigations. For example, you may be alerted to some unusual behaviors but you need to understand the full story behind those activities before taking action. Looking at the screenshots correlated with the logged activities will provide you with appropriate context and, if needed, indisputable evidence.
A keylogger is a tool that captures any keystrokes typed by the remote employee in any application; including web browsers, chat, MS Office files, emails and more. All keystrokes are logged for future audits, and all risky keywords trigger an immediate alert.
Cell Phone Monitoring
Having a company phone is a privilege for many remote employees. Monitoring employee cell phone activity enables companies to be sure that those phones are used securely for company business. Cell phone monitoring software tracks user activity across apps, web browsers, text messages, call logs, geo-location and more.
The Benefits of Remote Employee Monitoring
Managers of businesses who deploy a remote employee monitoring software will often see a number of unexpected improvements, in addition to the expected benefits.
Protect company assets
With remote employee monitoring, you can remain in control of your company assets even when accessed by employees from outside the office. Get an immediate alert if an employee exports your customer list from your CRM. Go beyond monitoring and preemptively set up DLP policies to block sensitive data from being sent by email, uploaded to the cloud, or copied to an external USB storage device. Suspect employees of fraud or theft? Lockdown the employee's computer remotely, and prevent them from accessing the device as you investigate.
Back when both manager and employee worked from the office, spotting unproductive workers didn’t require too much effort. Permanently gossiping at the water cooler? Taking extra-long lunches? Quickly closing browsers as you walk behind them? But how do you spot (and more importantly prevent) unproductive activities when they work from home? For most organizations, remote employee monitoring software is the solution – often causing immediate spikes in quality and speed of deliverables. When employees know they are being monitored, they are less likely to give in to distractions or make excuses for missed deadlines and sloppy work.
Manage budgets, timelines & task distribution efficiently
Remote employee monitoring is a valuable tool that managers use to track the time spent on a project and the process in which they move from task to task. Managers can use this data to spot potential delays in a project’s deadline and make changes necessary to keep the project on track. For example, monitored data might lead a manager to discover a particular employee might not be right for a particular task. The manager can then decide to give more training to that employee, or shift his tasks with other more qualified team members. Furthermore, it’s not just employee’s inefficiencies that are discovered through remote employee monitoring. Many times, it is simply the process itself that needs adjusting. For example, it may be discovered that by streamlining a review process, the number of iterations between first and final draft may be cut in half.